In the Shadow of Horse

In the Shadow of Horse
In the Shadow of Horse

Monday, September 14, 2015

Equine Behavior Class

 Trouble with your Horses? Ask the equine behavior veterinarian, Dr Gustafson.
This is one of our ranch horses. Her name is Pollyanna, and while not troubled, she is keeping an eye on the other horses and her surroundings.  This is the nearly-exact landscape where horses evolved, departing 10,000 years ago to Eurasia, where they merged with humans, and subsequently returned.

This range is just below the Canadian border with Montana. That blue sky yonder rests over Canada. Those gray clouds are smoke from the Glacier Park fire at the end of July, when this photo was taken. This is the type of pasture horses evolved to graze all day, which is to say the most marginal of grasslands, not green, but brown. Horses prefer this type of open view while grazing together. You can see that it would be quite a task for predator to be able to approach a herd of horses on this landscape, their native terrain. Horses do not need horns or antlers to defend themselves, only eyes and legs and others. Flight is the horse's most treasured defense mechanism. Horses are neophobic, afraid of any person, place or thing they have never previously seen or encountered. When horses see anything they have not seen or smelled before, they flee. Flight is the nature of horses. Since we depend on our horses to carry us home after a long day in the saddle, we never ever chase them ever anywhere during training or anytime in their life. Should our horse separate from us in this terrain, we expect to catch them. We never chase our horses during training, no, we train our horses to come to us, and we make coming to us a good deal, because this place is a dang, long way from the bunkhouse, and if you ever separate from your horse up here, you best be in shape to hike without water for a ways, just like any horse. Horses know to run from strange things, so please, don't become a stranger to your horse by chasing her during the training process, please. You don't want to be left alone under this Big Open without your horse, should for some reason you two part ways for moment or two, which has been know to happen from time to time. Humans are always making mistakes that cause their horse to part ways with them. The good news today is that we are going to learn how to avoid all those mistakes. We are going to learn how to bond with our horses in this class. 

Dr Gustafson is a practicing veterinarian, equine behavior educator, and novelist. The application of behavior science enhances optimum health, performance, soundness, contentment, and longevity in animal athletes. Behavioral and nutritional strategies enrich the lives of stabled horses. Training and husbandry from the horse's perspective result in content, cooperative horses who are willing to learn and perform.

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