sexta-feira, Janeiro 20, 2006


Do We Make Our Horses Misbehave?

Paul McGreevy is a veterinarian who graduated from Bristol University in 1987. Following graduation, Paul worked in mixed practice for 3 years and in equine practice for 2 years after which he did a PhD in horse behaviour at Bristol which was completed in 1995. In January 1996 he took up a position as Lecturer in Animal Science at the Veterinary School, University of Sydney. In this interview he discusses issues of horse behaviour with the Equine Program Manager, Prof. Reuben Rose.

Q: What led to your interest in studying horse behaviour?
A: I have had horses all my life and I have always enjoyed just sitting and watching them interact. When I was studying to become a vet I realised that there is very little in the scientific literature on the study of equine behaviour.

Q: What are the methods of studying horse behaviour and why is it important to study?
A: The methods include looking at feral horse behaviour and comparing it to what we see in domesticated and stabled horses. We can then use these comparisons to evaluate what may be abnormal behaviour.

Q: Is it important to differentiate between the behaviour one would expect in natural conditions and the behaviour under unnatural conditions?
A: Yes, that’s right. Any departure from the home range grazing system, which is how feral horses exist, can have repercussions on behaviour and we need to understand the changes in order to manage our horses successfully

Q: Where does one study feral horse behaviour and how can we be sure that this is the norm?
A: It’s an interesting question because purists would argue that there is no such thing as a wild horse any longer. The Przewalski horse has in a sense been domesticated since the 1950’s when the horses were retrieved from the wild before extinction. So now our closest approximation to wild horse behaviour is seen in feral horses that are free ranging. These types of herds include Brumbies, New Forest ponies, Mustangs and Assateague ponies.

Q: From what has been described, what are some of the key features of feral horse behaviour compared to horse behaviour under domesticated conditions?
A: There are two important factors that influence feral horse behaviour: Social organisation and the nature of the home range. The home range is the area that the horse covers in its search for food and water. Distances covered each day depend on the location and the availability of these key resources. If we’re talking about a domestic situation, the horse is in a very intense environment, where water is close at hand and food is readily available in a concentrated form. This type of environment is far removed from that of free ranging horses. A concentrated ration can be consumed in two or three hours whereas the horse has evolved to graze for 16 hours a day.

Q: So there are very big differences between how much time they spend exercising and eating. Is there an average distance and speed that a feral horse might travel in one day?
A: No, because it depends on the size of the home range and the quality of the forage. Meanwhile social organisation depends on herd size which has been shown to vary with population density. Home ranges incorporate grazing sites, waterholes, shade, windbreaks and refuges from insects and can vary in area from 0.9-48 square kilometres. As far locomotion behaviour is concerned, horses have been shown to travel on open ranges to water holes up to 65-80 kilometres in a day. Where horses are managed at pasture, grazing is the main initiator of locomotion and the distance they cover has been estimated at 20 kilometres per day. So, the distance a grazing horse travels can depend on the location of water, the availability of food and time that is spent foraging.

Q: To summarise some of the major differences, we have domesticated horses spending perhaps only 15% of their time eating versus 75% seen in feral horses and on average much less of the day is spent walking or exercising.
A: Yes, and we also isolate horses which means that they have very different social patterns.

Q: Has the social interaction of horses been examined in different environments?
A: The way horses behave as a group is currently an interesting and popular research topic and therefore the importance of social behaviour is becoming more clear. For example, the "allogrooming" behaviour with which we are all familiar, where two horse groom each other, has been shown to reduce heart rate. So it’s not just simply a grooming matter, it has a more important consequence in terms of stress reduction. There are a number of management systems being designed and used around the world that address the need for the horse to exist as a social animal. The problems that are inherent in the designs of medium density housing for horses are to do with the control that we have over the amount of food that they consume and how they fight to access that ration. Even in traditional loose boxes, we now see stable designs that allow neighbouring horses to see and touch one another, for instance through bars and grilles between stables.

Q: What are the main types of abnormal behaviour that one sees as a result of abnormal social situations?
A: We know that abnormal behaviour arises in management systems that reduce social contact but we can’t be certain that there is a specific cause and effect as far as social behaviour is concerned. We don’t know that the reduction of social interaction directly cause equine behaviour problems.

Q: What is generally regarded as abnormal behaviour?
A: We are talking here about what used to be called "vices". That was perhaps an unfortunate term because it implied that the horses were somehow to blame for their behaviour. The types of abnormal behaviours that we generally see in the stabled horse include stereotypies like crib-biting, wind-sucking, weaving, box walking and possibly redirected behaviours such as wood chewing and bed-eating. These have been called stress-coping mechanisms.

Q: Because we don’t know what is normal behaviour in the horse, how do we know if a particular behaviour is normal or abnormal?
A: It's a philosophical point. However, because horses evolved to be free-ranging, we can say that behaviours that do not appear in feral horses are probably abnormal.

Q: Are some of these behaviours learned?
A: It's a very interesting area because although we commonly assume that horses copy these behaviours, this assumption could be fallacious. These horses are under the same management as their neighbours and so it could be the management or the stable design that’s causing them to adopt a stress coping mechanism. Beyond that, mimicry has yet to be shown in any behaviour by horses. There is also the possibility that the sight of another horse crib biting or performing any stereotypy is a stress in itself and that could be what’s going on when the prevalence of stereotypic behaviours start to rise in a yard.

Q: So they’re not copying, they’re being stressed by the sight of the behaviour and that’s producing the same stress coping mechanism as an outcome?
A: Yes, that’s one possibility.

Q: Could you tell us a little about how you study horse behaviour?
A: We use time lapse photography so that a 24 hour time budget can be established for a group of horses. We do our best to be out of sight when these sort of studies are going on because we realise that there is a possibility of an operator effect. We also measure the heart rates of the horses and look at various measurements in the blood while they’re performing different behaviours, to see if we can see a correlation between the behaviour and perhaps a reduction in the stress index. We also look at food and water intake in tandem with the time budget that we’re examining on the video.

Q: How do horses generally spend their day in the stable environment?
A: That very much depends on their diet, exercise regimen, turn out time and whether they have the opportunity for social interaction.

Q: Lets take an average situation, say a horse in training that may spend an hour out of the stable and is fed morning and afternoon. How does that horse generally spend its day?
A: In general that depends on the roughage content of the diet. Once he has eaten his ration, the stabled horse will spend his time loafing which is a rather inert behaviour. In isolation, he cannot play so he will either loaf or sleep. Interestingly, there is a correlation between the content of oats in the diet and sleep. In tests, ponies spend 20% more time loafing when oats replace hay in the ration.

Q: If we take two extremes, say horses on a complete roughage diet versus a performance horse with essentially a grain diet with small amount of roughage, what are the major behavioural impacts of the dietary difference?
A: The intensively managed horse receiving concentrated food is limited in his ration so it will eat its ration quickly and will tend to have so-called vacuum periods whereas a horse with a full net will revisit and pick away filling its day that way. An intensively managed horse is more likely to be frustrated by having nothing to do and therefore may adopt a stereotypy such as crib biting, wind sucking weaving etc.

Q: You’ve done a number of studies in different groups of horses. In what management systems did you see the highest incidence of these behaviours?
A: Taking all of these behaviours together, the risk of a horse performing an abnormal behaviour is increased under a number of circumstances. We actually looked at 22 different yards and 5 management factors were found to be important. Firstly, if the amount of forage per day fell below 6.8 kilos we saw a rise in abnormal behaviour. When bedding types other than straw were used, we saw an increase in abnormal behaviour. When the total number of horses in the yard was fewer than 75 we saw a similar increase and there was also an association with box design; that is, the less box designs allowed contact with neighbouring horses the more abnormal behaviour was shown. When a variety of forages were used instead of hay alone we saw a reduction in abnormal behaviour. A second study showed that time spent in the stable was another important risk factor.

Q: Can we assume that if we see an abnormal behaviour, the horse is under some stress?
A: No, we know that once they have developed, these stereotypies can persist even in horses that are no longer stabled. In another study, we showed no correlation between the removal of the opportunity to perform these behaviours and a rise in stress measurements. However, we did find that stereotypic horses had higher stress levels to start with, even in the paddock.

Q: In terms of the future, where do you see these sorts of studies going and what do we need to know that will help us?
A: As the science of animal behaviour and animal welfare matures we will define stress and frustration more accurately. We will also refine non-invasive techniques for measuring stress hormones like cortisol. By changing the various management regimens and reducing stress we can expect improvements in disease resistance and possibly therefore performance. Obviously there are good reasons for stabling horses, but we need to arrive at a more refined compromise between the traditional practices of owners and the evolutionary needs of horses.

Q: In general do you have advice for people if they’ve got a high incidence of the abnormal behaviours in horses?
A: Yes, probably they should consider ways in which they could re-appraise their management practices. Specifically they could look at the way the forage is presented and how foraging time could be increased. For instance, you can make horses work harder to get forage out of a hay net by having a net with smaller holes. Increasing the social contact between neighbouring horses will also be helpful. The other obvious one is to try to get the horse out of the box as much as possible.

Behaviour Changes Can Signal Stress
Horse owners have long known that changes in their horses’ behaviour can indicate problems and all horse people are excellent observers of changes in their horses’ temperaments. For the last few years there has been increasing interest by researchers in the assessment and evaluation of horse behaviour and some of these findings have been reported in previous editions of RIRDC Equine Research News. A new study has investigated the behaviour of Clydesdales, to determine if there were signs of stress during competitions at different environmental temperatures (M Kasper, AM Beck Effect of Environmental Temperature on the Behaviour of Clydesdales During Preparation Time Before Athletic Performances. Equine Practice 1997 Vol. 19, pg. 25). Horses were observed and the frequency of behaviour such as tail swishing, pawing and kicking recorded while horses were being prepared for competition. They found that the incidence of tail swishing and pawing increased as the environmental temperature increased but that the incidence of kicking did not. This study shows that close attention to horse behaviour is of importance in assessing responses to things such as increased environmental temperature, exercise and other factors that can produce stress.

Horses Sleep for Longer on Straw
A recent study investigated the night time behaviour of horses stabled with a bedding of either straw or wood shavings. The researchers were particularly interested in how long the horses spent lying down, either with their feet tucked under them (sternal recumbency) or lying down flat (lateral recumbency).
Horses were observed between the hours of 10pm and 5.30am using time-lapse video recordings. Data was collected on lying down and rising behaviour, as well as the frequency and duration of periods spent lying down.

Most time spent lying down was the period from midnight until early morning. The most significant finding from this study was that the time spent lying down flat was 3 times longer for horses bedded on straw than for those bedded on shavings. There was no difference in the time spent in sternal recumbency between those horses bedded on straw and those on shavings.

Previous studies have shown that sleep can be divided into 2 stages, slow wave sleep (SWS) and paradoxial sleep (PS). Horses normally fall asleep while standing up and they enter SWS during which the muscles gradually relax. If the horse is feeling comfortable in its environment it will lie down in sternal recumbency and drift further into SWS with further relaxation of the muscles. The horse may then lie down flat to enter PS where the muscles are totally relaxed, that is, there is virtually no muscle tone. An important point about sleep cycles is that the horse must lie down flat to complete a sleeping cycle that includes PS. If a horse cannot, or choses not to lie down then it can rest in SWS but cannot achieve the total relaxation of PS. Paradoxial sleep is sometimes termed the sleep of the body because of the general muscular relaxation whereas SWS is known as the sleep of the mind.

Could less time spent in PS sleep for horses bedded on wood shavings have welfare or performance effects? This study indicates that horses bedded on straw are likely to be more well rested than those bedded on shavings and it would be interesting to determine whether this extra rest is of benefit to the horse.

Reference: GR Pedersen, E Sondergaard, and J Ladewig (2004) The influence of Bedding on the Time Horses Spend Recumbent, Journal of Equine Veterinary Science, Vol. 24, No. 4.

Findings from Other Studies Regarding Bedding

When given the choice of straw or wood shavings as a bedding type, horses spend more time on straw.
Horses appear to spend more time performing bedding-directed behaviours on straw and this seems to reduce boredom in stabled horses
The use of beddings other than straw may increase the risk of abnormal behaviours such as weaving.
Both straw and wood shavings are economical and easy to obtain.
Horses may eat straw bedding which is not desirable.
Wood shavings are good for minimising respiratory problems in horses, as straw can sometimes be dusty and contain fungal spores.
Straw is generally warmer bedding than shavings because it traps air

Introduction to Horse Behavior and Psychology

Part 1

Natural Equine Behaviour

Of the numerous species of mammals only a mere handful has been domesticated. So unusual and important is this relationship between man and animal that the very process of domestication itself is the subject of intense study. Even a cursory search into the history of the domesticated species reveals that there are few general rules that can be applied – and that the history of our relationship with each species is, in some way, unique.

Many regard the dog as the oldest domesticated animal, and with good reason for, as an opportunist feeder and scavenger, the wild dog would have been drawn to the scraps and latrines of early human hunters. It may well be that the dog was so familiar a sight on the perimeter of encampments that it quickly became commonplace and thereby lost any sense of mystery. And perhaps this explains why dog or wolf is comparatively rare in early cave paintings. Not so the horse. So famous are some of the 200 or so caves across southern France and northern Spain in which the horse is depicted in shamanistic art that their names almost form a sacred litany of equine prehistory; Chauvet-Pont-d’Arc, Cosquer, Lascaux, Peche-Merle. The very rocks echo the fascination and awe in which our ancestors held this magnificent creature!

Looking at one of those paintings it is easy to put oneself back in a forefather’s thoughts: “if only I could run like the horse – what a hunter I should be, what glorious power I should posses! Surely the man who learns the secrets of the horse’s spirit would be as a lord of nature and king over the beasts!” How this ancestor must have studied the horse’s ways in order to bring this power under his dominion – how high was man lifted when first he rode in company with the wind, and oh how the world was changed for ever when finally he learnt to do so.

So enormous is the debt owed by human development to horsepower that it is impossible to separate the spread of culture and knowledge – of civilisation itself, from the history of horse travel and transport. But now the horse, like the dog, has become commonplace and is so established in our consciousness as a biddable servant and commercial product that we are rarely able to glimpse the primeval majesty, and have lost the sense of fascination beneath the trappings of familiarity. The wild horse is but a shadow from the past, and both we and Equus Caballus are poorer for the loss.

It is not now uncommon for highly skilled riders to be all but ignorant of who and what the horse is beneath the accoutrements of domestication, as if we had changed the essential nature of the animal so that it retains only the characteristics of the captive servant; as if the product of 600,000 years of evolution could be swept under the carpet in the mere 6000 years during which the man-relationship has existed. Yet this is no truer than to suggest we have nothing in common behaviourally with our own distant ancestors. The process has gone so far that we have come to the stage where we typically put the stable before the horse! Our methods of management and husbandry owe far more to human behavior, desire and convenience than they do to our knowledge of, or consideration for, horse behavior!

It is at this point in the argument that some might ask; “So what? Such is the natural way of things, we are the domesticators, owners, keepers and breeders – our interests clearly come first!” And this would be understandable, perhaps, however selfish it might be, if the logic upon which it is based were reliable – but this is not the case. The power of the horse can not only be of great service and give great pleasure, it can also be a source of great harm, of injury and death. From a purely practical perspective mismanagement is costly, either in terms of restriction or loss of use, cost of maintenance or human safety. Even if we were to put aside any consideration for welfare, or the aspiration to achieve an ethical partnership, it would still be in our interests to harmonize our management and use of the horse with the innate character of Equus Caballus.

It may seem strange that there is this void in our knowledge – many might think that after a 6000 year relationship there would be little we do not already know. Yet the reality is that it has been our natural inclination to view the horse through the filter of our own desires, rather than than the 'wellbeing' of a subordinate species.

Human development has surely come far enough now for us to turn back on our trail and extend our understanding of this partner that has carried us out of the darkness of ignorance and into the light of civilisation. There is little question that in doing so we shall also learn much about ourselves and reaffirm the essential affinity between all living things. If the separation between us and the natural world has been the source of many of the problems that now beset our environment perhaps, for the horse enthusiast, this journey may serve as a conduit to a greater harmony.

Having arrived at this point the next logical step is for us to ask in what way we might best explore the unknown. The discipline of ethology, the study of behavior, is a latecomer to science, not arriving until early in the second half of the twentieth century, and it is through this branch of science rather than through mysticism or populist showmanship that we can now move forward.

Should we then observe the few remaining groups of feral horses that remain? Much of this work has already been carried out, across a number of countries and habitats. Yet movement is the very soul of the horse and it is virtually impossible for the human researcher to keep up and, even were it to be possible, the observations need to be carried out over years, and intimate relationships, both biological and social, revealed before behavioral complexities can be identified.

There now exist a number of semi-free ranging study herds, of either ponies or horses, maintained by Universities and research centers internationally, whose function it is to fill in the gaps in our knowledge. One such center was the White Horse Equine Ethology Project

The project came to an end at the original site in early March, 2005. The article series was written in from July 2003 onwards.

WHEEP was established on a 114 Ha back country farm in the far north of New Zealand ’s North Island , kilometres away from the nearest tarmac road, in 1992, and now supports four distinct social groups. Firstly there is the ‘Foundation Group’, 19 in number, consisting of the original Arabian stallion, his harem of Thoroughbred mares and their progeny up to the age of two years. Registered Arabians and Thoroughbreds were chosen as these are two of the oldest breeds for which records have been maintained, so that should there be any need or requirement to calculate a coefficient of inbreeding it would be easily possible. Additionally many of the original group had been blood tested to ensure authenticity of parentage and, in the case of the stallion, freedom from known hereditary defects. The ‘Second Generation Group’, numbering 22 individuals, consists entirely of progeny from the foundation group, all of which were foaled on the property. The resident stallion of the group, whose dam was purchased in foal, is now almost 10 years old and is accompanied by nine mares and their progeny to two years of age.

Colts are removed from the two harem groups once the resident stallion begins to show marked intolerance, generally between 2 and 2 years six months. They are then introduced into the ‘Bachelor Group”, currently numbering 9, of which three are colts (under 4 years of age), 5 are young stallions of 4 years of age. The group is led by a 7 year old stallion whose authority is unquestioned, and who brings the group in to training sessions or for supplementary feeding and health care.

During the early years of the project it also became clear that the foundation stallion was intolerant of his daughters once they reached an age where they began to come in season. But whereas the intolerance towards colts grew slowly his reaction to a daughter coming in season for the first time could be quite explosive, and in one early case a filly was driven out of the group under such pressure that she was forced to jump a gate to escape his wrath! This was but the first in a long sequence of surprises, many of which were either contrary to the current view or were not covered in the available literature at all. Of course this also led to management changes so that fillies were removed to a separate ‘females only’ group. It also marked the first radical departure from the behavior of natural groups as, in the wild state, these fillies would have been driven out on to the margins of the harem group’s territory from where they would no doubt have been captured by the highest status member of a bachelor group.

Whilst it was a departure from the natural way of things it also served to illuminate the social cycle of equine life, and so began a roller-coaster odyssey of discovery in which the herd were to become not only my instructors but my brothers and sisters.

Since those early days the project has come through controversy, attack from the equine establishment and a ‘high-wire’ act of financial brinksmanship during which the threat of closure and the dispersal of the herd has, at times, been a demon that turned each night’s dreams into nightmare. Through this it has been the wonderment and privilege of serving ‘the herd’ and expanding our understanding that has provided the strength and commitment to keep going.

In the coming months I hope to share the product of these years with the reader, and to open a window on equine social behavior – the secret life of the horse

Part 2

The Establishment of the Foundation Group.

The first members of the research foundation group at White Horse Farm were a Thoroughbred mare and daughter. The two had been virtually feral for some years before their arrival and were badly in need of worming as a result. It was not an auspicious start – the filly suffered a serious colic soon after the worm drench was administered. Despite veterinary care and round the clock attention she succumbed on the fourth day, the first horse ever to die in my care. Their purchase was the opening move in an attempt to create an analogue of the natural equine family and, in one short, sharp lesson, an introduction was given to that most basic of natural imperatives; death. The mare became withdrawn and depressed at the loss of her daughter and it was only the arrival of the Arabian group stallion that brought her out of this downward spiral. When she came into oestrus the pair joined in a ten day fiesta of courtship and mating, in which both partners were equals in enthusiasm. Just as the filly’s colic had illustrated the sadness of death and horses’ potential for the grief of mourning so had the joyful courtship illustrated their exuberant celebration of life.

The remaining foundation mares were chosen with far greater circumspection, as with the first pair they were all bought with registration papers and were, in the majority of cases, Thoroughbreds. Clearly progeny would have to be sold and should therefore be well-bred from good steeple chase, eventing and show-jumping bloodlines. The Sire of the Arabian stallion was at that time the New Zealand Endurance racing champion and is still to this day the record holder. Three mares were purchased in-foal to eminent event horse sire Aberlou so that there might be at least one colt, unrelated to the Arabian stallion, which could be kept on as the future harem stallion of the 2nd generation group. This was to be comprised of foundation group progeny born and raised within an equine culture. Two purebred Arabian mares were also included, one of Polish ancestry, the other Dutch.

Initial attempts to run the mares as a group produced higher levels of aggression than were acceptable in terms of welfare, particularly with foals on the way. Some objective method had to be found of analysing which individuals might need to be removed to a separate sub-group where they could be given an opportunity to become better socialised and used to life in a herd under a lower and less stressful level of population density. What became very clear was that a significant percentage of the mares were socially dysfunctional, and it seemed most likely that this was as a result of the way in which they had been raised and managed. Care had been taken not to introduce mares to the stallion while they were in oestrus; surely there was enough potential for fear and stress in learning to live with a stallion in an every-day social context for the first time in any of the mares’ experience without the extra pressure of raging hormones! A method was developed by which a graphic representation of observed social interactions – the complex of relationships within the group – could be produced, and with its use group integration levels were enhanced by strategic removals for ‘social therapy’.

This level of social dysfunction opened up a whole new range of questions: what was causing this to happen? Were modern horses so genetically distinct from those of 6000 years ago that the behaviors that produce co-operative social living had been lost, perhaps as a result of selective breeding?

There are a number of theories on this subject, variously suggesting that selective breeding has caused definite change, that it has caused some minor changes only, or that there has been no change at all. If we were to decide that selective breeding is responsible for drastic changes to innate behavior, effectively separating the modern horse from its ancestors, then it might also be reasonable to wonder if the modern horse has retained the behavioural strategies that would make it able to function as a member of a ’natural’ group at all. Comparison of the descriptions of temperament and character between the oldest writings on equines, beginning with Xenophon’s Art of Horsemanship in the 4th century B.C., and the modern hot blood, whether Arabian, Barb or Thoroughbred, reveals but little difference, if indeed there is any. Equally the stoic, and less reactive, nature of the cold-bloods could reasonably be viewed as a product of the harder climate in which they developed rather than owing anything to selective breeding for quietness. Of course the difficulty with such comparisons is that they lack objectivity, so we have to draft evolutionary science in to test the probability that this view is correct. Prof Richard Dawkins sums things up very nicely on the opening page of his 1995 book River out of Eden . “ Al l organisms that have ever lived - every animal and plant, all bacteria and all fungi, every creeping thing, and all readers of this book - can look back at their ancestors and make the following proud claim: Not a single one of our ancestors died in infancy.” Dawkins goes on to make the point that organisms inherit all their genes from successful ancestors, rather than unsuccessful contemporaries. So if we view the modern horse from this perspective we can reasonably suggest that the genes that order their construction have all been inherited from ancestors – therefore those ancestors had those same genes, whether for colour or bone structure – or behavior!

So, if it wasn’t the genes that were different, what was it that was producing this apparent dysfunction? The trail now leads to that other replicator of behavior - the meme. Just as genes are grouped together to form genotype, so memes are grouped to form culture. If there had been no radical change in genes then the source of this social dysfunction, however new or odd-sounding a notion it might be, must surely be memetic rather than genetic! The logical conclusion arising from this rather unorthodox train of thought was that the environment in which the majority of horses were being raised caused cultural deprivation – leading in turn to horses whose use and well-being was restricted and complicated by lack of psychological development.

However authentic the family group that was being created might be in terms of numbers and composition, the greatest challenge was clearly to facilitate the development of an equine culture. And it was at that stage that any idea that what was being created was an analogue began to recede. The culture that would develop on this particular piece of land, with all the myriad detail of contour, aspect, fencing, soil and herbage type, climate, flora and fauna, would reflect the environment in which it developed, and, in a sense, unique. Even so, the horses were not free to behave in just any fashion; the fundamental scaffolding of genetically hard-wired behavior patterns would form the framework on which environment, including management, would hang the façade of culture.

In the early nineties a number of equine behaviorists were suggesting that the mother-daughter unit formed the basis of equine society, and, including that first inauspicious purchase, four mother-daughter pairs were brought into the foundation group. The stallion appeared to get along reasonably well with all of them, yet, when these pairs came into oestrus they tended to form little coalitions whose intent seemed to be to frustrate any attempt to mate with them. Over the first several years of the project these pairs consistently produced far fewer foals than the average for unrelated mares. If mother-daughter units were indeed the foundation of equine society then this behavior was very difficult to understand – the more likely hypothesis seemed to be that adult mother-daughter pairs within the same harem group were not at all a naturally occurring feature. Additionally there was no way in which the stallion might ‘know’ that these were mother-daughter, so the impetus for this behavior had to originate in the mares. The fact that each of the three surviving pairs behaved in the same way suggested that this was a common innate response and, in turn, this suggested that there was a definite evolutionarily selected social strategy in play. This was the first firm indicator that Equus Caballus had inherited a biologically embedded taboo against inbreeding – exogamy. Al though the idea was not one that was common to the orthodoxy of equine behavior it was broadly accepted to be an innate feature of primates and the society of social animals such as the Meerkat or Prairie Dog – so there was no great reason why evolution should not have selected for this same behavior in equines. And if this were true, might it not be the case with however many other behavioural strategies? In fact might it not be the case that the horse is far, far, closer to both other mammals – and ourselves – than we have been either taught or encouraged to believe? How much more difficult might it be to enslave if the subject of that very slavery is in truth a close cousin?

In the next article we shall look further into the details of exogamy and what they might mean for our ideas on horse breeding, also at the roles played by the hierarchy of equine society: harem stallion, high status mare, lead mare, pathfinder and the variations that occur as group size increases. And, at the devastating blow the herd was to suffer as a climax to the first full breeding season.
Part 3

The Environment makes its mark.

In the last article we started to consider social strategies for the prevention of inbreeding among groups of horses. But two years were to pass in the project before it became clear that more thought would have to be given to that theme. While it was possible to manipulate the social dynamics of the group so that welfare was enhanced, there was an environmental dynamic that defied either manipulation or prediction. Having accepted that the farm environment would be fundamental to the creation of a unique equine culture it might have been logical to take the idea a stage further and accept that there would also be a biological ‘settling in’ period, during which any mismatch between the group - either collectively or as individuals – and the environment, might well have fatal consequences. This is far from being a new concept, and there are many farmers who have introduced adult animals, whether horses or other domestic livestock, to a piece of land in a new area only to suffer very high losses from disease or natural dangers during the first year, until the group have time to ‘learn’ their environment and to adapt. In the last article we saw that memes are replicators of behavior that may operate in such a way that the survival potential of a group or the individuals within it is enhanced. Yet the foundation group had neither individual nor collective culture – many having come from quite unnatural and bland environments, such as small flat paddocks with monoculture modern ryegrass pastures, and without challenging topography or natural obstacles such as creeks, thin-roofed underground-streams, areas of marsh or small forested areas – all of which were characteristics of their new range. New types of vegetation might also prove dangerous.

With the benefit of hindsight it was predictable that, with the number of new inhabitants, in fact having built a whole new community, it was merely a question of time before a mistake would be made. That mistake came when one of the mares strayed into a marshy area at the top of their range during the night, from which she was unable to escape, and died before she could be rescued in the morning. The loss put everyone on notice to the dangers of the landscape, both horses and handler. Beautiful and peaceful it might be, but there was a natural treachery underlying that tranquillity.

The first full season of foaling took place in the second year of establishment. The forty acre (roughly 16 hectares) paddock that had been formed by the removal of several fences was quickened with the arrival of the first foals of 1993 in early October, and a total of five to add to the yearlings of year one before midsummer and the arrival of Christmas.

The New Year brought disaster. A mystery illness claimed the lives of three foals within seventy-two hours of each other. The three died only a short distance apart, so that poisoning might be suspected, each one showing no signs of illness as little as eight hours before death. Despite autopsies being carried out and numerous tissue samples being sent for laboratory analysis, the cause of the deaths was never identified. It was a devastating event but was to also produce behavior that defied any orthodox logic of accepted equine behavior. The dams of the dead foals, the stallion and all mares that did not have a foal at foot, formed a circle around the dead foals at a distance of some four to five meters, and there they stayed. For three consecutive days and nights the group watched over the bodies, leaving only to drink, after which they returned to take up their vigil once again. At no time were they witnessed taking time off to graze. I had never previously experienced the death of a foal and my observation visits to the group were frequent and prolonged, watching for any symptom, however small, that might signal that another was becoming ill. At the end of three days, the group dispersed and went back about their normal activities.

Viewed in terms of behavior designed to maximize survival this was very strange as, in the wild, the smell of rapidly decomposing bodies might well have attracted scavenging predators that might easily threaten the survival of the remaining foals, or the illness, if it were contagious, might have spread to the others in the group. A search through all available literature failed to supply any answer. Nowhere could there be found any mention of horses behaving in this manner, but other species had been observed to exhibit bereavement behavior - elephants, dolphins and some primates. The elephants were the most similar in behavior, the whole group participating in the mourning activity and, according to some reports, for the same length of time.

There was also an analogy to some human cultures in which the mourning period was very similar. Might the behavior mean that horses may, even if only in some instances, have a mourning ‘ceremony’? Or did it simply mean that, in many species, ourselves included, it takes about three days for individuals to come to terms with such a loss? And had other horse owners witnessed anything of the kind? Questioning other breeders as to whether they had had mares that, having lost a foal, behaved in a similar manner revealed that in most cases breeders take a dead foal away and bury it almost immediately after death. Two did confirm having seen such behavior, and also reported that when the mare finally did go on about her business she seemed to have come to terms with her loss and was no longer visibly depressed. Vets will most often advise that a dead foal is removed and buried and, from the point of view of preventing a possible spread of infection, they would be right. However, if there is a need to mourn for a period of time, then it may well be kinder to leave the dead to lie until no further interest is shown, before burial - and it may, perhaps, be not only kinder but psychologically healthier for the bereaved mare. There is the added risk in quickly taking a dead foal away that the dam may associate its loss with the person seen to remove it.

A now famous piece of film of Orcas (killer whales) in a marine park apparently 'conspiring' to crush a human handler is associated with the story of the belligerent individual having lost a calf at its previous marina. The dead calf was removed at once and the distressed mother left to circle in anguish when, in the wild, observers have witnessed cetaceans carrying dead calves for several days. In true T.V. fashion, the suggestion was made that the attack might have been 'planned' in 'revenge' for the ‘stealing’ of the calf, a suggestion that is impossible either to prove or disprove. We do not, however, know everything about animal behavior and it may be much wiser to keep an open mind until such hypotheses can be firmly refuted, or proven. If there is a risk of causing unnecessary depression, or damaging the relationship we have with a mare, or group of horses, would it not be far better to err on the side of caution and empathy?

The circumstances of the three deaths in the herd left unanswered and, quite possibly unanswerable, questions about equine behavior, but what remained was an indelible memory of the atmosphere of mutual grief and support for the three mares, as deeply touching, in its way, as any human funeral. Such gentle civilized creatures, such palpable and dignified grief. The event served to banish any temptation to make glib assumptions about equine society forever, and, in its place left a deep sense of having been humbled, chastened, and greatly privileged to have been allowed to share in their grieving process.

Time moved on, and those mares that had lost foals quickly came in oestrus and foaled again the following year, and now there were two year old colts and fillies in the group. It was totally predictable that the stallion would start to harass the two year old colts, and a slow but steady level of intolerance built over the weeks of spring and early summer until good welfare dictated that they be removed. The mares made no attempt to prevent this from being done, in fact the whole group became more peaceful and relaxed as a result. What was less predictable was that the harem stallion would react quite badly to daughters when they came into season. Then, instead of the gradual rise in intolerance observed with his colts, he showed a rapid and angry determination to drive them from the group. In the wild no doubt these fillies would be driven out on to the periphery of the group, from where they might be easily run off and captured by either the harem stallion of another band, or the highest status member of a bachelor group. Observations by researchers of feral horses have shown that the harem stallion will make no attempt to prevent this happening, and so does not serve his own daughters.

But, as with many facets of behavior, there are specific conditions under which this will change, and daughters will not be driven out – instead, they will be served and protected. There is a minimum size of group below which long term viability in a survival sense would become questionable in the wild, perhaps three or four mares plus stallion. When group numbers fall below this threshold the risk presented by inbreeding becomes secondary to the primary need to ensure the viability of the group, and the stallion will serve a daughter rather than driving her out. Of course, for the stallion, the biological investment is very much smaller than for the mare, so once group size reaches a critical level he has very little to lose should the resulting foal be unsound. In fact his real investment will only come if the foal is viable, survives the critical early period after birth and comes under his continuing protection. It is perhaps partly this population-triggered variable in equine social strategies to prevent inbreeding that has caused breeders to keep stallions apart from mares and offspring rather than managing breeding within family groups.

In the next article we shall focus on the bachelor group and its colt and stallion members, its co-operative social basis and function in the wild, and the opportunities it presents for the modern and ethical management and training of stallions. Under traditional equine industry methods many stallions are destined for lives of miserable solitary confinement and resulting progressive psychological illness. Of these a good number will become dangerous, causing serious or potentially fatal injuries to handlers. Another effect of this is the myth that stallions are naturally inclined to be unruly and unmanageable animals requiring some special ability in their handlers – leading to castration in the hope that this will modify difficult behavior. Yet, as research has shown, castration is not as predictable in its result as many might believe. If by the implementation of alternative strategies that rely on manipulation of the social character of the horse rather than isolation and surgical intrusion we can produce happier, more socially balanced, male horses, do we not owe it both to ourselves and the equines in our care to explore the insights gained from equine ethology?

Part 4

The Male Horse

‘Fighting stallions’ have been a common subject in equine art for centuries, which is not at all hard to understand given the titanic clash of physical speed and power that this represents. So powerful is this image, and so deeply ingrained as a cultural totem in our racial memory, that for many of us primeval aggression and violent power have become synonymous with the very notion of this animal, resulting in a form of cultural monomania. And it is precisely this notion that is long overdue for serious challenge.

In this article we are going to peel back the ‘hype’ that overlays the nature of the entire male horse and look at what lies beneath the myth. As with any animal, human or otherwise, the environment is a powerful force in the moulding of development, both physical and psychological. We have become very good at assessing the impact of poor environments on the development of human young, but there seems to be some attitudinal Rubicon to be crossed before the same logic is also applied to the young of other species. Yet it is clear that the impact of a poor environment will have some very clear parallels in other social species – such as the horse.

Let’s start with a brief auto-biography of the first few years in the life of natural male horse. Born into the typical extended family group, or ‘harem band’, the colt is exposed to the culture of equine society from birth. Depending on the particular culture of the group and the status of the mare the birth may be closely guarded by Stallion and one or two high status mares. From as early as 12 hours after foaling, family members will form a procession to see the new arrival, just as human family members will visit a newly delivered mother – and with all the attendant expression of emotion – from the calm and dignified interest of herd Aunts through to the paternal pride of the sire and the excitement of brothers, sisters and cousins. For the first few years of life the colt will never be alone, whether feeding, at rest or play. Within the social structure of the harem group he will always have a watch kept over him, either by his dam or a baby sitter such as an older brother or sister or cousin. Good manners are an integral element of equine society, and will be instilled and reinforced. His diet will be guided by elders, so that what he eats and for how many hours of the day he eats will be taught by social facilitation. He will observe the protocol for courtship and mating of his sire with dam and herd aunts – at close quarters. He will learn to play with his herd brothers the games of biting and rearing; including the etiquette of such games and, equally, that this same behavior must not be addressed to other individuals. In fact he will receive a paradigm for life as a member of a social group that includes all social, sexual, recreational, dietary and protective behaviors. As with a well-integrated and socialised human male, it is this complete education that results in a balanced individual. Finally, he will experience rejection from his natal band and be forced out into a new equine lifestyle – that of the young bachelor in an all male group.

Before going any further, this is a good point at which to deal with the question of age. There are major differences in the development of horses as a result of environment and, to be quite clear, let’s say that by this we mean all external stimuli, not just feed and water, although clearly these are powerful vectors. There may be as much as a two year difference in physical development between an intensively managed domestic horse and its feral cousin of similar breeding. For example, fillies in feral groups may not come into oestrus until the age of four, unlike their domestic cousins who may start to cycle from as early as 24 to 30 months of age. Colts are similarly affected, remaining sexually juvenile in behavior for much longer than, say, a domestic colt reared either just with its dam or with a few brood mares. Such domestic colts raised in all-female groups tend to be very precocious, becoming sexually active as young as two years of age, and we will return to this particular situation later to look at some typical psychological consequences of this early start.

The bachelor group strategy is common to a number of social species, including us. Just as young men of various human cultures will leave the tribal family group and spend several years – up to 7 depending on the particular culture – in an all male group, so too will the ejected colt. The social character of these groups is of particular interest, and in this sense the behavior of group members towards a new arrival is very revealing. (A number of case studies of this behavior have been recorded at the White Horse Equine Ethology Project, from which the actual times given in the following description have been taken.) The new arrival is greeted with great interest, the whole group forming a tight cluster of bodies around him, and amongst this bustle each makes repeated contact to sample the newcomer’s scent, paying special interest to the front ‘armpits’ and the sharing of breath – nostril to nostril. In as little as 15 minutes the group returns to grazing, with the newcomer in line-abreast, flanked on either side by the two highest status colts or stallions. In this format the two guide their charge about the grazing range in an inductive progress; facilitating the discovery of water, physical boundaries and other information essential to high speed escape should it become necessary. After only an hour the group is able to react in total unison to external stimuli and would, in the wild, be able to operate an escape manoeuvre with an excellent unity of purpose.

The same addition of a new member to a female only group of range kept young mares or fillies provides a stark comparison in behavior. The newcomer is ignored at best or harried at worst and, instead of an hour to settle in as an integral member, it may take up to a week! So, why is there such a complete difference? We might suggest that female-only groups are not natural within equine society, and that this is sufficient explanation, but the actual reason has to do with a basic element of biological logic. For the fillies in the all-female group the newcomer offers little reason for celebration and, unless the group is so small that safety is compromised by insufficient numbers to maintain the watch for danger, the addition merely means an increase in competition for feed and water, for no social gain. For the bachelor group the matter is entirely different. In wild or feral herds, bachelor groups operate on the periphery of harem groups, from which vantage point they are best situated to carry out opportunistic raids for the capture of female progeny of breeding age.

Picture the scene of a harem group grazing: the lower status animals, including three or four year old fillies and colts spend the largest amount of time at the greatest distance from the high status nucleus. With the element of surprise in their favour, a bachelor group races in, the senior young stallion, perhaps a five or six year old, fixes his attention on either an individual filly or perhaps a pair or even a trio, while the other stallions and colts race through the circumference of the herd creating confusion and in effect running interference for their leader. The harem stallion falls back on the nucleus of the group, herding his senior mares and their dependent progeny into a tight pack. He has little interest in his older daughters who, by the natural process of exogamy would be driven out in time anyway, and, in the face of the swirling, co-operative high-speed raid of the bachelors his only hope is to defend those mares with which he is closely bonded and which can be relied upon to keep station with him. Defence of his daughters is neither practical, nor beneficial. For the bachelors, the reward for a successful raid is that the most senior member now leaves the group to establish his own harem, resulting in each of the remaining members taking a step up in the ranks and coming closer to the day when they too may capture females of their own. The scenario is not so dissimilar to the raiding strategies of our ancestors that we should have any difficulty in recognising the clear benefits of co-operation in male groups.

Having looked at the natural paradigm for colt and stallion behavior up to the point of the establishment of an individual’s harem we now have to compare this to the way in which so many young male horses are both raised and kept. Typically, management methods result in colts being foaled into small, female-only groups, often to a single mare. Rather than leaving weaning to the mare there will often be a forced intervention, resulting in a high degree of stress and attendant separation anxiety, often followed by isolation and loneliness. Such colts are deprived of the ability to observe any male role model, and of the play that is such an important part of their development. Were we to do the same thing with young human males there would be little surprise if they grew up to become socially dysfunctional adults with a tendency towards extremely poor impulse control, sociopathic urges and incapacity to initiate and develop successful sexual relationships. Equally there is good evidence that these results are common to individuals of other social mammalian species managed in similar fashion – and no good reason to assume that horses will not be similarly affected!

Many a highly valuable stud’s glossy exterior conceals a very poor state of mental welfare, with the result that grooms and handlers are subject to serious attack and injury, and handling becomes expensive and complicated. Co-operation is lost and in its place are substituted a costly array of protective pads, ties and restraints, and stallion bits that look like nothing so much as medieval devices of torture. Finally, high stress matings result in poor conception rates, with all the attendant costs of lost time, expensive veterinary pregnancy tests and increased service costs to mare owners. So even were we to forget any question of ethical animal treatment and concentrate only on financial efficiency this system of management is a miserable failure.

Earlier in the article mention was made of the precocity of many colts raised in small females-only groups. The response of mares in this situation tends to be very poor. The colt’s response to his female companions will become sexual well before he has attained the physical development with which to demonstrate his desirability as either a mate or protector. Thus begins a mismatch in which his only recourse is to attempt domination by aggression. This increase in aggression and lack of social graces also permeates the relationship between the colt and human handlers, with potentially disastrous consequences. If the dominant behavior results in fear on the part of the handlers – as it often will – the first reaction will be to punish, followed by use of control devices, perhaps increasing in severity. Yet none of these approaches deals with the root cause of the problem, and not only will they most likely fail to achieve the desired change in behavior but they may well further embitter the colt, creating an embedded sullenness.

The typical next phase in this catalogue of misunderstanding is that surgical milestone – castration. But, far from being the panacea that many believe it is, the outcome of this most intrusive of all management techniques is as uncertain as it is irreversible. Where there is an established history of anti-social or psychologically dysfunctional behavior, the operation will have achieved nothing, except to create real discomfort and perhaps confusion. The notion that the excision of a body part will somehow heal behavioural dysfunction resulting from an extended period of inappropriate treatment is so without any logical foundation that it should amaze us that there are so many people willing to believe it. Nor can castration be relied upon to extinguish sexual behavior, although it may do so. However, some geldings are able to maintain an erection and even to serve a mare, although there will be no issue. Nor is the uncertain behavior restricted to the physical; geldings kept with mares frequently become fixated to the point that it becomes impossible to remove them for work without incurring a level of separation anxiety that prevents concentration on the task at hand and can be very dangerous for both rider and horse. Yet there has been no diminution of the sense of smell, so that when mares come into oestrus the gelding is flooded with pheromone signals but lacks the capacity to act in accord with their reception. The psychological impact is impossible to judge without almost certain anthropomorphosis, but only the brave or those determined not to admit the possibility would declare that there is none.

The flipside of this management limbo is that it is quite possible to work with the nature of stallions rather than to a blueprint that has only to do with commerce, possession and a misguided notion of convenience. The established fact that colts have a basic co-operative nature can be utilised to make training a positive joy rather than a contest.

Having looked at what can, and so often does, go wrong, and that results in the perpetuation of the old stallion myths, there is another, quite different character to which we should be introduced – that of the ‘family man’. It has long been considered, if only on an unconscious level, that the stallion contributes little to the raising of foals. Of course this is entirely understandable given that our central concept of fatherhood is that of the ‘bread-winner’ (or, more exactly, the ‘meat-winner’) a role that has no equivalent in grazing animals. Yet there are other ‘fatherly’ behaviors that we could have in common with our equine cousins – for cousins they certainly are – such as defender, teacher and role model for the pattern of social interactions with non-kin. Let’s once again invoke modern science in the form of comparative psychology as an analytical tool by which we may throw some light on what has been generally overlooked in the past. The impact of the lack of a male role model has already been mentioned, and there has been such a focus on the psycho-social problems of children growing up without any positive male paradigm that we are probably all aware to some degree of the research findings. Is there any compelling reason to believe that this should not also apply to horses, or that we should not bother to consider the consequences of male parental deprivation in species other than ourselves? Emphatically no! Yet the nature of such considerations is so subjective that proof can be hard to find – in fact, absolute proof is virtually impossible. But just because there is a difficulty does not mean the search has to be neglected. If there is no direct physical evidence that can be marshalled in support of the notion that stallions are an integral part of the social development of the young horse, then is there anecdotal evidence? And here the answer is a definite yes.

Observation of the two harem groups in the White Horse Equine Ethology Project reveals that stallions spend one-to-one time with the foals born into their harems, and it should be noted right away that there is no apparent difference in behavior towards biological progeny and foals born to mares introduced into a group when already pregnant. Most particularly, the foals of high status mares appear to receive the greatest attention from their father. On several occasions stray dogs have wandered on to the second generation group’s range area, and have been treated to a warning display from the resident stallion that leaves little to the imagination: a high speed approach, a powerful double stamp with the front hooves close on either side of the intruder leaving no doubt that bones would be shattered if the dog should make the mistake of harrying the herd members. This is followed by a pirouette and display kick with the hind feet that underlines the warning with brutal eloquence! If there is any question left unanswered by these displays it is not whether the stallion is prepared to defend his family but why he does not kill when he could so easily do so.

Studies of ‘morality’ on the part of individuals within various species have been carried out over the past few years, leading scientists to speculate on the behavioural roots of morality in human society, and there are good reasons to suppose that this simple ‘morality’ is a feature of the inter-species behavior that results in balanced ecosystems. The suggestion that well-socialised stallions may have an inhibition in regard to physical attack is important for reasons other than those to do with defence. There are times in the management of even the most carefully constructed analogue of the natural equine family when tasks need to be carried out that are tantamount to a direct challenge to the sovereignty of the harem monarch – such as the removal of a mare for medical treatment.

Each year within the project harem groups, round about mid-summer, two year old colts and fillies are removed using high status mares to lead them down to the yards where they are then separated prior to being introduced to their new groups. Preparations are made well in advance, with lower status mares - most often with foals and yearlings at foot - being removed for a short time, during which they are given a supplementary feed to compensate for the stress, and then returned to the group. These first removals are viewed with a certain amount of nervousness by the stallion – after all it does look as if one of his mares is being stolen; and there is clear potential for a protective display in defence of his harem. Were there to be no inhibition with respect to aggression it would be very difficult, if not dangerous, for the stallion to be shown that such removals are temporary. But instead of this he is encouraged to take part in the process, accompany the mare, preceding her in to the yards so that he is allowed an opportunity to assess any risks – such as the (non) existence of a potential rival. He is also given a feed, which serves to reward the co-operation.

However, not all removals can be temporary. Two years ago weather conditions did not allow for sufficient grass growth which coincided with the second generation group exceeding an optimum size, further impacted by a record foal crop during the previous season. As a consequence, population pressure on resources began to trigger signs of social disharmony. For the first time mares were often observed refusing the stallion’s amorous attentions, causing him in turn to become more dominant in his behavior and, as a result, two mares suffered bites on the crests of their necks. Apart from the annual draft of colts and fillies it became clear that two mare/foal/yearling trios would also need to be moved to the foundation group in order to stabilise grazing resources. The only two that could be removed were, in both cases, higher status mares that were unrelated to the foundation stallion, having been progeny of mares bought in-foal. Yet the stallion could reasonably be expected to object seriously to their removal. It was not without a lot of consideration that the removal of bonded mares was carried out, and it took me some time to surmount my misgivings over the potential for a bad outcome. In the end the stallion accepted my decision with the best of good grace and did nothing to stop me removing his mares even though he could have very easily done so. Nor was there any negative impact on the relationship between the two of us as a result.

It has often surprised me that mares that are well socialised towards people do not always produce foals with the same attitude. However, in my experience, mares that are poorly socialised towards people can generally be guaranteed to produce similarly affected offspring unless early intervention is carried out. We know that foals learn by watching their dam, most particularly regarding food, so why not also with regard to attitude towards people? If the foal sees ‘mum’ in willing and relaxed contact with a person every day why does that foal not also learn to accept such contact? It was only by accident that we discovered that while the mare might not be able to directly sponsor trust in foals a stallion can. Visits to the group for health checks and so forth follow the general protocol that the stallion should be ‘reported’ to first, followed by the head mare. On occasions the work schedule allows for prolonged periods to be spent with the group, and very often, unless he is otherwise occupied with matters of oestrus, I’ll spend some ‘quality’ socialising time with the stallion, as friends do. It soon became obvious that we would slowly be surrounded by a ring of foals – even those that had previously shown fear and refused contact with me. I needed only continue grooming the stallion, teasing knots out of his mane or removing insects from his coat, for the foals to press in closer and initiate contact with me. Clearly there is some particular behavioural mechanism involved here that is gender specific, not unlike the process whereby it is the human father from which children copy the paradigm for interaction with society at large. So, could it be that not only does traditional stallion management, in which most are kept isolated and deprived of any opportunity to enjoy family life, compromises the psychological and social development of stallions but also robs us of a most excellent natural tool in the socialisation of the young horse to human handlers?

We have, quite naturally, focussed on the male equine throughout this article, but this is not to say that there is no ‘fatherly’ impact on naturally raised fillies. As with the behavioural difficulties that arise in colts as a result of unsupportive management methods, so too there are impacts on fillies. The most obvious of these is seen when it comes time for service. The filly or mare, which has most likely never seen an entire male in their life, is confronted by the spectacle of a rampant stallion in a high state of excitement. Use of the term ‘spectacle’ is totally appropriate – as the sight can be quite awesome. Very often the volatility of the situation is increased by the use of stallion control devices that operate on the basis of pain, unfamiliar surroundings and numbers of people in various protective wrappings. The poor mare is brought into this situation entirely by herself, with no herd sisters on hand for support, and cannot be blamed if she reacts with fear.

In the natural courtship process the mare and stallion are together well before oestrus, and the progressive hormonal cycle produces a gradual, and mutual, heightening of interest. Researchers have recorded observations showing that the courtship preceding the first service of a maiden mare is of much greater duration than those with older, more experienced, mares. For her part the mare is able to signal her increasing willingness to participate in mating behavior by ‘signal urination’ which allows the male to make scent analysis, serving both as an indicator of precise stage in her cycle and, when the right pheromones are present, to excite full readiness in the male. The normal point of address for a stallion to a mare is initially from the front and side, with particular attention being shown to the front ‘arm-pit’. This allows the mare to kick out vigorously and emit the squeal that typifies her not being quite ready without doing the stallion any injury. As her willingness increases the stallion will very often stimulate the mare with his tongue, which serves the dual purpose of exciting the mare and providing a degree of lubrication prior to entry.

It is not at all hard to understand that a great number of maiden mares will react badly to the lack of any such courtship during in-hand service, and kick out in fear. The standard procedure at such a point is to fit ‘hobbles’ that prevent such kicking, load the mare into a service chute in which she is totally restrained, and then to encourage the stallion to mount without further ado. The experience is clearly very stressful for the mare, and, with due deference to those whose sensitivities might be offended by such a notion, equates, in my opinion, to a form of assisted rape. Typically, the next time such a mare is sent for service she will be even worse, requiring not only restraint but sometimes sedation as well. It should not surprise us that this type of service, with all its attendant stress, results in such a poor level of fertilisation that many are now moving towards artificial insemination in preference.

Unlike these poor mares, the naturally raised filly will have witnessed the mating of her dam and sire at close quarters while only a few days or weeks old. As she grows up she will witness other harem mares being mated in an atmosphere of relaxation and mutual intent, and will have received the necessary education so that, when it comes to her turn, she will be a willing and co-operative partner. It seems strange indeed that we would continue to do things in such a way as to make mating less reliably productive, with all the waste of time and unnecessary expenditure that this implies, more complicated, potentially dangerous and both labour and resource intensive than it need be; and this is without mentioning the ethical considerations that should increasingly be a hallmark of treatment of the animals which enrich our environment, and to which we have a duty of care.

Many are sceptical with regard to the portrayal of stallions as having the potential to be co-operative, polite, gentlemanly, moral and nurturing, and there are even some whose instinct is reactionary, open hostility to such an idea, as if it somehow impugns their management methods as inhumane. However, for the sceptics I offer one final proof.

Several months ago a colt foal became separated from its dam very soon after foaling. The result was that by the time the two were reunited the mare refused to accept the foal as her own, and had little milk with which to suckle it had she done so. Despite knowing the difficulties with bottle raising foals, particularly colt foals, he was brought down to the garden where we proceeded to bottle feed him. After a few very difficult weeks in which it seemed highly unlikely that he would survive, the colt got old enough – and large and strong enough! – for us to become concerned with his future behavior. Typically ‘pet’ foals become unruly and overly boisterous around people, and often have later problems socialising with other horses. The best remedy, where available, is to find a mare whose own foal has died to take over, but in this case there was no such mare. Equally it was clear that he was too young to be expected to fit into a bachelor group. Various scenarios were considered, but all required that the ‘foster-carer’ had to be removed from the group that they were in so that a careful watch could be kept over foal and carer, and bottle feeding could continue every three hours during both night and day. On close scrutiny of all sixty or so horses in the project it was the eight year old stallion, head of the bachelor group, that would be least inconvenienced by separation from his group, as he was already spending some time apart each day for riding training, for attention to any of the few visiting mares that are accepted from owners in the immediate area and to make use of the small areas of grazing available around the yards, orchard and gardens.

First, the two were introduced to each other with a low wooden post and rail fence between them, but there seemed to be no sign of any intolerance on the part of the stallion. As the foal began to follow his progress up and down the orchard as much as the fence would allow, the two were put in together. It is one thing to expect a stallion to show care for a foal born into the harem group of which he is monarch, but quite another to nurture a foal to which there is no direct biological tie. Yet this was exactly what happened. A somewhat ambiguous, or disinterested but tolerant, attitude might have been considered predictable, but a far more surprising and faithful level of surrogate fatherhood resulted. The stallion first led and later accompanied the little colt up to the house for his milk feeds, and then returned with him, sometimes over half a kilometre, back to where the pair had been grazing. Just as mares will stand watch over their foals while they sleep, so too did the stallion – not going off to graze until the foal was awake again and ready to move. The colt is now fourteen weeks old, learning proper equine ‘manners’ and thriving in the stallion’s care, an idea unheard of in the past. Yet if this challenge to the traditional status quo is possible what else might be?

In the 12 years the project has been running, there have been many times when it has only been possible to control the relatively large number of horses with the help of the resident stallion and when, by socialising with one out in the paddocks, he has successfully sponsored my first contact with youngsters that might otherwise have required much greater inputs of time and energy. Stallions have assisted in bringing several mares down to the yards for veterinary care due to foaling difficulties, and have stayed with the mare while foaling has been assisted, lending support and alleviating any separation anxiety. On a number of occasions over that period, adult harem stallions have been in direct confrontations due to the failure of a fence or gate, yet in each case there has been no injury caused and the two have allowed me to walk between them, separate them and return each to his range without threat to my safety. At times it can be such a humbling and deeply emotional experience that there is no shame in having tears in the eyes.

For those whose luck it is to experience the magic of partnership with a stallion it can be truly life changing so that they never forget the experience. Isn’t this a good enough reason to plead for a change of perception and of management practices?

Part 5

The Equine Family

For many years animal groups or societies were portrayed as dominance oriented. Simply put, the suggestion was that the strongest, perhaps largest or most aggressive animal in a group rules by tyranny of force over the weaker members. The idea supposes that this ‘pecking order’ continues on down through the members so that each has a place in the hierarchy of the group, and is subservient to all those of higher ranking. The durability of these ideas has a number of roots, amongst which the most beguiling is that such simple dominance structures do exist in some species, and also in some gender-specific sub-groups of others. There is no question that bachelor groups of male horses operate on the dominance principle, in which the strongest, but not necessarily largest, male rules by right of force rather than of characteristics of leadership – but does this mean that the equine family or harem group has a similar structure?

To answer yes would not only deny the complexity of social interaction but also the findings of modern behavioural science. Computer modelling studies released in 2003 by Roper and Conradt from the University of Sussex , UK , opened up to scrutiny and discussion the possibility of democracy within the animal world. While some scientists commented that the model was limited in scope and that the findings did not allow the real degree of complexity present in real-world cases, there was common agreement that it posed a serious challenge to the popular perception that the natural world operates on the basis of dominance and violence.

For many people the idea of democracy within the animal kingdom has a surreal quality – visions of voting and counts of each poll – and the intuition that this type of system would surely require cognitive powers much greater than most species possess. Yet the social organisation typical in insect colonies should tell us that huge cognitive powers are not required.

In the last article we challenged many of the myths surrounding the stallion, and what we can do to re-establish the continuity of our narrative is to state that the harem stallion, so often depicted as monarch and despot, has a far lesser degree of control over the life of the family group to which he is affiliated than popular myth would suggest. Far from being the overall ruler, his will does not dominate, and mares can, and do, disobey. There must have been a number of scientists of animal behavior who had intuitively dismissed the idea of one animal dominating the movement of a group way before the results of the computer model study were released – if for no other reason than it simply cannot work! There is a clear parallel to human society here, and one with which many of us who have been, or are, in the workforce are probably familiar to some degree. Companies that are run in a dictatorial style in which no-one is allowed to use their own initiative but must first seek the approval of an over-manager have been proven to be inefficient. Inability to delegate is seen as a major flaw in management skills. Of course major decisions should be made at the higher management levels, but questions of minor day to day operations are best left to those who actually carry out these tasks. Quite apart from any other consideration, if the management are too busy dictating the smallest operational detail how can they be free to set strategy in the face of danger or to protect the company’s workers from external threat? Managers too must have time to eat, rest and take some recreation if they are to make good decisions.

So if we start to think of the equine family group like a small company with one sole product we won’t be far from the mark. And the product? Simply the perpetuation of the group. For the evolutionary scientist this last statement would not be good enough, and we could get into arguments over what precise piece or accumulation of biological material it is that seeks to replicate itself – whether it is the gene, or groups of genes, or the genotype, or the individual animal. Perhaps what is going to work best for us in this instance is to decide that for the purposes of understanding equine family behavior let’s say that the group provides a vehicle through which the replication of the genes contained within its member animals can be expressed – and leave it at that!

The analogy to a small company can be continued: just as a badly run company will most likely be uncompetitive and go out of business so too will the badly run equine family suffer ‘evolutionary bankruptcy’. The fossil record bears witness to the number of failed “Equines Ltd” over the 600,000 year history of development. What remains is, by definition, the product of those families that successfully adapted to the challenges of the evolutionary ‘marketplace’. Clearly, physical characteristics were of great importance in this ongoing success, and the ability to withstand the rigours of diverse environments, yet without patterns of behavior that ‘program’ the use of these physical accoutrements the essential ‘business’ efficiency could not be assured. The ability to escape at great speed is, for example, only beneficial if used at the right time, and the judgement as to when that right time may be is critical. To run too early before a threat is analysed is wasteful of energy and disruptive of feeding, rest and procreation, and a scourge for the weak and the young; to wait overlong until the threat is confirmed, but also unavoidable, is simply fatal.

Logic should tell us that where a species has developed the family lifestyle, behavior has developed in such a way that it supports the wellbeing and survival of that species to the greatest possible degree. So, if we were considering raising an animal from a ‘family’ species, it follows that the best structure within which to do so is, logically, the family structure innate to that species.

So why is it that, most often, we don’t? After all, you may be able to take the horse out of the family – but you can’t take the family out of the horse! Those behaviors that have developed over the millennia are still present, either as functional components of the horse’s psychology or, and this is perhaps the crux of the issue, as needs that, frustrated of normal expression, become negative with respect to both horse and owner. And the follow-on question posed by this conclusion is ‘how are we to judge?’

Rather than attempt to create a list of pros and cons, perhaps the best approach will be to take a close look at just what equine family behavior is and how it appears to operate, suspending judgement until we have a clearer picture. But that will still only give us one side of the picture and, to get the complete view, we need to examine common management practices to see in what way they support expression of innate behaviors and establish which innate behaviors are repressed. Then we must analyse the results of any such repression in terms of the impact on us as users of the horse, and on the wellbeing of the horse itself and, having done so, it is then up to each person to make an educated decision about the ethics of the situation, in the certain knowledge that animal welfare activism is a growing force in today’s political arena.

To do this each of the next several articles in the series will come in two parts, the first from a natural perspective, the second from the perspective of traditional management. In this issue we’ll be looking at those two basic elements; social contact and freedom of movement, for these are at the very heart of what it means to be a horse.

Social Contact, Freedom of Movement and Traditional Management.

The confinement of horses is far away from being a new idea; in 2003, the earliest known military stables were discovered within the 3,300 year old ruins of the ancient Egyptian city of Piramesse . The buildings were in six rows covering over 17,000 square meters, and are said to have housed at least 460 horses used for pulling the chariots of the army of Ramses II. The very size of these stables suggests that the management of confined horses had, even then, been around for some length of time. The biggest question about the confinement of the horse in stalls or stables is why the practice ever started. Certainly it was not an essential element in the ownership of horses, since surviving nomadic horse cultures continue successfully to keep horses in herds on the open plain even today.

Stabling is generally presented as if it is in some way supposed to be for the good of the horse, providing shelter from the elements and so forth, but it is much more likely that the driving force behind this development was the convenience of the owner – after all, how many horses have a good enough relationship with their owners or riders that they will come when called? – and security from theft. For, in a time when horses were essential to survival and the protection of the state, what greater threat could there be than that a raiding party of one’s enemies might succeed in driving off not only those horses kept ready for protection but also the breeding herds essential for maintenance of such a vitally important resource?

Since most horses would have been domesticated from those types found in the local region, or perhaps those that might be traded or captured in war from not too distant neighbours, their adaptation to survival under the prevailing climate suggests that man-made shelter from the elements would not be required. What better way of control could there be of an animal whose very nature is movement, than to restrict its freedom to suit the owner? In the next issue we’ll be taking a look at the impact of this rigid control, in terms of both psychological and physical health, and suggesting how accommodation for horses can be designed so that the least ‘user-friendly’ aspects are mitigated.

Social Contact, Freedom of Movement and Nature.

Imagine a non-stop outdoor cocktail party at which the guests are all from one extended family. The large group breaks into small mutual interest groups, united by common factors as young children or pregnancies. Younger members go apart a little way to form little groups with their peers or best close friends, only to return to the familiar security of their mother. Mothers watch over their own as well as other’s visiting offspring, whose own mothers in turn get to spend some time with their adult friends. The older siblings ‘baby-sit’ their younger brothers or sisters leaving their parents free to concentrate on the buffet or on spending time with the family leadership. Host and hostess circulate with consummate social grace, continually reaffirming and reinforcing the social ties that bind the group into one cohesive unit. Turns are taken by all those sufficiently mature to keep a watch about the perimeter of the group, so that shelter might be taken from the rain, or movement directed toward a particularly attractive section of the buffet, or warning given of the approach of uninvited and potentially unwelcome guests. The more junior ranking females in the group spend a greater time in carrying out the chore of keeping watch, for which service they are then welcomed back into the center of the party, while others take their places on duty.

This, then, is the equine family group: a flowing, and most often harmonious, social progress over the landscape. Neither driven nor controlled by any one member, it is a group in which even the lowest status members may lead the direction in which the grazing cycle moves, secure in the knowledge that other members are facing outwards, watching each and every compass point from which danger might approach, and maintaining a constantly revolving rearguard duty. There is no need for the hierarchy of the group to expend energy controlling movement, an onerous duty that would take much of their time, and leadership is only given where necessary. Even so, those members that are at the greatest risk, such as heavily pregnant mares or the young, are shielded by those that are better able to carry out rapid manoeuvres and, should danger threaten, the whole group is able to react quickly, forming a line of escape set by the highest status female, and with the stallion falling back to keep stragglers from being left behind and to offer challenge should it be warranted.

Whether grazing, resting, sleeping prone on the ground, playing or courting, each individual can be certain that others are standing guard ready to give the alarm; a well-oiled and supremely adaptable mutual preservation society in which the safety of each member is best assured.

Only when a group member is so obviously ill or injured that death is a certainty are the social bonds uniting them broken, or, when an older stallion is displaced by the rigorous physical challenge of a younger, more powerful, rival. Such displaced stallions are then left to wander alone, injured and bereft of the society which offered both responsibility and safety – soon to tire and finally succumb to attack or illness.

Part 6

The mystery of domestication – the foundation for adaptability to man- made environments.

In part 5 we began to look at how modern methods of horse keeping evolved, and the difference between the way in which the domesticated horse is kept and the way in which its natural relation lives. But perhaps before going any further we might take a closer look at the whole process of domestication itself as it is precisely this that underlies the human equine relationship.

“Domestication = that process by which a population of animals becomes adapted to man and the captive environment by some combination of genetic changes occurring over generations and environmentally induced developmental events recurring during each generation.” (Price, 1984)

It may seem strange to talk of ‘captivity’ when referring to the horse, yet our domestication of the horse is dependent on our ability to keep horses captive to one degree or another. Clearly the massive differences in the way horses are kept make it useless to talk about captivity as if it has a fixed meaning. It has been suggested that it is better to think of a continuum with ‘wild’ and ‘captive’ at either extreme, which we might take as suggestive of degrees of captivity. Let us say that the extreme of captivity might equate to keeping a horse head tied in a stall, in which it is not possible to turn, and in an environment in which there is no possibility for expression of natural behaviors. Even then the degree of captivity would be affected by the number of hours of exercise allowed, whether there were any free ‘turn-out’ hours, how often food were to be offered, and how natural or otherwise that food might be. Moving along the continuum towards ‘wild’ we would see management systems under which the degree of freedom of behavior increases; for example a horse alone in a fenced one hectare enclosure without shelter, through to horses kept in some kind of social group in a twenty hectare enclosure with tree cover to provide shelter from either rain or sun.

An interesting thing about this continuum is that it is also possible to replace the terms used at each extreme with other labels. Instead of ‘captive’ we could as usefully substitute ‘interests of the owner/keeper’ and at the other end ‘interests of the horse’. So, we would have the extreme of the horse kept head tied in a stall representing the interests of the owner/keeper – minimum space taken up, easiest to muck out, least effort needed to keep the horse clean (I assume in this stall scenario that the horse cannot lie down), least time taken to prepare the horse for work. The interests of the horse in this extreme are subjugated almost totally to the interests of the keeper, although there may be some variation according to exercise or ‘turn-out’ time – if allowed. At the other extreme the horse lives an unfettered existence, confined only by the size of territory and free to experience both the full natural expression of behavior and also the potentially life threatening vicissitudes and challenges of weather and environment.

At some point along our continuum a balance will be reached, between captivity and the freedom of wildness, between our interests as owners and those of the horse. Not only is this balance important to our ethical treatment of horses but also as a microcosm of our approach to the world in which we are all sustained.

It seems fair to suggest then that some understanding of the process of domestication is needed in order for us to see where we and the horse have been together, what has been brought along, what may have been left behind – and, most importantly, where we might head from here.

The first point to be made is that out of the thousands of species only mere handfuls have been successfully domesticated. This then is no common, easy task, but relies on both domesticator and domesticated to function. We generally assume that it is ourselves as domesticators that are the ‘executive’ partner in the relationship, which is to say that both the intent and actions required to fulfil that desire to domesticate came from us. But here, once again, is a notion that should be challenged. Most people would have no trouble answering the question: which animal was the first to be domesticated? Yet if we go a little further and ask was if it was man that sought to domesticate the dog – or was it the dog, as an opportunistic hunter and scavenger, that played the executive role and began to occupy the periphery of human settlements fewer people would be able to answer. So, might it be that it was the dog that initiated man in the benefits of bi-species relationships? In the thousands of years it took for dog and man to develop the mutually beneficial strategies for hunting, guarding and waging war it could be fairly argued that the concept of domestication was itself being learnt – and that, in the dog, man had an excellent primary teacher.

Might it also have been the dog that facilitated the second domestication – that of the sheep, not as a partner but instead as the first method of securing a convenient and regular supply of meat and hide? In part domestication requires that an animal becomes de-sensitised to the presence of humans, so clearly the first requirement must be to manipulate that animal so that it stays in some degree of contact. Many present day dogs are quite adept at driving sheep towards their handler, even if totally untrained in stock work. It can be argued that this is the result of artificial selection over the millennia – but it can also be argued that this is no more than a manipulation of group hunting strategies in which the more junior pack members drive prey towards where pack elders wait.

The next animal to be domesticated was the pig. Like the dog the pig is a social animal adept at scavenging. The early middens on the edges of human habitations were undoubtedly of interest, so, like the dog, the pig presented itself for domestication – and, at one and the same time offered man a cleaner of remains and an extension to the convenience of easy meat, even if at some risk of disease. Next in line after the pig came the goat, yet another social species, and again it seems very likely that the dog could have facilitated. From this important development came the harvesting and use of milk.

If we look back over the last few paragraphs there are clearly similarities in the natural attributes of these animals that made domestication possible. Each of this first quartet are social species first and foremost, and it is this quality that is arguably most important. Al l social animals have a sense of ‘group’, ourselves included. Growing up in such a group entails the development of a variety of skills, among which is an acceptance of, and memory for, other individuals and their position in the group or status. It is this basic biological mechanism that allows there to be leaders and elders, that allows the individual to place themselves within the organisation of the group and therefore to behave appropriately – including in which is the ability to avoid inbreeding. It is merely an extension of this mechanism to identify and accept individuals of another species as ‘honorary members’ of ones own group. This then is the root of co-operation, whether between individuals of a species or across species. In fact it is becoming widely accepted in science that this is also the biological root of morality.

A closer look at the way in which this last concept might operate is well worth while. Imagine if you will, a pair of puppies rolling about in their natal den. The play is all snapping teeth and kicking legs, carried out for the most part in great good humour. As the pups grow and learn each discovers that bites should only be so hard, or else play escalates into anger and real aggression. In other words there are rules, which must be first learned and then obeyed. These rules also change according to the individual with whom the pups are interacting, so, for example, to direct the same playfulness towards an adult as a sibling is clearly not allowed. Breaking the rules generally results in unpleasantness and so is avoided, whereas compliance – co-operation – generally results in pleasant experiences or good reactions from others. Trust also becomes an important part of this equation. By this natural social process young individuals are able to learn to trust others – an essential element of the domesticator/domesticated relationship that can only be sidestepped by absolute confinement in which escape is impossible. Even then handling is made that much easier if there is trust. One might almost say that there is a biological morality implicit in the domestication relationship, if for no other reason than that of a shared behavioural paradigm. Of course this also challenges the idea that it is only humans that have morality, a commonly held, but flawed, notion.

So by the time man started the domestication of even larger and more powerful animals he had already been assisted in gaining a great deal of experience. Without this it is doubtful that domestication of either cattle or horses could have been achieved, particularly with the limited resources available to the early domesticator.

Whatever changes might later be made to the wild phenotype those first animals had to be controlled so that they could be kept in close contact before selective breeding could be used to effect any change. As with all such developments there must have been a great deal of trial and error, bruises, broken bones and failures, before the art of domesticating the horse became widespread.

First let’s briefly consider what horses were like around 6000 to 7000 years ago when domestication began. We know from genetic studies that the modern horse is derived from a number of different populations, each of which would have had some particular differences from other groups. How is it that this can be stated so categorically? Simply that the total environment in which an animal lives impacts directly on the nature and appearance of that animal via the process of natural selection. And within that total environment are different patterns of weather and extremes of temperature – which, in turn impacts on the availability of food and water, and requires greater or lesser degrees of locomotive energy to be spent in obtaining it. The differing predators, diseases, terrain and mineral content of feeds all contribute to this ‘localisation’ effect. The effect still occurs within domestication, as is testified to by the great number of breeds of dog. The introduction of a particular breed of domesticated animal into a new captive environment can typically still result in high levels of mortality within the first generation, decreasing as adaptation increases over the succeeding generations.

There is a consensus that there were most likely around four or five genetically distinct populations of horse, none of which, obviously, could have been so different that they were unable to cross-breed. Where such differences do exist, say between the horse and donkey, there are limited possibilities for reproduction. What might these differences between populations have amounted to? Length or quality of coat is an obvious, as is overall size and height. But we might also guess that density of bone, degree of reactivity, growth and durability of hoof, resistance to disease, defensive strategies, colouring, size of eye, ear and brain, and the numerous little distinctions that make one horse recognisable from another might all have been included. One thing we can be reasonably sure of and that is that sizes were smaller. Horses over 160 cm would have been unusual, with pony size heights the rule, between say 140 and 150 cm.

Let’s now move on to consider what the effects of domestication were on the horse. Some general rules can be applied, one of which is that domesticated individuals have smaller brain-case sizes than their wild counterparts. It might be supposed that this is the effect of being relieved of the necessity to order their own lives. Brain power is certainly very costly in terms of energy, coming at a higher price than the maintenance of other organs, so it might be expected that it would reduce under the less trying domesticated environment where predation might be extremely limited and where instead of having to search for all feed a good amount might be provided. More specifically it is arguable that the parts of the brain required for executive function might become attenuated. Whether brain case size increases in feral populations over time remains to be seen, it may be that feral populations have not existed for a sufficient amount of time in which the reversal might occur. It may also be that feral populations are not now exposed to the same degrees of predation or natural danger as their distant ancestors, and so will never require as large a cognitive area of the brain in order to survive. Equally there is some recent evidence to suggest that brain development is increased in those individual animals that occupy positions of high social status.

Al though the same evolutionary processes that produced changes in phenotype over the millennia of the horse’s existence as a wild animal continue to operate under domestication, the speed with which these changes can be made to occur is far greater. This quantitative difference is accompanied by a qualitative partner. For changes to become fixed in the wild there must be a clear benefit in terms of overall survival fitness, which must then persist for some length of time before the change can become widespread throughout the population. This is not the case under the conditions of artificial selection that operate in the domesticated state. Phenotypic changes that confer no benefit to the animal can be made to spread by selective breeding for a particular trait. In fact there are going to be changes in phenotype that actually produce an individual that would be far less likely to survive under wild conditions. A good example of this is size. Large domestic horse breeds that rely on concentrate feeds to maintain muscle bulk and the energy to motivate such a large mass would be unlikely to survive were they to be left to become feral on land that produced only medium or low grade herbage, or where extensive movement might be required in order to find sufficient quantities if feed. It is vitally important that we be aware of the changes we make to phenotype, since the ability to breed or socialise effectively can also be adversely impacted such that we produce animals that are not able to fulfil the basic functions of a living creature without our interference. And if this sounds as if it might be an ethical issue, then so indeed it should.

But is this artificial selection quite as straightforward as it might seem? Can a single trait be altered without any impact on others? The answer is no. Nor is there a catalogue of associated traits that might be referred to so that breeders wishing to select for a particular trait might know what others might be associated. Much has been made of the mapping of various genotypes, which is somewhat surprising since this is but a first step. No wonder then that artificial selection programs can result in unwanted or detrimental side-effects. One only has to look at the various Dog breeds, where programs of breeding have resulted in such combinations of traits as size and predisposition to cancerous tumours, or posture and hip-displacement, or height and reduction in longevity, or muzzle conformation and respiratory problems to realise that artificial selection under domestication is akin to a minefield.

Neither should it be thought that domestication removes the pressure of natural selection. Those animals that fail to survive the transition from the wild to captive state, or from one captive environment to another do so under the same mechanism that affected their wild ancestors during transitions from one wild habitat to another, or during environmental changes within the same habitat, say of climate or food species.

Some horse enthusiasts will no doubt surmise that the years of breeding in domestication will have also altered the more important behavioural traits, and argue that the modern horse surely has not retained the same behaviors as its wild ancestors. This is not a safe assumption. There is sufficient evidence to suggest that the most important survival behaviors, such as those governing mating, maternity and predator avoidance may well be more resistant to change than other traits. To complicate things even more it is quite easy to confuse the impact of an environment in which the development of certain behaviors are either unsupported or expression made impossible with the absence of those behaviors.

We are all aware of the concept of the child prodigy, in which, for example, early exposure to a musical instrument produces a virtuoso by the age of ten. It would be quite reasonable to conclude that there must have been some latent ability in the child in order for this exposure to have effect, equally, and with far greater certainty, we can assume that had there been no external stimuli in the form of the musical instrument there could have been no prodigy. Would the absence of a musical instrument have altered the latent ability in the child? No, it would merely have removed the opportunity to find expression for it. Al though it may well be that had the instrument been offered some years later the latency may have become engaged in another area, or have been lost. This type of scenario is not confined to human prodigies or to musical skills, there are a great number of time-coded behaviors that require triggering within a specific time frame in order to find expression. These are particularly important in social species, and operate within the arena of social, sexual, and maternal behavior. It is here that domestication may have a very significant impact.

The degree to which the captive environment promotes or denies expression of such important learning periods, whether closely time-coded or not, is directly related to the position that a specific captive environment occupies on our original continuum. And not only is it possible for such an environment to be contrary to the best interests of the animal concerned it may, in both the short and long term, be contrary to the interests of the keeper.

As an example let’s look at just one element – that of maternal behavior. It is very common management to isolate pregnant females of various species, dogs, pigs and horses being but three. The intent behind this may well be quite reasonable; a desire to protect the animal during a time of greatest vulnerability and to hold the animal confined in a place to which there is good access in the event of the need for human assistance. But it is also prevents any expression of group behaviors associated with birth that may be common to that species. Of course if it is possible for the mother and progeny to be reintroduced to her social group once birth is over then the disruption to the natural behavioral paradigm is reduced. In many cases what will happen is that there will be little or no possibility for expression of these behaviors. In the case of the horse the mare, kept in a nice warm stable with CCT system, is not allowed the support and protection of other mares, of her older progeny or of her stallion. Instead of the foal being induced into equine society by receiving the visits of the other herd members, firstly of those closest to her mother, followed by those having either less connection or status, it remains in isolation. And, in turn, when the mare foals again, the yearling will have been removed so that it can neither give support or run interference, nor experience at close hand the paradigm of birth so that, later on, whether it is a colt or a filly, it too will know what to do. It is also typical for stallions and mares to be kept separately, given access only for short copulatory events under intrusive and restrictive handling. The captive environment allows neither the observation of courtship behavior by offspring so that they, in turn, may practise such behavior, nor does it provide any free expression of this most important of all behaviors to either the mare or stallion.

The most cursory observation of social species suggests that the companionship of others of the same species is the source of great comfort and is essential to psychological wellbeing. This too is an essential survival function. It is the lack of companionship, loneliness if you will, that drives an animal to join with, become part of, and remain with a group such that both the individual’s and the group’s ‘fitness’ is enhanced. This is surely one of those ‘core behaviors’ that are so central to survival and resistant to change by artificial selection. The captive environments typically associated with the keeping of horses very often include the imposition of either solitary or near solitary confinement. Yet we have established that it is most unlikely that artificial selection during the domestication process of the last 6000 years will have altered the animal’s requirement for the society of others. Here too we can clearly see natural selection taking effect. How many stallions, kept in isolation, become so dangerously and aggressively maladjusted that they are either euthanized or subject to life threatening injury? I would very much like to be able to quote a number, but the truth is that neither I, nor as far as I am aware anyone else, has any real idea. Yes we know it happens, and that it is not confined to the poorer captive establishments but that it is liable to occur in any situation where a stallion is unable to adapt to such an extreme captive environment.

Another of the commonly held beliefs is that genetic diversity declines under domestication. This too is unreliable. Comparisons between wild and domestic populations show that diversity is most often greater in the domesticated animals. Once again it is canines that offer an easy example. The wolf varies remarkably little across the terrain to which it is indigenous, a little variation in size and colour, but nothing as marked as the difference between say a miniature poodle and a Great Dane! Yet all are the same species, and can interbreed freely to produce fully viable offspring. The reasoning behind this is simply that the wolf possesses those traits that lend it the greatest degree of overall survival fitness possible in the wild environment. Diversity, for example, as might be represented by changes of coat colour that would interfere with the wolf’s ability to blend in to the background could not survive natural selection, whereas a domestic dog coloured bright red is immune from such pressure by virtue of not having to feed itself. In the same way it is reasonable to suggest that the cross-breeding of the original four or more populations of horse has been far greater under domestication than ever it would have been had they each remained in their specific wild environments. There are few countries or regions in the world that do not now have some particular type of horse – more usually several, ranging in size or build and, of course, uses. While this does indeed represent a great genetic variability the similarities are equally striking, as are descriptions of the virtues of breeds given over to similar uses.

It is worth remarking also on the similarity of paraverbal or body language amongst the various breeds of horse - no need for dictionaries or translators here! An amusing anecdote on the subject springs to mind. It has always been part of my handling style to talk to horses in my care, the basis being that while the horse may not understand my words they serve to trigger the associated body language in me, which horses are so adept at reading. When only recently in Spain , where my wife and I ran a large trekking stables, a number of Spaniards asked me how it was that the horses, all of which had been purchased locally, had learnt to understand English so quickly. It would seem that neither artificial selection nor the associated genetic variation have produced any major difference in the communicative behavior of the horse. Of course we could merely assume from this that body language is fixed by body design, although this is certainly not supported by the regional or cultural differences in human gesture. Or we might also conclude that the basics of such paraverbal communication are one of those core-behaviors that are most resistant to change. No doubt there is much more that could be said one both sides, and perhaps the safest course is to accept that both options contribute to some degree.

In part 7 we’ll conclude our exploration of domestication with what is arguably the single most important issue – that of tameness.
Part 7


The last part of our look at domestication is perhaps the most important in any domesticated animal – the question of tameness. Perhaps we should start by borrowing a definition of just what we mean from E.O. Price – 2002.

“Tameness is a measure of the extent to which an individual is reluctant to avoid or motivated to approach humans.”

Of course this is not the only definition that could be used. Definitions of behavioral concepts such as this are as flexible as the concepts they describe, even so, it is far better to have some kind of guideline rather than none at all. The very fact that this so important element of domestication is as fluid as this serves to remind us once again that during the thousands of years that have spun by our relationship with the horse has provided little in the way of enlightenment.

Having defined tameness we now have to look at some way of measuring it. Perhaps the most common method is the use of ‘flight-distance’; the minimum distance at which the animal is prepared to remain in the company of a person. Having stated that this is the most common method in use we need to explore just what it measures, and just how much good information it provides us with. For example does it tell us anything about the temperament of the animal in question? Well, yes it does – but not very much! We could reduce it to saying that a horse that is prepared to remain still on approach has been taught to do so in some way and does not, apparently, possess either a savage temperament such that it attacks, or a fearful temperament such that it runs away. Even then there are ways of procuring the last of those two by conditioning. So if this ‘tameness’ actually tells us so little is it really what we are looking for – or might tameability be better? Surely if we could measure tameability it would tell us how amenable the horse would be to interaction with people? The question would then be; how might we measure tameability so that we could select for it in our breeding? Only recently has this become the subject of an increasing number of studies, my contribution to which has been to create the term ‘horsonality’, a concept that has undergone further development and temperament studies by Kathalijne Visser (Horsonality – a study on the personality of the horse – 2002) and is now in use by ID –Lelystad.

These studies are attempting to produce methods of measuring temperament and, by analysis, to determine the extent to which this is determined by genetics and by environmental management. If they succeed might it be possible in the future to buy a horse whose temperament has been measured and plotted on another of our continuums? In theory yes, but there are a number of problems with this idea that we might discuss.

Let’s take the race-horse as an example for the sake of argument, although we could just as well look at horses that have been bred specifically with other disciplines in mind. Reasonable temperament is important in the breeding of race horses for without it the process of handling and training become much more difficult, costly and, potentially, dangerous. Yet if we want a horse that will leap from the starting gate in the shortest time possible then a high degree of reactivity is also required. But without speed and some varying degree of ability to maintain it over a fixed distance, whether on the flat, over hurdles or jumps, ease of handling and reactivity will not produce a winner. On the other hand too much reactivity may well produce one of those horses that are said to have ‘run their race in the starting enclosure’ such is the nervous energy they expend in the minutes prior to racing. Nor can we separate the horse from the money! Race horse owners need their horses to win, as do the trainers. If the horse wins much will be forgiven in terms of ease of handling and, on retirement, a stallion or mare that has made a great deal of money for owners and trainers will be used for breeding. The number of racing stud stallions that have been noted, or even notorious, for aggressive bad manners is significant, yet stud fees for them are often very high. And of course it has also to be determined whether such behavior has a genetic base or is due to management. A number of such stallions have been retired to small open operations where they are left to run with a couple of broodmares after either their fertility or libido fall below what is judged as a commercially viable level. In some cases the change in temperament and behavior is nothing short of stunning – literally from devil to saint! As with so many things in life a compromise has to be struck, and in horses intended for each different discipline this compromise will be different. So isn’t this just what our years of selective breeding have done? Haven’t we arrived at our modern breeds by intuitively picking those horses that have given the best service in any particular field from which to breed the next generation? Why then is more required? Simply because even when such breeding has been carried out for hundreds of years with a controlled stud book to ensure ‘purity’ of bloodline, as is the case with the Thoroughbred, a large number of those horses bred do not do well in the discipline. Breeds noted for placid disposition still produce flighty horses, albeit fewer perhaps than breeds noted for say speed or agility. At best the standardisation of ‘breeds’ is a generalized affair, and just because horses look the same does not mean that they will be temperamentally alike. True there is good evidence to support the tendency of temperament likeness in progeny of one particular stallion or another, but such is the variability that there is no absolute certainty. There is also evidence in support of the general rule that serotonin levels are associated with degrees of tameability – simply put, the higher the more tameable. This in turn causes us to have to look at brain chemistry in general, whether it is impacted by the mental state of the dam prior to foaling, or by her hormone levels, or by the feed and water either she or her foal are given – in fact by any factor of the environment in which the foal is born. While we may not know all the answers to these questions with specific regard to the horse we certainly do know the environment, both pre and post parturition, has a huge impact on the behavior of children. Serotonin was specifically mentioned a little earlier, and we are probably all aware that drugs which impact on serotonin levels in the human being, such as Prozac, are in wide use to control such things as depression and anger. Should we start looking at the use of such drugs as a common method of modifying the behavior of our horses also? If the end product is a happier, better adjusted horse why would this be ethically wrong? And there is absolutely no question that mood modifiers are in use in veterinary care of horses and other domestic or companion animals.

What is also very clear is that the environment in which an animal is kept has a quantum effect on that animal such that two genetically identical animals kept under completely different management regimes will express behaviors that differ in much the same degree as do those environments. Nor is this knowledge new, a great deal of work carried out during the first half of the last century laid open the bones of behavior just as the post-mortem studies of the preceding centuries laid open the bones of the skeleton.

So if this knowledge has been available to society – and, of course, also to horse breeders and owners – for so long why is it that the arts of domestication have not become modernised in light of it? Yet here we are in a new century still doing those same things as were done so many years ago, in many cases simply because they were done that way by those from who we learnt. And through the repetition of these customary methods of management – and of the attitudes which accompany them – here we stand on the brink of planetary ruin, our climate changing, a mass extinction of species occurring, and an incredible number of our companion species, including the horse, suffering psychological trauma and behavioral degeneration.

For all we know of domestication, and for all the long years we have been practising it we have arguably yet to rise to the challenge of becoming ethical guardians of both those species in our care, and in the wild. What was a challenge through which we might prove our humanity and empathy for all life has now become an imperative, dependent on which is our very survival. For those of us who are drawn, for whatever subliminal reason, to a relationship with the horse, the way in which we keep and treat these most wonderful creatures, whether in slavery or in respect, will often be the most profound statement that we make about who and what we really are.

The Author

Donald McMiken has combined a passion for riding with the study of physiology and evolutionary psychology. Donald holds a masters degree and a doctorate in exercise physiology from The Universityof Texas at Austin. Dr McMiken was then invited to Sweden as director of research in equine physiology at the Swedish Veterinary University in Uppsala from 1980-1982. Donald taught for many years at Cumberland College, which is now part of Sydney University. He also worked with Professor Ruben Rose at that time in establishing an equine muscle laboratory at the veterinary school. He has taught Horse Management -including horse psychology- at TAFE colleges in Australia and at Humber College in Canada. He has published widely and has been an editor of scientific journals including the Australian Journal of Sports Medicine and the Journal of Equine Veterinary Science (USA). Donald has published many articles in equestrian magazines abroad.

He has put scientific information into practice at his Speedtest-Thoroughbreds training centre in Ontario, Canada where he trained racehorses and developed new interval-training and Fartlek methods for conditioning horses. Don has ridden in Horse Trials and other events in Canada and Australia. He was a member of the Australian Modern Pentathlon Team for many years competing at the Tokyo Olympics 1964 (where he won maximum bonus points in the cross-country riding). He also competed in the 1968 Mexico Olympics (where he won the pistol shooting event). Dr McMiken has coached several Australian teams including the 1976 Olympics in Montreal. He has travelled extensively and has lived for extended periods overseas. Recently returned to Australia Donald now lives on the Central Coast of NSW.

Like the Horse Whisperer you need to understand the psychology of horses to be able to relate to them. As a rider you need to be able to think like horses do and anticipate their reactions. To do this you must look at the world from their point of view. This is empathy, most important to horse handling. It also happens to be a particular facility of the human species-useful when hunting to anticipate prey. Empathy enables you to read the horse and anticipate his actions. To understand horses it's crucial to examine the nature of their intelligence and their natural behaviour, wrought by evolution.

Are Horses Intelligent?

The short answer is yes.

Without a reasonable ability to learn, domesticating horses would be extremely difficult. To meet their own needs horses have developed their role in the herd hierarchy. They have also a keen sense of observation, an excellent memory and a good ability to read their immediate environment. In this sense they are the most intelligent of the equids- horses, asses (donkeys), zebras and mules.

If intelligence is measured by speed of learning then horses are exceptionally bright. They remember many situations in a single trial especially if there is an emotional component. Horses can also learn complex behaviour like new aids or movements with a small number of trials, compared with other domestic animals. They usually exhibit good judgment in terms of their own safety, and routinely gauge their riders ability and act accordingly- with devious or subtle ploys to resist weaker riders. Horses also exhibit more complex behaviours like imagination. "Oh, yeah" I hear you say. I was riding in Canada one day and the weather closed in suddenly, as it can there. The temperature dropping well below freezing within minutes and the snow was flying stinging my face as the storm front hit. After half an hour of painful trotting in the blizzard my horse suddenly stopped and refused to pass a driveway where there was a large barn. He tried desperately to turn into the drive. I hadn't ridden that road before so the horse didn't know the place. Nor did the driveway or barn look like our own. The horse must have had a generic concept of a barn and imagined the warmth and feed within!

Despite this example, there are definite limitations to their intelligence, and from a human perspective horses can appear stupid. What horses do not possess, unlike ourselves, is the ability for conceptual thought and problem-solving intelligence. We should make allowances for this and not expect it of them - since we are so empathetic and intelligent.

To understand horses you should resist the temptation to ascribe human qualities to them. Horses are neither naughty nor vicious. Horses aren't loving and caring either. They are not intelligent like man, nor are they keen to learn new skills, and they certainly don't treat problems as a challenge. They see problems as a threat and often panic when faced with new situations. Horses are simply horses. They have inborn defensive reflexes, acute senses and quick reactions to deal with their wild environment.

The horses biological niche is a herd-bound, grazing species. In their ancestral home of Central Asia and the open Eurasian steppes, horses were for a long time prey to carnivores like the big cats, wolves and also man who hunted them for millenniums. Their niche as a prey species is probably the basis of their excellent memory - sometimes the source of inexplicable behaviour.

In the wild if a horse makes a mistake and misjudges the safety of the situation the error can result in it's sudden death. This is not true of predators, who tend to be smarter and more flexible in their behaviour. If they make a mistake they may go hungry, but they learn from the experience and live to hunt again.

Horses are acutely aware of their niche, they are extremely conservative in their routine, from feeding to fighting - they dislike change. We too often take the human perspective and change our horses routine to avoid boredom. This is usually a mistake. Horses prefer to do the same things in the same way- thereby avoiding risk and jeopardising their survival. They are extremely anxious to avoid fearful situations.

One nasty moment of fear and the horse commits the fright, the place and circumstances to memory for years. A normally docile horse may suddenly jump or bolt in blind panic if this memory is triggered by passing the same spot or finding itself in similar circumstances. These fears may arise from a long ago - but not forgotten - incident in their early life or their handling.

You can use this aspect of the horses psychology to your advantage. Horses will remember for years all the good things you teach as well as the bad - so it pays to be careful and explicit when schooling.

Contact with humans obliges the horse to include us in his personal herd - in his hierarchy. Because they include us in their hierarchy horses are sensitive to nuances in our own behaviour, especially our body language. We must be aware of this and maintain our superiority at all times- by brains not brawn, since horses are much stronger. Their sense of security is fragile. We must maintain their confidence if we are to remain in a position of trust. Without this security a horse will become chronically anxious, nervous or temperamental. When a horse is distressed it is not focused on the task and it does not learn.

So the first requirement in teaching any horse is to retain calm and confidence. In the horse's natural herd and social environment they learn largely by example-by imitation and emulation. We can take advantage of this by showing them the required performance on another horse as a teacher. This gives a youngster a lead in the arena, out hacking, or over a cross-country course. The Natural Behaviour of Horses

To see how species behaviour comes about we will take an evolutionary approach to horse psychology. Fossil evidence indicates that horses first evolved as a forest-browsers on the American continent. They became grazers as the earth cooled, forest thinned and grassland predominated on the great plains. Horses migrated West into Asia and eventually to Europe via the Bering land bridge during a succession of ice ages.

It's just as well they did, for horses became extinct in the Americas within a short time of the arrival of humans capable of big-game hunting. The evolutionary story begins with Darwin.

Darwin's theory of evolution -
Darwin's theory was considered just that at the time because the evidence was fragmentory and scientists had incomplete fossil records. However, the theory has stood the test of time with many observational and experimental tests verifying the process of natural and sexual selection. We now have an almost complete fossil records of most species including the horse and also man. Indeed the horse was one of the first species for which we had a complete fossil record. There are now no missing links or gaps in the theory. It is still referred to as a theory, for in science we are now aware that nothing can ever be proved, only disproved

The essence of Darwin's theory is that species characteristics evolve by a process of natural selection. This selection is shaped by environmental pressures and more subtly by sexual preferences.

Behaviour is an outcome of processing by neural mechanisms which arose in the distant past - as a result of the environment in which horses evolved. Any structure that favours reproductive success will increase within a population - while unsuccessful traits will tend to diminish. Structures or traits include all psychological mechanisms that have a genetic component. The essence of evolution, what fitness really means, is this:

Natural selection favours only traits which increase reproductive success. This raises the question of what traits really are?

Evolution does not operate directly on the individual. Certainly it does not operate at the level of competing species. Natural selection acts at the level of the genetic code - our cellular DNA.

Darwin expressed the idea as an evolution of traits. Darwin's work has often been misinterpreted as applying among species, rather than among traits that arise from the genetic code. In this context the horse's mind is a computational mechanism designed to optimise its reproductive success. A computational theory of mind considers the animal's psychology is a computational result of inherited neurological hardware. Horse behaviour is not the direct and unvaried result of instincts, rather the horse's genetically determined instincts are neural networks and algorithms which are then used to compute responses for it to interact with a changing environment.

The computational theory holds that beliefs, desires, motivations and choices for behaviour are information. Information communicated by connections and electro-physical events within the neural networks of the brain. It explains how the mind becomes more than the sum of its parts - how intangible thoughts can bring about purposeful behaviour.

Evolution has optimised neural computation for a previous ancestral environment. Not with a general purpose computer but with a massively parallel processor built of thousands of special purpose algorithms. These neural networks evolving sequentially as each adaptation arose. The more powerful and comprehensive this machine became the better its computation response to environmental challenges. Genetics supplies the hardware and algorithms for the horse to use in its interactions with its environment. So how did specific instincts evolve?

When are instincts an advantage? The down side to learning from experience is that it is costly. In a world of predators and prey, practice trials can be fatal. Learning is costly in time, energy and protein synthesis.

Instinctive, preprogrammed responses are much faster, more directed and more dependable. I imagine you've experienced quite a few of these instinctive responses with your own horses and marveled at their speed!

Horses are social animals. Their behaviour is central to their evolutionary niche as a grazing prey animal herding together for mutual protection.

However, these instinctive responses may not be optimal in new environments that are radically different to where they evolved. We rapidly discover this when we ride and drive horses in our modern world of roads, cars, trains and so forth; which they are not emotionally equipped by evolution to cope with. It's important for an animal to learn with minimal cost and to communicate learning to their kin to ensure their reproductive success.

For this purpose horses, and other mammals, developed signalling behaviour. Signalling to warn of predators or opportunities for feeding. Symbolic signals evolved like grooming, pointing (with their gaze), sexual displays and so on. Aggressive signals like the threat gaze, foot stamping, vocalising and expressing an angry face. Universal signs of submission too:
avoiding eye contact, retreating and expressing a submissive face-like smiling in humans. You can see this clearly in horses and dogs too if you care to observe them closely. Communications included vocal signals. Such signalling alerts others to danger, communicates aggressive or submissive intentions, establishes social hierarchy and herd cohesion.
Have you ever watched a small child handling a big horse and demanding its obedience? We've all seen it and wondered if only briefly. Our mastery of the horse is truly amazing when you consider the size of people in comparison with such huge and potentially lethal animals- they are many times our size and strength. We are able to dominate simply by assuming leadership in their herd hierarchy- by confidently assuming superiority and then conditioning the horse to accept us in this role, they remain subservient. It is natural for us, as a species we are particularly aggressive and dominant predators. Since horses learn naturally by imitation and emulation, our adopting this role and insisting on doing things our way strengthens our dominance.

Horses live in a dominance hierarchy
Selection pressures have driven the horse and in fact all herd animals including ourselves to a need for strong social organisation. A dominance hierarchy is typical of most mammals. It is certainly typical of horses. The dominant male-usually the largest and most aggressive -asserts his influence over the group to the extent that he controls access to females, feeding and feeding territory. A biological advantage of a dominance hierarchy is that it ensures superior genetics of the well-adapted are passed on, while genes of the puny or diseased are not.

Achieving dominance The act of taking charge and teaching the horse something automatically puts the horse into the role of subservience- this is the natural herd behaviour. Mastery is therefore achieved by our personal deportment- always assertive, though never aggressive, by deliberately taking a leadership role and by teaching the horse.

This knowledge is useful, for when our mastery is challenged by a horse we may reassert it, by physical leadership or by immediately revising a previous lesson. Obedience is a conditioned reflex. We must progressively ask more of the horse- reward the horse when he submits, persist when he does not. The knack is in knowing what level of obedience a particular horse is prepared to give and not asking for more. We must at all times be determined that the horse behaves only under our control. This is why horseman are so particular that the horse does nothing of its own volition when under the rider's control- like grazing, turning toward home or moving about when restless. Letting a horse stop to defecate is another action no horseman should tolerate. These are immediately correctable offences despite their apparent lack of consequences. They are small shows of independence which -apart from being irritating- can lose your initiative and leadership. Many children's ponies are prime examples of such an erosion of control!

Whenever there is a confrontation of wills -which there is from time to time with young horses- you must be so determined and persistent that you prevail. Often this places you at some personal risk- one of the reasons it's wise to avoid confrontation. When horses do assert themselves they do so in a variety of ways, some not especially appropriate nor expected, and with a suddenness that can be blinding. For example a horse may stop and refuse to move forward. This is most common at a strange bridge or a ditch we've galloped at, somewhere we can comprehend his fear.

On the other hand an assertion of the young horse's will can occur almost anywhere, and for reasons not immediately apparent. Young horses may rear when you force him on- buck, kick, run away, run backwards or swing toward his stable or to other horses. Even throw themselves into a ditch or in the path of an oncoming car! If you find yourself in any of these situations, you must act immediately to defuse the confrontation. Yes experience does help, but in this context experience means having all of the above happen to you! Experienced horsemen do their utmost to avoid or at least foresee such occurrences.

Dismounting and placing the horse determinedly under pressure to continue in the direction you dictate is one alternative in this situation of resistance. Because you take a leadership role by doing this, most horses will follow you over the most frightening bridges and streams- since you -at the top of his herd hierarchy- are safely leading the way! This is an often neglected means of mastery. It's neglected because most horseman feel they have lost face or dominance if they have to dismount to achieve obedience.

The perception of the horse is what counts- he thinks your as fearless as Gengis Khan! The fact that you got off to achieve it doesn't register since it's fear of the unknown -not your being mounted- he's concerned with. If the horse thinks you've won then you have won. Don't worry what your others will think if your seen on foot! When out riding I've crossed many a bridge of Trolls afoot.

Natural Horsemanship
A natural method of handling horses has been brought to this country by American Pat Parelli. He makes a point of using an evolutionary approach (or the words anyway) so I don't think I can ignore it in this discussion. I am not an initiate in this religion -or in the horse whispering phenomena-but I have watched people handling horses with the Parelli method. It seems to me the method is specifically about dominance and rapport. Establishing from the ground your mastery of the horse. It seems better suited for breaking in horses than for training them to a high level of mounted performance. In the breaking context it is certainly effective. However, mounted schooling with this method is less than convincing. Mounted horsemanship is about far more than mere dominance. Unless you have a really difficult horse or are riding a mule I don't see much point in the method. Considering the life-threatening accidents and incidents I have seen with people riding without a bit; to advocate riding in a Parelli halter is downright dangerous and it is irresponsible of anyone to advise it.

Gypsy-Smith methods: In my youth there were always a number of stockmen, farmers and show riders about town who had horses. Occasionally Gypsies would pass through the area and -apart from being accused by the town bigots of every vice known to man- they supposedly had an aptitude for curing bad horses. There always seemed to be plenty of these.

A typical story is of Gypsy Smith who on assuring the owner he could cure a pony of a savage biting habit, tethering the animal nearby and proceeded to heat an iron bar in the fire. When the bar was a nice cherry red and shooting sparks, the Gypsy casually picks it up with a pair of tongs and strolls across to the pony. As soon as the pony bares his teeth and goes for him, quick as a flash he thrusts the red-hot bar between its jaws. It would be difficult to believe the pony ever bit anyone again. Indeed one wonders if he was ever able to eat anything more than mash!

The point is there are many cures like this
such as hitting a rearing horse over the skull with a bottle- that have wide currency with horseman and you'll receive much advice in this vein when you run into difficulties. Don't succumb to the simplicity and apparent definitely of these Gypsy Smith methods. They are cruel and belong to an earlier and more violent age. Some may even work. They have no place in horsemanship. If you resort to such cures you have surely failed!
Horses can be taught amazing things. Not the least of them is to willingly go into a narrow, dark and enclosed trailer when they are naturally claustrophobic. Or they can learn to jump tall obstacles in a single bound, where their natural inclination is to go around them. The learning process has been described scientifically only this century; although humans have closely observed the ways of animals they hunted for millenniums. Despite having domesticated horses for some 6,000 years, very few principles have been passed on in oral or written tradition from antiquity. This is what we now know from the experimental approach:

A Russian physiologist Pavlov is known for his now classical theory of conditioned reflexes. This theory explains much of the learning process. Subsequently Skinner extended the idea to operant conditioning. During the war years it was successfully applied to many practical training tasks. Konrad Lorenz, a biologist, also made observations of natural behaviour like imprinting in animals.

Recently biology and psychology have converged on a rationale for instinctive animal behaviour based on all animal's prime motivation to replicate their genes. Collectively these ideas are at the core of evolutionary psychology. There is much in it that is useful to horseman. My purpose in writing about it is to apply this theory to practical horse training and management.


Horse's needs are basically like our own- exercise, feed, shelter, water, successful reproduction (sex and more), society of the herd (protection and emotional support) and security from predators (or other situations causing anxiety). The animal's behaviour is shaped by instincts and modified by conditioning, in a desire to fulfil these needs. Their strong drive to rise in the herd hierarchy reflects these needs. The more dominant horses will get the lion's share of these resources and the sexually dominant will reproduce their genes. Make no mistake about it reproduction, is a powerful aspect of equine motivation-even in geldings. Geldings and dominant mares will often exhibit stallion behaviour with other horses like; herding, fighting with new comers, mounting others in the herd and so forth. Equine response to man is much related to the need for herd support and leadership. In the absence of emotional support from the herd, the horse will look to man to provide this leadership. It is the horses desire for approval from his herd leader (us) that is the source of his motivation. Without this willingness or motivation we couldn't use horses as we do. No amount of force on our part could every coerce a horse to go forward, jump or pull carts and so on if they don't really want to. Therefore the inclusion of man as a dominant herd member is a critical element of the Breaking process and should always be maintained. This alone is sufficient to motivate the horse in it's role as our means of transport and as our sporting partner.

Instinctive behaviour

All behaviour is the result of complex neural computations. In their simple form these are termed reflexes. Reflexes are the neural connection between an animals senses, his brain and his musculature (to produce the required action). More complex patterns of connections are now called neural networks. Touching a red-hot stove inadvertently with your finger is an example of a simple reflex. The reflex behaviour is to withdraw the hand immediately- so fast you only register consciously that you've been burned after the fact! This is not learned behaviour it's an instinctive, unconditioned reflex.

This example of a burnt finger is primitive and urgent, since survival depends on quickly detecting danger and taking action to avoid it. So critical is speed that the neural connection between the pain sensors of the finger and the flexor muscles of the arm is built in or hardwired. This action is automatic rather than going to the brain first for interpretation.

If you think about it, this is like a lot of behaviour horse's exhibit. Springing away from a sudden frightening stimulus, then bolting before he registers it's only a harmless piece of paper. It's this speed of reaction from instinctive reflexes that enables his survival in the wild. This is not learned behaviour. The horse doesn't need to have experienced predators, or to have previously seen paper to instinctively flee- these reflexes are built right into his genetic code by species evolution. The risk to the horse of unnecessary flight is low, but the risk entailed by delay for thoughtful interpretation of the situation is potentially lethal. Therefore the behaviour of horses is focussed on flight. In one sense instincts are the collective genetic wisdom of the species- at least of those ancestors successful enough to reproduce! Conditioned reflexes

Classical conditioning arises because learning proceeds as a result of experience. Experience can modify, extend or override instinctive behaviour. Instincts are best thought of as the hardware and operating systems of the thousands of computing devices comprising the brain. Conditioned reflexes arose from experiments of Pavlov. He observed that digestion started when dogs heard their keeper, rather than when they ate the meat he brought. Pavlov verified this by ringing a bell whenever meat was brought while also measuring salivation of the dogs. Finally with dogs trained in this way he could ring the bell and they'd salivate even when no keeper came. They had been conditioned to respond to a learned stimulus. Experiments revealed animals learned by association. An artificial stimulus like the bell occurring slightly before their instinctive response. You can also train an animal by association to substitute an artificial response for the original instinctive response. Thereby almost any animal can be taught almost anything -within his physical and psychological capabilities. Horses more easily develop conditioned reflexes than most animals- because of their great memory, their strong herd instinct and predictability of their behaviour.


Horses learn by associating stimuli. When two or more events occur together dramatically or repeatedly they associate them. A horse will expect these events to occur together in future, in the same sequence. This conditioning is affected by biochemical changes in short-term memory. An association can become hard-wired in long-term memory when the reflex is reinforced by repetition and reward. The next stage is to teach a conditioned dog to ring a bell to be fed. This special case Skinner has termed Operant Conditioning.

Observation and emulation

An important and thoroughly natural way that horses, and indeed all mammals, learn, is to watch their mother and other adults in the herd. They are naturally inclined to emulate them by behaving in the same way. From the moment of birth your horse has learnt how to behave within the herd by observation. It is a simple idea that many horsemen don't think of, or they think it's irrelevant. It is significant what a horse is exposed to in his environment when he is being schooled.

Have you ever seen kids schooling over jumps at Pony Club and seen one or two horses refuse jumps and before you know it half the horses are refusing jumps all over the place? What do you think has happened in that situation? Have you watched a young horse been given a lead over some scary fences by an older experienced horse and watched in amazement when he's jumped boldly? Incidentally, this is most effective if they are running at home in the same herd and the youngster has already learnt to trust the older horse.

I picked up on this idea of emulation when I had stabled a couple of my horses at a neighbours farm. Here it happened that they could see into an indoor arena where other horse were being schooled. I would regularly lunge an older horse there before working him. When I finally got around to working the youngster on the lunge several weeks later she lunged beautifully-unlike she had when I first got her. The difference was phenomenal. The only reason I could think of was to ascribe the change to the fact she'd seen her stablemate being lunged so often.

These horses could also see advanced event horses being worked indoors daily and subsequently my eventer's dressage greatly improved. In the Spring I did get a remarkable test out of him. How much of his learning was emulation of other horses he saw work in the arena is anybody's guess-I'm inclined to believe it was significant. I certainly wouldn't like to be schooling my young horse in an arena where other horses were refusing fences or mucking up-would you?

Next month: In Part 4 we examine how the training process works? What are the elements in the process of training that are crucial to control and which should you exploit?
We know from archaeological evidence at Dereivka in the Ukraine that man first rode horses some 6,000 years ago. Since the rise of these horse-taming tribesmen have undoubtedly trained horses (see my earlier paper Ancient Origins of Horsemanship: Equine Vet. J. 22 [2]: 73-78, 1990). One of my personal favourite early texts on horsemanship is by the cavalry commander Xenophon 432BC:

The gods have bestowed upon man the gift of teaching his brother man what he ought to do by word of mouth - but it is evident that by word of mouth you can teach a horse nothing. If, however, you reward him with kindness after he has done as you wish, and punish him when he disobeys, he will be most likely to learn to obey as he ought.

This advice employs the psychological concepts of Shaping and Reinforcement. Since we cannot talk to the horse we can only shape his behaviour by reinforcing (by reward or punishment) his actions until they lead to the correct and complete performance. Indeed, those who wait for perfection before rewarding a horse will certainly never get there!

Shaping behaviour
To teach a horse something new that is not instinctive, you have to be content with the slightest move in the right direction and reward it. Thereby you can shape behaviour by offering a stimulus - an action likely to cause an instinctive response in the desired direction. Experienced horsemen acquire equestrian tact. In the process of training horses they acquire a feel for the strength of stimulus and likely response of the horse.

Repeating the stimulus in association with a more subtle cue eventually conditions a horse to respond. A set of cues to which the horse is conditioned is the language by which we communicate. In equitation they are collectively the aids. These are not stimuli to which the horse responds instinctively - they are a learned response affected by conditioned reflexes.

In teaching the aids by association the desired aid is made slightly ahead of the heavier stimulus. Not many horsemen understand this crucial point - such riders are never able to get their horses to respond to light aids. With repetition, the aid may be almost unnoticeable - the horse responds instantly.

Learning the aids to this extent and compliance with them is what separates a good horse to ride from a riding-school nag. To use this knowledge in practice, you should use the lightest cue first, backed up with stronger aids. For example to move forward: First straighten your back, then squeeze both your calves behind the girth, then take up the reins to control anticipated movement. The three actions are only a split second apart but they are in sequence. With repetition the horse learns to respond to your first shift in weight -as you straighten the back and lighten the weight in the stirrups. Such a horse becomes nicely responsive.

When teaching a movement, be content to shape the horse's behaviour. Do this by rewarding any step in the right direction which positively reinforces his actions. Reward in this case is by stopping the lesson and letting the horse relax by giving him a free rein. If the horse does not respond then punish him by asking for the movement again. (Correctly this is negative reinforcement rather than punishment.)

It's important that behaviour is reinforced either positively or negatively to make this shaping successful. Note that a reward is kindness offered after the correct response. Bribery is different. Bribery is a reward offered before the performance.

Negative reinforcement is some irritation applied before the horse's response, and is the cessation of an undesirable stimulus. Whereas punishment is inflicted after an incorrect response. Some variety in reinforcements should be used - in the past punishment was meted out liberally and used as the main training tool. Now most horsemen find a combination of reward and negative reinforcement the most effective regime for training horses. Bribery and punishment can be counter productive when training horses.

Positive reinforcement: For sensitive horses like Thoroughbreds or Arabians a pat on the neck, a soft word and a change of activity is often sufficient to encourage a horse to repeat the behaviour. For cold-blooded horses this is not so and they are often considered stubborn or unwilling because of it. To be effective a reward must come immediately following the movement. It is interesting that Xenophon as long ago as 432 BC recommended that to reward a horse you should dismount and lead the horse back to the stable. I believe this is still a practice in the Spanish Riding School who on principle have taken Xenophon's writings to heart. There the riders also reward their charges with tid bits.

I have not been in the habit - nor are most riders - of rewarding horses with a sugar cube or carrot - partly in the belief it encourages biting. Also I suspect because it requires of us some forward planning, in remembering the sugar! It's also awkward rewarding horses this way when riding - more feasible when working in hand. I suspect that in the Breaking process, or after a difficult exercise, that to immediately dismount, reward the horse with sweetfeed and return him to the stable may be well worth the effort. Once you establish rapport with a horse, they usually respond by trying to please the rider, just as dogs and children will. This motivation should be encouraged rather than carelessly exploited. For example you should follow a successful movement with a short walk on a loose rein - reward the horse - rather than asking immediately for more difficult exercises.

Bribery: Beware of using bribery. This form of reward is not particularly successful and can lead to the horse intimidating you, or forcing the issue, to get the reward. A bribe is a reward that is offered in full view before the horse's response. Whereas a reward is offered only after the correct response. Going into the field with a bucket of oats for a hard-to-catch horse is bribery - so too is offering carrots to a difficult-loading horse on the trailer ramp. Eventually horses treated this way learn to manipulate the situation to get the bribe without performing - they commonly will try intimidation by biting or charging. If they do behave correctly, they will often learn to behave only when they can see the bribe. No bucket and it's good night! This is extremely aggravating, so most horseman do not offer their horses bribes.

Negative Reinforcement
This is an effective technique in training horses. It involves applying an uncomfortable stimulus which is removed immediately the desired response is obtained. An example is when loading a horse into a trailer you may tap his hind legs with a lunge whip until he steps forward - then the tapping stops. Restart tapping with the whip so he learns that baulking provides a negative stimulus, which ceases when he responds correctly. This is the basis of the Neil Davis method. Though Davis claims his method is unique, he certainly was not the first to apply negative reinforcement to horses.

Continuous and intermittent reinforcement: An interesting observation of experimental psychologists is that the most effective reinforcement is not necessarily to reward every performance. This is useful in practice. In teaching a horse a new movement it's most effective initially to reward correct behaviour and to negatively reinforce poor performance every time. However, once past the shaping stage when the horse now knows what's required it's more effective to intermittently reinforce behaviour. The animal doesn't know what your response will be and performs the movement to seek your approval.

The scarcity of reinforcement enhances it's value, so the horse tries even harder to please. There are at least two strategies for intermittent reinforcement: Either random reinforcement or selective - rewarding the best performances. Intuitively, I feel selective reinforcement is more effective in training horses.

Horses are sensitive animals and are adverse to physical or especially psychological punishment. They bite and kick each other in establ ishing herd order - or more commonly they do this symbolically by making faces or lifting their hoof in warning. We may need to do as much in our relationship with them to avoid intimidation. Some riders never manage this and decry any punishment - consequently they can handle only placid horses. Don't be a wimp and allow a horse to push you around physically or to take charge while you're on it's back. Ponies especially are noted for this behaviour, but all horses will test you from time to time.

Precisely how we should discipline horses has been contentious for centuries. The modern consensus is that there is no need to be rough or cruel when a horse is disobedient, but don't be weak either. You must be decisive when applying a sanction so it's immediately and unequivocally understood. Use the word NO loudly with a quick slap when you are stood on, bitten or in other ways the horse has overstepped the bounds. (Use your hand immediately but don't strike the head. An exception is if a horse goes for you with its teeth; a quick elbow to the snout works. Horses don't resent it in this context-they know they tried to get you.)

A sensitive horse will respond to a sharp No and this alone can be effective punishment. Something less sensitive a pony, an Appaloosa or a Buckskin might take a lot more before they'll respond. If a horse understands the word No then when riding, a reprimand can also be conveyed with a sharp No. You can express a milder level of disapproval by immediately asking the horse for the movement again. For sensitive horses this is punishment enough.

In the same vein, reward is indicated by ceasing to ask for the movement. As an example if your horse strikes off on the wrong lead at the canter you should halt calmly and restart until the correct lead is obtained. Then if the lead is given, don't ask for it again - do something else before coming back to practise on the other lead. In the same way a horse that pulls should be asked calmly to halt, and to do so repeatedly until he gets the message.

Conversely a horse that is reluctant to go forward in response to the leg should be tapped with the whip behind the heel of your boot. One that is wilfully disobedient and refuses to go forward should be immediately struck with the whip behind your heel together with your leg aids. One decisive strike with the whip, not a beating. The whip seems to be more effective than a blunt spur; perhaps it feels more like the claw of a predator and triggers an instinctive flight.

Never use a whip in anger when schooling a horse. Sometimes he won't respond because he's confused and misunderstands. Horses have long memories - malicious punishment is deeply resented. Horses seem to have an inbuilt sense of just punishment; to exceed it is counter productive for a long time after the event.

Whipping a horse after it's refused a jump is a sadly common example. Refusals are not normally a deliberate disobedience they are usually a failure of nerve particularly on realising they have the stride dead wrong! Note that repeatedly jumping the same obstacle is punishing the horse; he will take

When you feel yourself getting upset and losing control quit, put the horse away. Xenophon expresses this succinctly:

Never to lose one's temper with the horse is a good precept and an excellent habit- to lose one's temper is unreasonable and makes one do things one can but afterwards regret. When a horse shows fright of some object and refuses to go near it, one must make him feel that he has nothing to fear, and the more especially so if the horse be a high-couraged one - the rider will do well to walk up to such an object himself and touch it, subsequently to lead the horse quietly up to it. Those riders who force the horse by the use of the whip will only increase his terror, for he will imagine that the pain he feels is inflicted upon him by the object that frightens him.
(Xenophon 432 BC)

it that way and eventually refuse. Many riders with only one jump in the back-yard run into this problem.

On the other hand a horse that wilfully disobeys you - by turning round or moving off to join other horses - should always be immediately corrected. Such behaviour can quickly get out of hand. If things go wrong, never lose your temper and abuse the animal.

Massed or distributed learning: Another consideration is how to distribute the lessons. Should you try to teach the movement in one long session? Should you school the horse in the movement every day until he learns it? Every other day perhaps? Once a week, or what? Again the scientific answer is counter intuitive. Once each day is not the best schedule. With a new process to be learned such as when a horse is first broken, when it's introduced to Cavalletti, or to jumping, work on two tracks etc. For such quantum advances it's most effective for the introduction to be one single long session (massed practice).

The initial session can consist of a series of short (10 minute) lessons interspersed with revision and other calming activities. Schooling a horse for as long as two hours or so in the initial session is appropriate.

Behaviour can be shaped in this single lesson and the horse then understands what is being asked, even if he still cannot perform exactly as you wish.

Thereafter practice should be unevenly distributed - twice a day at first then daily, alternate days, every three or four days. Finally a weekly session will do once the skill is learned. This is a common pattern for circus trainers, and it's often the pattern of your own learning when you take up a new sport, like squash or tennis. There are other considerations of course: your own priorities, the weather, strength, soundness and capability of your horse and so on. When you start a new progression, at least plan to have a long session followed by frequent schooling until the horse has got the basics.

In the final episode of this five-part series we will show how to apply a knowledge of horse psychology to the practical training of your own horses. (pdf)

strong>Sexual Behavior in Herds of Icelandic Horses
The fertility in horses is considered low when compared to other species of domesticated animals. The horse is a domesticated animal species which was not bred in reference to signs of fertility by those raising it (Merkt, 1975; Stegen, 1934). Out in nature, feral horses have been observed as having a foaling rate in the range of 23-90% (Berger, 1983; Jezierski and Jaworski, 1995; Keiper and Houpt, 1984; Salter and Hudson, 1982; Tyler, 1972). Among freely ranging herds of Icelandic horses, fertility results were computed for 5,649 matings in 1978 and 1979, and the average fertility rate of 316 stallions was confirmed as 85.6% (Hugason et al, 1985).
During recent years horse breeders in Iceland have observed decreasing fertility in their mares. In order to gain more knowledge of factors influencing the fertility of Icelandic horses on pasture, several aspects were monitored.
Three herds were closely monitored during one or two heat periods by observing them continuously for 24 hours per day (made possible by the sufficiently illuminated Icelandic summer nights). A camper was parked in the middle of the pasture and each horse marked unequivocally. Herd A comprised 29 fertile mares along with a 15-year-old stallion. Herd B was made up of 22 fertile, cycling mares, plus a 9-year-old stallion, while herd C consisted of 10 fertile mares and a 3-year-old stallion. These herds underwent continuous observation for 24, 41 and 28 days, respectively. Some of the mares received clinical, gynecological, and ultrasonic examinations, in order to determine precisely when they came into heat and their date of ovulation. In addition, the mating frequency and the reproductive behavior of the stallions and the mares were noted down. This approach made it possible to tell how often a stallion which had grown up in the herd covered the mares and what time relationship existed between matings and ovulation. The results regarding fertilization were corroborated by the foaling rate of the following year.
The sexual behavior of a stallion was constantly recorded during activity, writing down the frequency of mating. Mating was considered successful if a stallion mounted the mare, inserted his penis in her vulva, performed friction movements, waved his tail like a flag, and jumped down with a slackened penis. At every whole hour, behavior was recorded for the entire herd. As observations progressed, mares in heat in Herd C were examined rectally and ultrasonically once daily. A mare was identified as in heat if she offered herself to the stallion, moved her tail to the side, winked her vulva, urinated, and stood still when he mounted her. Additional criteria evaluated included the condition of her uterus as well as the consistency and size of her follicles. The goal was to determine the relationship in time between matings and ovulation.
When Stallion A is led to mares, he starts checking which of them are in heat. Next he drives them together into one group and keeps them that way during the mating season. Stallion B ranges together with his harem out in the pasture throughout the year. During the mating season, on the other hand, he keeps his mares together in a close group, although this strict order becomes relaxed after the mating season. Both of these stallions are experienced. Stallion C, by contrast, is inexperienced, and to begin with does not drive the mares together, but stays in their near vicinity. After some twelve hours he does chase the mares together; nevertheless, he does not keep the herd together under such strict order as the older stallions.
For the greater part of the time, the stallions stay outside the herd. When the mares are grazing, the stallion is stationed either behind or beside the herd. From time to time, mares try to distance themselves from the herd. These mares are then driven back by Stallions A and B, which demonstrate a particular posture: they lay back their ears, drop their heads down to the ground with an outstretched neck, and circle the mares while maintaining this remarkable posture. The mares thereby become afraid of the stallions and run back. In fact, often it is enough for the stallion to call the mares and they will return right away. The inexperienced stallion, however, does not react so strongly; if his mares leave the group, he lets them have more free rein.
When the herd moves, all three stallions stay behind it; in addition, they regularly drive their harem from place to place. As the harem moves, the stallions follow it, seeking out spots of feces and urine. The stallions then smell of them, often show the flehmen response (though not always), and deposit feces or urine on top. This behavior happens very often every day and seems important to the stallion.
Both the stallion and mare are active during the mating period. A few days before the mare is covered by the stallion, she seeks out his presence. At that time, he often smells of her and perhaps makes an effort to mount her, though it may take up to two days for her to accept him. During this time, which might be called pre-estrus, the mare will not permit the stallion to mount her, but strikes him away. In contrast, when she comes in heat, she offers herself to him, lifts her tail to the side, pushes her back end in front of his head, everts her vulva, urinates, and stands still as he mounts. By this point in time, the mare is ready for conception and is covered by the stallion. Prior to commencing the act of mating, there is often some foreplay: nose-to-nose contact begins between the stallion and mare, who offers him her rear end and stands still. The stallion sniffs the mare from front to back - mostly however the vicinity of the mare’s genitals. She lifts her tail, winks her vulva, and urinates; this behavior seems important for the stallion. After sniffing her genital area for some time, he extends his penis from its sheath and it erects. After a short moment, the stallion mounts the mare and fulfills the act of mating. When he has ejaculated, he remains for a few seconds on the back of the mare before jumping down. Usually, the act of mating lasts less than one minute.
A stallion and mare in heat often stay in the vicinity of each other. While they are grazing, it occurs that the stallion will abruptly mount and cover her without any further foreplay, after which they will continue grazing together. Moreover, it may happen that the stallion, standing outside the herd, will suddenly stop grazing, run neighing into the middle of the harem, mount one of the mares without foreplay, and service her. The older stallions, A and B, tried in exceptional instances to mate with mares that were out of heat or in the pre-estrus stage. Such mares defended themselves, trying to strike off the aggressive stallion with their back legs or to run away. In that case, the stallions chased the mares until they gave up, or the stallions stopped if the mares got their way. In stubborn cases, Stallion B chased mares systematically until they gave up; these pursuits could last 20-30 minutes, depending on how persevering the mare was. If the mare did not give up, the stallion treated her viciously and even injured her - a behavior he demonstrated three times. Two of the mares were pregnant and no other mare in heat at the time. The third mare was unbred, but not yet in heat. As for the inexperienced Stallion C, he never demonstrated this behavior. One mare was turned into his herd two days after the others. He refused to allow her to enter among the other mares until she came into heat. Not till then was she accepted into the herd and covered.
In Herd I there were observations of Stallion A mounting pregnant mares. Pregnant mares were observed mounting mares in heat in his herd as well as in the herd of Stallion C; in fact, it once even happened that a mare mounted Stallion A, who tolerated it. The mares of this herd grew up together and have lived for years as one family. It was obvious that mares of this herd had built up strong ties of friendship with each other, of which the most common form was a two-party relationship between a couple of mares. In this case, when one of the mares in such a friendly relationship was in heat and the other had not yet foaled, there were frequent observations of the pregnant mare defending the one in heat, so that the stallion had great difficulty servicing it. Then the pregnant mare pushed in between the stallion and the mare in heat, raised her tail, winked her vulva and urinated as if she was also in heat. In addition, if the pregnant mare noticed the stallion marching up, she acted like a stallion herself. She then chased the mare in heat, bit her in the flanks, sniffed her genital area and performed flehmen. These mares also smelled the excretions of the mares in heat, showed the flehmen response, and urinated on these spots. This behavior of the mares obviously disturbed the stallion. Moreover, he often chased mares in heat away when they sought to be near him, even when they offered themselves, winked their vulvae and urinated; he simply did not want them.
The reproductive behavior of the Icelandic horse is no different from that of other breeds, as described by other authors (Asa et al, 1979; Asa, 1986; Bristol, 1982; McDonnell, 1992; Tyler, 1972). Stallions and mares were both active during mating. When the mares came in heat, they sought to be near the stallion and offered themselves to him. Stallions drove the mares together in a tight group (Antonius, 1937; Ebhardt, 1957; McDonnell, 1986), which was perhaps to find out which mares were in heat. When the herd moved, the stallion remained beside it, and when the herd grazed, behind it. Stallions meticulously investigated a place where the mares had stayed, looking for feces and urine spots from the mares and sniffing them. Sometimes, though not always, the stallions would then urinate at these spots or deposit feces themselves and perform flehmen. It could be that the stallion in this manner sensed the proximity of ovulation in the mares, possibly through pheromones. The fact that Stallions A, B, and C only serviced the mares for respectively 3.8, 2.3 and 2.4 days during their estrus , although the average duration of estrus was 6.25, 4.4 and 4.7 days respectively, supports this surmise. The shorter period of time in heat during which the stallion covered a mare is subsequently referred to as the servicing period. Asa (1986) assumes that mares in heat attract the attention of a stallion toward themselves not only through winking and urinating, but also through pheromones. Houpt and Guida (1984) and Cromwell-Davis and Houpt (1985) feel that flehmen also plays an important role in recognizing heat.
The stallions serviced the mares at all times of the day, with the frequency increasing between 00:00 hours and 06:00 hours. Perhaps this can be explained by the fact that the horses usually rested between sunset and sunrise. The stallions were extremely active in the morning hours. It was in the evening time that mating activity was lowest, i.e. from 18:00 hours to 24:00 hours for Stallions A and C, and between 06:00 hours and 12:00 hours for Stallion B. Stallion A covered mares successfully 37 times in ten days during the 24-day observation period, with a mating frequency of zero to nine times daily, which averaged to 3.7 times a day. He rejected mares with a foal by them and outside of a single exception serviced only unbred mares. He mounted 65 times without success. After that stallion had stayed with the mares for eight weeks, the next year’s foaling rate measured 31%. An andrological examination revealed severe hypospermia, while a palpatory examination showed a soft consistency and smaller size of the right testicle as compared to the left testicle. This explains the poor foaling rate and indicates how important a health and sexual examination is concerning the minimum demands for stallions (Klug, 1982; Kenney, 1983; Merkt and Klug, 1989). Stallion B was observed for 41 days. Six mares in his herd had foals during the period of observation, and five of the mares were successfully bred during foal heat, while the sixth did not go into heat during the period of observation. This stallion only needed to worry about one mare at a time, because no two mares foaled simultaneously and the other mares were already bred. During 13 days of breeding activity, these mares were serviced 30 times, or between zero and seven times per day for an average of 2.3 times daily. During. The following year, the foaling rate totaled 87%, counting the entire herd of mares. Stallion C was an inexperienced three-year-old stallion, observed for 28 days. During 19 days of breeding activity, he serviced ten mares 57 times, or from zero to eight times per day, for an average of 3.0 times a day. The foaling rate of the following year measured 90%. The mating outcomes for Stallions A, B and C brought out a similar mating frequency per day (0-9, 0-7, 0-8), as well as a similar average for mating frequency per day (3.7, 2.3, 3.0). The mating frequency per mare was most even for Stallion C, even though up to seven of his mares were in heat at once. Stallions A, B and C needed an average of 9.0, 6.0 and 5.7 mounts per mare while she was in heat. The average number of mounts/mare/estrus for Stallion A (9.0) can not be judged as normal, because, as mentioned above, he suffered from severe hypospermia and presented a hypoplasia and inadequate consistency of his right testicle. The mounts/mare/estrus for Stallions B and C (~6.0), on the other hand, can be viewed as in the range of normal. These stallions were 15, 9 and 3 years old, and their mean numbers of unsuccessful mounts were 8, 6 und 3.
Mares offering themselves energetically to the stallion were serviced ahead of those acting shy. If many mares at once were in heat, it occurred that the stallion did not cover some of the mares over a certain period of time. Seven mares went into heat simultaneously for Stallion C. During a 24-hour period he only covered four of them; moreover, they were serviced with varying frequency. The other three mares were not serviced; however, they stayed in heat longer than the bred ones. This indicates that stallions have a performance limit, so that the danger exists of a stallion supplied with too many mares over a heat period leaving out some mares that are in heat.
The average duration of estrus in the mares with Stallions A, B and C was 6.25, 4.4 and 4.7 days. While the mares of Stallions B and C were in heat for similar lengths of time, Stallion C had to worry about more mares than Stallion B, which perhaps explains why the average duration of estrus in his mares was a slight degree higher. On the other hand, the servicing period was shorter, although the mares were in heat and ready for conception. The servicing period averaged 3.8 days for Stallion A, 2.3 days for Stallion B and 2.4 days for Stallion C. Here, too, the figures for Stallions B and C are similar. This difference between the average duration of estrus and the average servicing period supports the theory that a stallion can find out the time of ovulation of the mares. According to mating figures for the harem of Stallion C, the servicing period for mares Nos. 1-10 lasted from 0.5 to 6.3 days, and these same mares were in heat for one to seven days. The mating frequency, in contrast, was more even, or from four to seven mounts/mare, for an average of 5.4 mounts/mare. This may mean that a high mating frequency over a short time could stimulate ovulation.

Comportamento do cavalo & bem-estar - uma comunicação• sinais usando todas as partes do corpo.
o Sinais da cara
o Sinais da garganta
o Sinais da orelha
o Sinais da cauda
• Acústico - sinais sadios
• Tátil - toque
• Produto químico - cheiros

Você verá todas as combinações destes usados em circunstâncias diferentes.
Sinais visuais
• Há uma escala larga de sinais visuais no cavalo usando a maioria de partes do corpo.
• Por causa da visão aguda, os cavalos podem escolher acima mudanças ligeiras nestes sinais.
• São associados com outros sinais do corpo - toda interagindo.
Sinais da cara
• Abrindo e fechando a boca, fazendo às vezes o contato de dentes.
• Usado muito por potros denotar a submissão à égua.
• É a stylised o sinal grooming.
Modo cortante
• Modo aggressivo com intenção de morder
• As maxilas e os dentes prendidos abrem.
• Os dentes expostos inteiramente.
Bordos duros
• Isto é oposto aos bordos macios que mostra o relaxamento.
• As mostras tensionam mas mais menos violento.
Resposta de Flehmen
• O bordo superior superior do lábio enrola para acima e a cabeça levanta altivamente.
• Característica dos garanhões que cheiram os genitals e a urina da égua.
• Pode ser visto nas éguas cheiraram a urina de outra égua.
• Pode ser aversão - enrugada.
• Abertas de excitação ou medo.
• Fechado devido a dor ou quando esgotado.
• Aberto largamente no medo.
• Mostra brancos dos olhos quando irritado ou estarrecido.
• Fechado parcialmente no relaxamento ou na submissão calma.
Sinais da garganta
Agitação principal
• Agitação lateral que sugere o stress.
• Lance principal ascendente do sharp que mostra o annoyance
• Empurrão principal - para cima e para trás mostrando o annoyance.
Sacudir-se principal
• Cabeça tipo pato para baixo e para trás repetidamente.
• Aumentar o ângulo de visão.
Balanço principal
• O nariz move-se com alto da cabeça ainda.
• Indica que o cavalo está pronto para a ação
Pressão e lunge da cabeça
• Impulsos principais para a frente no movimento assertivo.
• Ameaça ou indicação de agressão.
• A ação seguinte estava mordendo.
Nudge do nariz
• Procurar da atenção.
• Advertir para fazer exame da observação de mim.
Serpentear principal
• Usado pelo garanhão às éguas ascendentes redondas.
• Lado a tom o partido balanço.
• As ameaças cortantes acompanham-no frequentemente.
Tecer principal
• Terra comum em cavalos encaixotados com pouco stimulation mental.
• Visto em pássaros prendidos furados.
• O mesmo problema no cavalo - boredom.
Circundar principal
• Carrinhos do cavalo que fazem movimentos circulares da garganta.
• Mostra o stress intenso.
• Encontrado em cavalos encaixotados com nenhum stimulation mental.
Sinais da orelha
• Mostra o alertness
• O cavalo está pagando a atenção
Orelhas do avião
• Prendido para fora ao lado com aberturas para baixo
• O cavalo é psicològica baixo
• Interesse perdido nas coisas
• O cavalo é dozy ou na dor
• Mostrando sentimentos ou inferiority
Inclinado para trás
• Visto no cavalo montado
• Mostrando a submissão ao cavaleiro
• Sinal do proprietário brutal
• A égua aproxima o garanhão frequentemente neste pose
Contrair-se e flicking
• Sinal de um cavalo forçado
• Sinal da confusão
Orelhas fixadas
• Aplainado para trás.
• Mostra o aggression
• Fornece a proteção ao lutar
Sinais da cauda
Cauda elevada
• Sinal do excitamento
• Sinal da intenção jogar entre cavalos novos
• Visto quando o garanhão aproximar a égua
• Mostrado pela égua quando pronto para o serviço - prenda a cauda ao lado.
Tail o ponto baixo
• Sinal da submissão.
• Sinal do exhaustion
• Sinal da doença
Cauda em linha reta para fora
• Visto no cavalo muito aggressive.
• Garanhões prontos para a batalha
Cauda de Swishing
• Primeiramente lateralmente então acima e para baixo
• O cavalo das mostras é doente na facilidade, ansioso ou confused.
• Poder aumentado do flick lateral na raiva real.
• Flicked altamente no ar e golpeado abaixo duramente está advertindo que retroceder seguirá.
Sinais sadios
• Sinal da ansiedade
• Cavalo que deteta o perigo
• Sinal defensivo
• Não me empurre sinal
• Varia na intensidade que denota o grau de interesse.
Snicker do cumprimento
• Ponto baixo lançado e guttural
• Um salutation
Snicker de Courtship
• Snicker lançado baixo longo
• As éguas fazem esta quando o garanhão se aproxima.
• Os garanhões personalizaram snickers do courtship
Snicker maternal
• Macio e mal audível aos seres humanos.
• Mensagem da égua a foal
Neigh e whinny
• Começos como um guincho e extremidades como um snicker.
• A chamada a mais alta e a mais longa.
• O cavalo isolado usa-a para a segurança como o howl do lobo
• É um pedido para a informação melhor que alarme.
• Mostra a raiva intensa de um garanhão da luta
• Contem um elemento justo do medo demasiado.
• Sinal do wellbeing
• Um som do inquérito - o que é este
• Remova a poeira do nariz ao alimentar.
Grunhido ou gemido
• Sinal do exhaustion - ao sobrecarregar o cavalo de bloco
• Sinal do exertion adicional
• Boredom
Hoof stamping/kicking
• Estes sadios podem ser ouvidos sobre distâncias longas
• Visto em cavalos forçados ou furados nos estábulos
• Alguns cavalos retrocedem as paredes no boredom
Flattus (que passa o vento)
• Pode ser a liberação lenta do gás quando o cavalo relaxou.
• O sharp curto estourou quando sphincter anal sob a tensão no medo ou no stress.
Sinais do toque
• Estes são meios de uma comunicação muito comuns.
• Visto quando os cavalos se encontram com - cheire para cheirar.
• Nudges do uso das éguas para dirigir potros ao udder e afastado dele.
• Os potros usam-no advertir a égua que estão indo procurar o udder.
• Os alimentadores usam-no, junto com a voz, advertir um cavalo de onde estejam.
• O aggression é toda sobre uma comunicação tátil - empurrando e morder.
• O toque é usado por cavaleiros dirigir o cavalo.
Uma comunicação química
• Os cavalos têm um sentido de cheiro excelente.
• É importante na reunião e cumprimento, cheiram os narizes, a respiração, os flancos e a área genital.
• Cheirar continua ao dung e ao urine.
• O cheiro é usado no recognition do potro pela égua indícios visuais.
• O potro para encontrar o udder usando o cheiro.

Comportamento & bem-estar do cavalo - origens e domestication
por Dr. Clive Dalton

• Os antepassados antigos do cavalo eram animais multi-multi-toed pequenos. Então evoluíram um dedo do pé que se transformou um hoof.
• Tornaram-se um animal muito móvel que usasse a velocidade, bucking e retrocedendo aos predadores do escape.
• O cavalo é uma espécie do pânico!
• Das 5 espécies principais do animal doméstico, o cavalo era o último a domesticated. É afetado o mais menos pela manipulação humana e pela seleção artificial.
• Sua velocidade foi reconhecida pelo homem adiantado como um recurso grande a sua mobilidade, e era uma prioridade elevada para o domestication.
• O cavalo foi usado primeiramente pelo homem para o alimento que monta então para o uso das forças armadas, então para o esboço e finalmente para a equitação recreacional.
• Dois milhão anos há tornou-se a espécie de Equus em America do Norte de que espalhou ao mundo velho e à América sul através das pontes da terra. Então havia uma migração e uma diversificação mais gerais.
• As tribos mongois foram consideradas ser as primeiras para domesticarem o cavalo.
• Por 1500 BC tipos diferentes de cavalo estavam evoluindo.
• Os cavalos de Prezewalski são encontrados ainda nessa área como o último sobrevivente do cavalo adiantado.
• O que fêz os cavalos fornecem para seres humanos:
• Transporte - para carregar povos no tempo de paz
• Transporte - para carregar povos na guerra
• Poder - puxar cargas e instrumentos de fazenda.
• Carne
• Leite
• Peles
• Crinas
• Prazer na posse de um animal nobre para o lazer.

Comportamento do cavalo & bem-estar - problemas com dentes

• Os dentes podem tornar-se desgastados desigualmente, assim não moem a alimentação eficientemente e podem causar ulceras na lingua.
• Os sinais incluem deixar cair o alimento da boca ao mastigar, ao protrair dos mordentes causados pelos wads do alimento que tornam-se impactados entre os dentes e ao mordente, e/ou manchar verde em torno da boca causada drooling do saliva.
• As bordas overgrown nos dentes do mordente são comuns em pôneis e em cavalos idosos.
• O tratamento é limar as bordas afiadas por pessoa treinada como um veterinarian ou um dentista de cavalo para fazer eficazmente.
• Para impedir problemas, é sábio ter os dentes dos pôneis e dos cavalos limados regularmente, talvez uma vez um ano.
• A doença peridental pode afetar os dentes do animal. É causada por infecções do gum e das estruturas suportando em torno das raizes dos dentes do cavalo.
• Em casos severos o osso torna-se inchado e sore, então o animal torna-se relutante em mastigar.

Comportamento do cavalo & bem-estar - sono
• Os cavalos necessitam dormir, e são mais posição feita mas dormem encontrando-se para baixo.
• Eles dormitam durante o dia mas verdadeiramente dormir só de noite.
• Seu ciclo do sono é curto - 15 minutos dormir e 45 minutos acordados.
• Um cavalo que seja forçado a estar continuamente, por exemplo nos vôos longos , será privado so sono , assim que deverá descansar á chegada.
• O comportamento do grupo afeta o sono. Os animais dominantes encontram-se para baixo primeiramente e ajustam-se o teste padrão.
• Os cavalos novos necessitam mais sono do que os mais velhos.
• Os cavalos preferem deitar-se na terra ou na areia seca e em áreas molhadas nao frias.

Comportamento & bem-estar do cavalo - cuidado grooming e de corpo• Os cavalos gostam de rolar na terra ou na areia macia, especialmente após o exercício e quando quentes e suados.
• Riscam seus próprios corpos com seus cascos, dentes e bordos.
• Há sempre um interesse sobre o bem-estar dos cavalos cobertos no verão. Os cavalos cobertos são muito visuais para o público e supõem que o cavalo estará forçado no calor.
• Verificar regular coberto da necessidade dos cavalos como os parasites externos podem construir acima sob a tampa.
• Os cavalos suam sobre seus corpos, assim que hosing para baixo e grooming depois que o exercício é apreciado muito pelo cavalo.
Comportamento do cavalo & bem-estar - pastando o comportamento e o elimination
• A ruína dos cavalos pasta mais rapidamente do que todo o outro animal.
• A lata pasta muito mais perto do que ruminantes porque têm os dentes do alto e do fundo.
• Eles áreas do overgraze que terminam acima como gramados, e dung em outras áreas que não pastarão por causa do cheiro.
• Pastos sob do "o doente tornado pastando contínuo cavalo" - isto é contaminado pesadamente com os parasites internos, e as áreas dunging cresça ervas daninhas.
• Os cavalos tendem ao dung e ao urinate nas áreas onde outros cavalos fizeram o mesmo como é meios de uma comunicação importantes. Dos garanhões dung e urinate regularmente onde as éguas fizeram assim.
• Os cavalos (especial cavalos feral) começam muitos da informação dos heaps do dung e do urine sobre o que está indo sobre no território.
• Os cavalos comem por os períodos longos que calculam a média de aproximadamente 12 horas um o dia e quando a alimentação é short eles pastarão por até 18 horas.
• Overfeeding é um problema principal que conduz ao founder do pé que causa o lameness e o obesity geral.
• Mas os cavalos mantidos descobrem prados o dia inteiro e yarded na noite para controlar sua entrada da alimentação podem tornar-se furados muito criando outros problemas.
• Dung dos cavalos cada 3-4 horas e defaecate da lata ao se mover mas têm que parar ao urinate enquanto isto requer o relaxation do músculo do pelvis e dos pés hind.
• Os cavalos podem ser treinados ao urinate assobiando (uma resposta condicionada). Quando você vê o cavalo urinating naturalmente, o começo a assobiar assim que construirão uma associação entre assobiam e o comportamento. Com prática contínua o cavalo aprenderá ao urinate no sinal.
Comportamento & bem-estar do cavalo - alimentando e digestão
• Os cavalos são herbivores como o gado mas não é ruminantes.
• Mas não podem comer tão rapidamente quanto os ruminantes que o regurgitate sua alimentação para processar mais adicional, daqui gasta a maioria de seu dia que pasta.
• Comem uma escala larga de plantas e de ervas daninhas do pasto. Não gostam de quantidades grandes de legumes do lush e não necessitam o roughage regular.
• Digerem sua fibra nos dois pontos, daqui o dióxido do methane e de carbono é passado com o anus.
• Os cavalos têm um bordo superior muito móvel que permita o cropping próximo do pasto. Os usos da vaca é lingüeta longa.
• Os cavalos têm os incisors superiores e mais baixos assim que podem beliscar fora da grama muito brevemente como um gramado bem-well-mown.
• Quando starved comerão a lama e o dung velho e anel-ring-bark árvores.
• Não os deixe ter o acesso às balas do silage, porque chew o envoltório plástico.
• O disorder digestivo principal é colic e pode ser muito perigoso para o cavalo e o alimentador, especial se o cavalo começa para baixo em uma caixa. Comece-o fora e mantenha-o andar esperando o cancelará algum vento.

Comportamento do cavalo & bem-estar - reprodução
por Dr. Clive Dalton
mais artigos em cavalos
• O puberty nos cavalos varia muito com raça. Pode ocorrer de 8-24 meses.
• Os cavalos bem alimentados alcançam geralmente o puberty em ao redor 12 meses, mas os cavalos feral estariam muito mais atrasados.
• O ciclo oestrous da égua é estimulado aumentando a luz do dia assim que é sexually ativa na mola e no verão adiantado.
• Vem no calor 4-18 dias após foaling assim que o potro pode estar em uma situação perigosa do garanhão durante este período no selvagem.
• Uma égua é grávida por 11 meses.
• If.not acoplado dará um ciclo cada 3 semanas e está no calor por 5-15 dias.
• Às vezes você pode começar o oestrus prolongado por diversas semanas e pode ser um incômodo real aos alimentadores.
• Os sinais do calor são:
• Abundância do vocalisation - especial se vê outros cavalos.
• Parada freqüente ao urinate.
• Estar com os pés hind partidos e em um crouch com a cauda mantida levantada.
• Vulva inchado.
• Líquido vaginal viscous que funciona do vulva.
• Eversion do vulva chamado piscamento clitoral ou piscar
• Agitado - sempre procurando a companhia.
• Contrair-se da cauda
• As éguas do parafuso prisioneiro são testadas para o oestrus ereto usando um "teaser" ou o garanhão pequeno do pônei que é demasiado pequeno acoplar a égua. Mas não acredite que como algum comece muito cunning!
• As éguas não completamente para a direita no calor são felizes encontrar-se com o garanhão, mas guincharão, retrocedê-lo-ão e mordê-l-ão. São testados melhor sobre uma porta para impedir ferimento a ambos os partidos.
• Uma direita da égua no calor estará a firma quando o garanhão monta e inclina-se para trás para fazer exame de seu peso.
• Após o acoplamento o garanhão estará em torno de descansar e a égua pode vir e tentar estimulá-lo outra vez.
• A mão que acopla-se pode ser uma estadia perigosa para os alimentadores porque há sempre o risco de ser retrocedido ou morder. A roupa protetora cheia including o armour principal da proteção e do corpo deve ser desgastada e os desconhecido devem

Comportamento do cavalo & bem-estar - comportamento do nascimento
por Dr. Clive Dalton
mais artigos em cavalos
• As éguas foal geralmente ràpidamente. Depois que o estágio inicial antes que se encontrar para baixo e estiver preparando um local do nascimento, o estágio da entrega segue e geralmente sobre em aproximadamente 15 minutos.
• Assim se houver atrasa neste procedimento, que significa geralmente problemas, começa a atenção veterinária urgente.
• Há uns nascimentos mais difíceis nos puro-sangue do que o outro cavalo breeds/types.
• O potro é entregado geralmente com a égua que descansa e as membranas são estouradas quando o potro bate a terra.
• A égua deve levantar-se imediatamente e lick e chew as membranas, diminuindo as possibilidades do potro que smothering. Mas uma égua esgotada não pode fazer esta e o potro pode smothered.
• A égua deve passar o afterbirth em uma hora. É importante verificar isto para evitar infecções uterine.
• A ligação é feita pela égua que licking o potro e pode gastar diversas horas nesta. Este licking ajuda à circulação do sangue e a aquecer-se do potro.
• As éguas novas (mães da primeira vez) podem golpear o potro com seus pés dianteiros. Esta pode ser uma reação para começá-lo estar e estar pronto para afastar, para evitar os predadores que estão sendo atraídos pelo local e pelo afterbirth do nascimento.
• Aproximadamente 80% das éguas foal na noite, peaking em torno da meia-noite.
• Um potro está geralmente em seus pés em aproximadamente 15 minutos.
• A aproximação do potro ao udder é importante. Usa sua garganta longa evitar pontapés e procura para fora uma área morna de pele desencapada onde deve haver um teat.
• As éguas boas estarão e incentivarão o teat que procuram nuzzling a área genital do potro.
• As éguas pobres manter-se-ão mover e olhar o potro, que a impede que começa round a sua extremidade traseira para sugar. É vital que o potro tem o colostrum em 6-8 poucas horas.
• Um potro deve sugar dentro de 30 minutos do nascimento . Suga então com intervalos frequentes de 50-75 vezes em 24 horas nas semanas adiantadas da vida.
• Suckling dura 15 segundos a 2 minutos como os carrinhos do potro com pés distante e cauda levantaram. Mantem-se dobrado bem o toque do lado da égua.
• Depois que a égua e o potro se movem afastado do local do nascimento, o potro mantem-se no contato físico que colide a égua enquanto vão longitudinalmente.
• A ligação é rápida no nascimento (dentro de 2 horas) mas os potros podem ser promovidos sobre às éguas por até 3-4 dias. Mas o sucesso deste depende da natureza da égua.
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