As equine therapy and its numerous health benefits become more and more popular throughout the state of Colorado, more and more people start to consider a career in horse management. Many of those who sign up for horse management Colorado classes fear having to deal with dominant horses, after having seen or heard the stories of more or less professional horse trainers.
Specialists in equine behavior warn that the dominant horse is just a myth. According to them, dominance is not a horse personality trait, but a state of the relationship between two horses meant determine control over the available resources. This position is supported by the American Veterinary Society of Animal Behavior as well.
Equine behavior and social structure is very complex, and understanding it requires extensive studies. Those who fail to complete these studies try to make things simpler by applying labels like “dominant behavior” and developing strategies meant to address those labels. The “dominant horse” label has led to many misunderstandings throughout time, the most popular of which will be clarified in this article.
Bad Ground Manners Do Not Mean That a Horse Is Dominant
A horse dragging its owner, refusing to yield body parts, stepping on one’s toes, pinning its ears at one, kicking, biting or swishing its tail is not dominant and is not trying to dominate. If its behavior brings the desired results, it is reinforced and will most likely be repeated.
For example, if the horse pulls on the lead-rope and manages to reach the grass it wants to eat, it is reinforced by the outcome of this behavior and will repeat it. The horse simply learns what works and what does not in its effort of getting what it wants.
Aggression Is Not Dominance
Horse management Colorado specialists warn that aggressive behavior is not uncommon in horses, but when it occurs, it has a well-defined, complex cause. While responding to such behavior with aggression may occasionally yield the desired results, it should not be considered a solution.
Such an approach will usually suppress aggressive behavior, instead of changing it. If the cause of aggression is not eliminated, the behavior will most likely repeat in the right conditions. In order to prevent it, its underlying causes should be identified and dealt with, and that can only be accomplished through extensive horse management study and practice.
Adopting a Dominant Attitude Does Not Work
Many horse trainers claim that it is important to show the horse who the leader in the relationship is, but specialist assure that this is not necessary. According to them, the owner should establish a relationship based on trust and communication with their horse. They should teach the horse what type of behavior is acceptable and what is not. This cannot and should not be achieved through aggression, but it is possible by adhering to a strict routine, rewarding good behavior and inspiring confidence.
Labels Are No Good
Labeling a horse or any other animal as dominant does not solve any problems. On the contrary, when people perceive the animal as dominant, they tend to respond with punishments and an aggressive attitude. When this approach does not bring the desired results, they apply even harsher punishments and they adopt an even more aggressive attitude.
The best way for those interested in building a career in horse training and management is to avoid letting themselves be influenced by such myths and misconceptions, and to enroll in a horse management Colorado program. This will allow them to study horse behavior in depth and learn how to use the information in adjusting the available training methods to each horse and developing new, more efficient methods.