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The Importance of the Trainer`s Gaze in Horse Training

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Abstract:

New training methods which rely on the ethological characteristics of the horse are spreading in the horse world. Some of them highlight the importance of trainer-horse eye contact during training in the round pen. The aim of this study was to assess the effects of eye contact with the trainer on the behaviour of saddle horses during training. Ten horses, aged 4 to 17 years, were subjected to two training sessions in the round pen, one in which the trainer was wearing very dark sunglasses, the other in which the trainer was wearing normal transparent glasses. The latency of some behaviour patterns which are deemed to be representative of the horse s attention towards the trainer and acceptance of the trainer as a social leader, were measured. The results show that horses oriented the inner ear towards the trainer, sham-chewed, lowered the head, stopped, approached and followed the trainer sooner (p<0.01) when the trainer was wearing transparent rather than dark glasses.

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