One of the incredible things about horses is their ability to learn. Dressage is, of course, a great testament to a horse’s ability to understand, remember and perform with a trainer.
But what most people (especially non-horse people) often don’t realise is just how intelligent horses are. Not only can they learn by interacting with a trainer, but they can also learn by watching another horse interact with a trainer.
That means that horses can teach themselves how to do something just by watching another horse do it. Pretty incredible, right?
A lot of you reading this might already know about this, and it’s certainly common knowledge amongst some horse people that allowing a horse to observe training is a great way of easing them into the arena themselves.
But here is where it gets more interesting:
A horse will only learn through observation if they are observing a horse that they respect. If the horse that is in the arena (the demonstrator) is of a higher social status than the horse that is watching (the observer), then the behaviour will be learnt. But if the demonstrator is of lower social status, or it is from a different social group, the observer will not learn the behaviour it watches.
The social lives and minds of horses are much more complex than people often give them credit for.
- Horses can learn from watching other horses, but only under some situations.
WILL LEARN: The horse they are watching has a high social status than them.
WON’T LEARN: The horse they are watching has a lower social status.
The horse they are watching is from a different social group.
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What to do when your horse bucks.
A bucking horse can be a surprising, scary experience. But there are a few rules that can help you keep control.
The two most important things to remember are:
- Try to keep your horse’s head up.
A horse can only buck when it has its head down.
- Try to keep moving forward.
Bucking requires a horse to stop and plant their front legs into the ground. Moving forward prevents this.
A combination of these two things can often stop a horse from bucking.
It’s important to learn the indicators that your horse it about to buck so you can employ these two tactics.
What else do I need to remember?
Horses buck for a number of reasons, but it always indicates an irritable or fearful mood. Your main goal is to calm your horse down, so you need to be calm too.
The Last Resort Method.
If you aren’t able to stop the buck with forward movement and head-lifting, you can pull your horse’s head to the side so it comes close to your leg.
This will make it difficult for your horse to buck. It isn’t ideal for the horse, but it can help control severe bucking. Hold that position until your horse has stopped, then swap to the other side.
Dismount if it’s necessary, but try not to run away when you’re off, as that may scare the horse more.
Are there different kinds of bucking?
Sometimes a horse will buck because it has been spooked, in which case you may be able to lower your centre of gravity (heels down) and ride it out. Talk to your horse and try to make them feel comfortable and safe.
To find out how much it costs to build an indoor arena, read our article.