Monday, 18 June 2012

Making the Connection

source: horsemagazine
The Scales of Training section of our wiki is now complete, though we will still add relevant content. One of our members posted a video of a GP Dressage horse working in a bitless bridle, which made me ponder: is it possible to demonstrate 'Contact' without a bit?

If we take a literal defnition of contact to be 'the soft, steady connection between the rider's hand and the horse's mouth', then this would be difficult without a bit. But if we are looking more at the overall  back-to-front connection then maybe this is possible?

The issue of whether the FEI should allow riders to compete in bitless bridles was discussed at the 2011 Global Dressage Forum and you can read the report by Eurodressage here: Bitless or Not, it's about Having the Choice.

The Ridden Horse Behaviour project is focussed on assessing and describing the observable behaviour of ridden horses rather than training methods, so we are sitting on the fence with this one! Do feel free to post your own opinions below though, but watch the video first!

(It is not possible to embed this video, so please click on the link)

Uta Gräf riding bitless: video

Tuesday, 12 June 2012


As a  follow on to the introductory article on the origins of horse behaviour:  Why Does My Horse...? I have started to look a little more into individual differences between horses. In humans, this is referred to as 'personality', but is it appropriate to use this term when referring to horses? I don't think so, as 'personality' defines characteristics belonging to a 'person'. The word 'horsonality' is even worse: what is a horson? It sounds like a horse-person hybrid! If we must coin a word to refer to a horse's unique  characteristics then 'horsality' or 'equineality' is probably more correct.

Semantics apart, are there likely to be measurable  individual 'personality' differences between horses? Well yes, It does seem as if there are. But  these are more likely to be behavioural differences rather than what the horse actually 'thinks'.

Some research has attempted to adapt human psychometrics for horses. But as the horses can't complete the tests themselves, the results may be affected to some extent by the personality of the assessor.  In one study, handlers were asked to rate horses according to the Big Five factors. One of the major theories of personality states that all individual differences can be described according to how you score on each of the  'Big 5' traits.

These are:
  • Conscienciousness
  • Openness to Exerience
  • Extraversion
  • Agreeableness
  • Neuroticism.

You can read the results of the study here:

Can Judges Agree on the Personality of Horses?

If you are interested in the human application of these traits, please check out the 'Psychology Articles' page of this blog for some fun interactve articles where you can explore your own personality traits.

Friday, 1 June 2012

Nature vs Nurture

The  'Why Does My Horse.....'  feature has not attracted any questions yet, so I've written a slightly more in depth article to get you all thinking!

image source:
There are two approaches to a horse that's displaying undesired behaviour under saddle. One approach is to ask "why is this happening?"  whereas another is  "how can I stop this happening?".

Now while the latter might lead to a quicker response and possibly nip some genuine disobedence in the bud, my thought is that it's always wise to consider the root of the issue and go for a 'bottom up'  approach. Anyway, if you'd like to read more on this the full article is here: Why Does My Horse...?