The International Society for Equitation Science (ISES) releases a statement which contradicts the myth of leadership and dominance during horse training. They claim that such methods could be a barrier to the relationship of harmony needed between a horse and its rider or handler. It rejects the concept of hierarchy in which the horse handler is meant to be in a position of dominance. They say that horses do not have the cognitive ability to perceive the concept of hierarchy and rank since they function on a bilateral level of interaction.
Horses possess many abilities. They can survive even in the harshest of conditions and remember where potential food, shelter and water will be available. They also remember their companions along with various other things. However, there is no indication that they have the ability to handle issues which are complex in nature and demand cognitive abilities as witnessed in human beings. They are weak at generalizing and abstract thinking is not a part of their brain function.
The released statement suggests that the concept of dominance, leadership and hierarchy, as accepted by a large number of handlers, riders and trainers, is misinterpreted and simplified when in reality the functioning of their social organization is both complex and dynamic.
The concept of leadership and dominance while training horses is not entirely correct since the trainers might unintentionally convey human traits of authority and respect onto the personality of the horse which could lead to practices that compromises its well-being and welfare. The attempts to establish dominance on horses could be used to justify punishments and enable fear responses in them.
The International Society for Equitation Science insists that riders, handlers and trainers must not implement concepts of dominance and hierarchy during interaction with horses but instead learn more about their natural behavior and try to comprehend their cognitive abilities. People must stop treating horses under the assumption that they process things just like humans do for better horse-human interaction. Understanding the true functioning of a horse’s mind and behavior would help establish a more harmonious relationship that could benefit both the horse and the handler.
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