Editor’s note: This article is part of TheHorse.com’s ongoing coverage of topics presented at the 2012 International Society of Equitation Science conference, held July 18-20 in Edinburgh, Scotland.
As equitation science progresses towards a better understanding of horse behavior and welfare, the age-old problem of scientists lacking practical experience is rearing its head and flaring its nostrils.
According to Dutch equitation scientists, researchers aren’t always able to evaluate ridden horse behavior as consistently as professional trainers. This behavior includes actions such as how a horse carries his head, neck, ears, and tail, and what he does with his mouth and legs, for example. Kathalijne Visser, PhD, senior researcher in the Animal Behavior and Welfare Group of Wageningen UR Livestock Research, in Lelystad, The Netherlands, presented on the topic at the 2012 International Society of Equitation Science (ISES) conference, held July 18-20 in Edinburgh, Scotland.
Professional trainers tend to agree in their evaluation of ridden horse behavior, said Visser. But this agreement seems to be lacking among equitation scientists. That’s probably because scientists have had very different, and much more detailed, training in how to assess and evaluate ridden horse behavior than what trainers have had, she said.
"Scientists … potentially lack some of the applied experience that professional horse trainers have with ridden horses in evaluating the ‘whole picture,’ because most scientists are trained to evaluate and assess behavior of horses, mostly in a natural, unridden state,"