Behaviour patterns of horses can be used to establish a dominant–subordinate relationship between man and horse

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This paper describes how man can enter the social hierarchy of the horse by mimicking the behaviour and stance it uses to establish dominance. A herd is organised according to a dominance hierarchy established by means of ritualised conflict. Dominance relationships are formed through these confrontations: one horse gains the dominant role and others identify themselves as subordinates. This study was conducted using five females of the Haflinger breed, totally unaccustomed to human contact, from a free-range breeding farm. The study methods were based on the three elements fundamental to the equilibrium of the herd: flight, herd instinct and hierarchy. The trainer–horse relationship was established in three phases: retreat, approach and association. At the end of the training sessions, all of the horses were able to respond correctly to the trainer. These observations suggest that it is possible to manage unhandled horses without coercion by mimicking their behaviour patterns.


Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: November 1, 2003

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