Wednesday, 2 May 2012

Why does my horse...?

We are starting a new  feature enabling you to ask your own questions about  ridden horse behaviour. Each month we will answer the best or most popular one. Your question can be quite specific, like 'Why does my horse spook at dock leaves?' or more general, like 'Why do horses bolt?' The behaviour you ask about can be quite subtle, or extreme , like this one!

A bit of background... 
Most ridden behaviour is comprised of one or more of these 4 elements:

Innate species specific behaviour
This refers to behaviour ingrained in all horses (indeed all equids)  which has developed by natural selection to maximise survival. Examples are herd behaviour and flight responses. These innate tendencies are so strong that they may still affect horses under saddle despite centuries of domestication.

Breed/ line specific behaviour
These are behavioural tendencies that have  developed through artificial selection. These tendencies may be breed specific or line specific. So your horse’s temperament is to some extent  ‘pre-wired’ , which can affect how it responds to training.

Learned behaviour
pain related behaviour
This is what we tend to think of as ‘training’. However horses do not distinguish between formal or informal training sessions: every time you ride your horse it is learning. Hence the need for consistency .

Physiological or pain- related behaviour.
Horses are generally quite stoic about pain, but this often underlies what are perceived to be behavioural or training difficulties.

Each month we will take one question, and look at how each of these factors may play a part in creating the observed behaviour. To ask your question, please join our facebook community by liking our page on the left sidebar, and then add your question to the post on our page. Simples!


  1.  The horses is just fine she's just not forward enough .She needs a lot of forward work undisturbed. A horses natural response to spurs is to contract.  Moving forward from the spur is a trained effect. She needs to a few steps back in training and Learn or relearn the meaning of the spur in the way you are attempting to use them here the long whip and or someone on the ground should be used .

  2. If it may please the Guests, may I say, from the Coal Face of the Industry of Problem Horses, whenever I read material from Places of Higher Learning, I see "Paralysis of the Analysis" As a Career Horseman of roughly 25,000 Horses, may I simply say that this Horse only Bolts because it can. Reason?....the Brakes don't work. Therefore, the 'Flight from Fear" is not removed. This is why so many People get killed in your Country. Kind Regards.
    John O'Leary

  3. Good way to elicit fear in both horse and rider! Luckily neither got injured but I bet both had their confidence rattled!