Seeing Arenas From a Horse’s Perspective

Researchers investigated how horses interact with and view riding arenas as spaces. Here’s what they found.

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Seeing Arenas From a Horse’s Perspective
Riders should keep horses’ natural tendencies in mind whenever they ride and across all stages of training, whether in an arena or outdoors | Photo:

For you, it’s a work area. But have you ever thought of what an arena space is in the eyes of a horse? A grassless void, a place of separation from a herd, a place that has a “home base” and other areas worthy of careful exploration. Even if they’re used to “working” in that space, horses view arenas in the context of their own natural environment. Ethical training should take the horse’s point of view into consideration and allow the horse to express natural exploratory behavior in arenas, according to Canadian researchers.

Their study design and full details are described in their paper, “Sniff, look and loop excursions as the unit of “exploration” in the horse (Equus ferus caballis) when free or under saddle in an equestrian arena,” published in a recent issue of Behavioural Processes.

“We have demonstrated that the horse has a unique viewpoint of the (arena) area, revolving around a home base, and a specific behavior pattern, looping, that it uses to explore the arena,” said Candace Burke, BSc, MSc, of the Department of Neuroscience in the Canadian Centre for Behavioral Neuroscience at the University of Lethbridge, in Alberta, Canada

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Passionate about horses and science from the time she was riding her first Shetland Pony in Texas, Christa Lesté-Lasserre writes about scientific research that contributes to a better understanding of all equids. After undergrad studies in science, journalism, and literature, she received a master’s degree in creative writing. Now based in France, she aims to present the most fascinating aspect of equine science: the story it creates. Follow Lesté-Lasserre on Twitter @christalestelas.

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