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March 28, 2023 3 Comments
The fourth "F" doesn't refer to a four letter word that starts with "F". It refers to a list of things scientist from around the world have collaborated upon to help people understand horses. The first three have been on the list since the beginning of modern horse behavior science. The last one, I add today, as food for thought for you, the avid horse enthusiasts. Or should I say... addict. Wink, wink. 😉
I love alliteration and acronyms because they help me tattoo important messages into my memory, making them easier to recall.
For years, scientists who study horse psychology have agreed that in order for a horse to meet basic physical and psychological needs, they need three things: Food, friends, and freedom.
For a horse in captivity, we learn to feed them about 2 to 3 percent of their body weight every day. A thousand pound horse gets 20 to 30 lbs. of roughage. We learn they also need friends. A lone horse can survive but thriving in the way of their instinctive family draw, requires a companion. So, most of us have horses together, or at least across the fence from each other, on a day to day basis. We also learn they need space to express their movements. A small pen or paddock doesn't allow for sprinting and flying about during a play session. We can all imagine an athlete being confined to a prison cell. Psychologically, it would be hell on earth to be confined to small spaces.
Now for the last one... fulfillment. It's all about adding some kind of meaningful, engaging pathway forward. In nature it could be as simple as climbing the pecking order and earning breeding rights or exploring new feeding territory and watering holes. In captivity it needs to be something else. It needs to be playful and positive encounters with the humans that steward them. Liberty games, riding games, trail riding, etc. Even performance riding could be positive if you make sure to watch the horse's stress levels and learning capabilities.
So, the question is... do you give your horse all four needs? Is something missing? In your goal to add fulfillment, do you need more knowledge about managing stress and making training a positive experience for both you and your horse?
If you'd like inspiration. Look no further...
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