While many times horse handlers are taught to be confident and assertive when working with horses, there are times when more-submissive body postures can be beneficial.
To test what type of body language horses responded to the best, scientists from the University of Sussex used 45 riding-school horses and five pairs of demonstrators whom the horses did not know. Each horse was led into an arena, turned loose and allowed to approach the demonstrators, each of which was female.
Initially the demonstrators faced each other in neutral body positions; the horses that approached received food. Next, one demonstrator took a dominant pose, with body upright and chest high, while the second demonstrator stood with her arms wrapped around her hips and her knees bent, indicating submissiveness.
The faces of both demonstrators were covered and the trials were repeated with each demonstrator assuming both positions to both the left and right of one another. All findings were videotaped and then examined. Horses chose to approach the “submissive” demonstrator 90 times while only approaching the “dominant” demonstrator 27 times.
This study reinforces that the body language a horse owner or handler uses is very important.
Read more at EQUUS magazine.
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