Those who dream of building a successful career in horse training and management in Colorado have a long but rewarding journey ahead of them. It begins with selecting the right equine management Colorado program and it continues with learning the basics of horse behavior. This latter step is the most important, because training and managing horses means applying knowledge related to their behavior to all the facets of the human-horse interaction.
The science of studying animal behavior is referred to as ethology. Although ideally the studies should be conducted in the natural habitat of the animals, behaviorists agree that domestic horses behave relatively similar to wild horses in their natural environment. They define behavior as the response of the animal to the environment.
Since the environment in which domestic horses live is relatively controlled, their behavior is predictable. The traits that make horses stand out from other animals are:
- They are social animals; they prefer to live in herds and they are more comfortable when they can maintain visual contact with their kind.
- They are herbivores, eating mostly grass and leaves.
- Young horses tend to imitate the old.
- Horses breed seasonally, which leads to foaling patterns.
- Males often form separate male sub-group structures in certain periods of the year.
- Horses are seen as one of the animal kingdom’s prey species.
- They can develop strong pair bond relationships.
Horses’ unique behavior is mostly determined by their status of herbivores and prey species. While carnivores focus their efforts on stalking food and consuming it fast, horses spend less time searching for it and take their time when consuming it. Carnivores’ feeding patterns usually involve attacking and subduing their prey, while horses simply graze and browse.
Types of Horse Behavior
Behaviorists and equine management Colorado specialists classify horse behavior as follows:
- Contactual Behavior – It involves contact with other animals in order to seek out protection, affection or some other benefits.
- Communication Behavior – It is included by most other behaviors and it is maybe the most important for horse management.
- Ingestive Behavior – It refers to drinking- and eating-related activities.
- Eliminative Behavior – It is associated with urination and defecation.
- Sexual Behavior – It refers to mating.
- Epimeletic Behavior – It involves caring for the foals, but also for other horses, and it goes from standing together under shade to chasing flies from one another.
- Allelomimetic Behavior – Horses tend to imitate the behavior of their peers.
- Investigative Behavior – It refers to the exploration of the surroundings.
- Agonistic Behavior – It involves manifestations related to conflict and fighting, like anger, submission, aggression or conflict flight.
- Dominance \ Submission – Dominance is usually established through violence (agonistic behavior like fights between stallions) or threatening looks (pinned back ears, squeals or sudden moves in the opponent’s direction).
As mentioned above, the most important step in building a successful career in horse management is to study the above equine behavior types in depth, understand them and use the knowledge acquired to obtain the desired responses from the animals being trained.
Luckily, many reputable institutions have introduced accessible and efficient equine management Colorado programs in their curricula, so turning one’s passion for horses into a long term respectable and rewarding profession is no longer an impossible dream.