Dr. med. vet. Dunya Reiwald, 

078 82 82 485


Equine behaviour and education, a shortcut (behavioural science is based on observation!)


Horses escape as soon as a situation seems dangerous to them. To escape is innate and characteristic of equine behaviour. 

Horses are gregarious: they don’t feel secure alone and need a hierarchy. That’s why each herd has a leader and men themselves have to take place in this hierarchy. 

Each horse is an individual and must be considered as such. One should understand it and respect its character. The better one understands a horse, the better its behaviour can be evaluated and the reactions be adequate. 

Even if men are part of the predators, the horse must understand they will not hurt him. It must admit men among the herd. This is asking quite a lot, when thinking that the horse’s instinct tells him to “get the hell out of here!”

A whip has got its place only during education and in very precise moments. Indeed the horse can feel even a fly on its back! Working with treats is in the whole better than punition. Indeed hands should never be seen as cruel instruments, the human body and clear signs show the horse if its behaviour is right or wrong! The best reward for a horse is a long caress.

The personal area, that is the distance to others that each living being needs to feel secure is as important to the horse as to humans and is used for educational purposes. 

Don’t ever let the horse trespass your personal area without asking it to. Although it is normal that the horse will now and then try! Be consequent! 

Communication: horses communicate with the eyes, the ears, the nostrils, the mouth and the collar, the legs and the tail. One needs to observe this langage and understand it. 

Some examples : Eyes wide open, ears to the back means fear ; ears forward with wide nostrils, collar forward means interest ; ears to the back and near the head, teeth uncovered, eye contact with the other means fear and readiness to kick out or bite. 

Grazing: horses eat 17 hours a day. They move every 12 seconds to reach the next best place, so they always move, ready to escape. They only stand still or lie down for about an hour a day. They reach for water 1-3 times a day.

Movement: Horses normally march. Trot and gallop appear during excitation, playing or escaping. 

The stable: Horses have lived 40 Mio years in the steppe and are now hold in boxes! The sky has always been their roof, they don't live in caves. Horses must be able to move as much as possible and shouldn’t be left on their one. That’s why stables with access outside are best, particularly for young horses. To leave horses attached is forbidden. 

Education: The first hour of life is essential to the horse. If one can assist to the birth, wrap the foal with straw and touch its body afterwards, one can gain a lot for its education. The best is to massage it 5-10 minutes once a week. That way the foal understands immediately that men represent no danger for him. And it will be easier to touch it later on, when it’s time to put on a halter or a saddle. If that moment is missed, one should try to begin as soon as possible. 

15 minutes and an hour total work a day are plenty. Even foals have a limited concentration capacity!

Don’t let the foal’s instinct dictate his conduct, if it mustn’t become a wild pony!

Behavioural disorders: One must always make sure the horse feels no pain before thinking of behavioural disorders. If the horse swallows air biting his crib or doesn’t want to go out for a ride alone, the cause of the behaviour should be found out: fear, inadequate feeding, lack of movement… Sometimes the character of the horse and the rider simply don’t fit together. Or sometimes the rider does not communicate clearly enough what he wants. Or the horse did not learn to be confident and is scared.


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