Science & Equine

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Written by Els Smet
Posted in Social behavior

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Dominance and leadership between the horse and handler

Horses have many benefits from living in a herd, where one horse assumes the dominant position. Dominance hierarchies in horses influence priority access to limited resources, resulting in predictable contest outcomes which can minimize aggression in the herd and thereby reduce injuries. This article investigates how the dominance hierarchies in herds translates to horse and handler.

To conclude, it is unlikely that the horse-horse social status and interactions translate directly to horse-human interactions, and that the horses’ interaction with the handler are more affected by reinforcement.

Expert opinion by Els Smet

It is thought that the horses’ responses to training and how they interact with humans are more likely a result of reinforcement where correct responses are consistently rewarded rather that directly a result of the handler reaching a higher social status and becoming the leader.

> From: Hartmann et al., Journal of Equine Veterinary Science 52 (2017) 1-9. All rights reserved to Elsevier. Click here for the online summary.

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