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.: Home > Animal Science Papers and Reports > 2013 > Volume 31 Number 3 > Iwona Rozempolska-Rucińska

How “natural” training methods can affect equine mental state? A critical approach – a review

Iwona Rozempolska-Rucińska
Department of Biological Bases of Animal Production, University of Life Sciences in Lublin, Akademicka 13, 20-950 Lublin, Poland
Abstract :
Among equestrians the “natural” training methods of horses are gaining widespread popularity due
to their spectacular efficiency. Underlying philosophy of trainers - founders of different “natural
horsemanship training” (NHT) schools, along with other not well documented statements includes
argumentation of solely welfare- and human-friendly effects of NHT in the horse.
The aim of this review was to screen scientific papers related to NHT to answer the question whether
„natural” training methods may actually exert only positive effects upon equine mental state and
human-horse relationship. It appears that NHT trainers may reduce stress and emotional tension
and improve learning processes as they appropriately apply learning stimuli. Basing on revised
literature it can be concluded that training is successful provided that [i] the strength of the aversive
stimulus meets sensitivity of an individual horse, [ii] the aversive stimulus is terminated at a right
moment to avoid the impression of punishment, and [iii] the animal is given enough time to assess
its situation and make an independent decision in the form of adequate behavioural reaction.
Neglecting any of these conditions may lead to substantial emotional problems, hyperactivity, or
excessive fear in the horse-human relationship, regardless of the training method.
However, we admit that the most successful NHT trainers reduce aversive stimulation to the
minimum and that horses learn quicker with fear or stress reactions, apparently decreasing along
with training process. Anyway, NHT should be acknowledged for absolutely positive role in pointing
out the importance of proper stimulation in the schooling and welfare of horses.
Among equestrians the “natural” training methods of horses are gaining widespread popularity due
to their spectacular efficiency. Underlying philosophy of trainers - founders of different “natural
horsemanship training” (NHT) schools, along with other not well documented statements includes
argumentation of solely welfare- and human-friendly effects of NHT in the horse.
The aim of this review was to screen scientific papers related to NHT to answer the question whether
„natural” training methods may actually exert only positive effects upon equine mental state and
human-horse relationship. It appears that NHT trainers may reduce stress and emotional tension
and improve learning processes as they appropriately apply learning stimuli. Basing on revised
literature it can be concluded that training is successful provided that [i] the strength of the aversive
stimulus meets sensitivity of an individual horse, [ii] the aversive stimulus is terminated at a right
moment to avoid the impression of punishment, and [iii] the animal is given enough time to assess
its situation and make an independent decision in the form of adequate behavioural reaction.
Neglecting any of these conditions may lead to substantial emotional problems, hyperactivity, or
excessive fear in the horse-human relationship, regardless of the training method.
However, we admit that the most successful NHT trainers reduce aversive stimulation to the
minimum and that horses learn quicker with fear or stress reactions, apparently decreasing along
with training process. Anyway, NHT should be acknowledged for absolutely positive role in pointing
out the importance of proper stimulation in the schooling and welfare of horses.
Keywords :
versive stimuli / horses / learning / negative reinforcement / NHT / training

Date Deposited : 02 Apr 2015 10:01

Last Modified : 02 Apr 2015 10:01

Official URL: http://www.ighz.edu.pl/?p0=5&p1=34

Volume 31, Number 3, - 2013

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