To be successful with straightness training it is important to have insight in horse characteristics.
The influence of domestication on horse characteristics
The domestication of the horse took place around 5000 to 6000 years ago. During the first contact with humans, the horse stayed in his natural environment. To help the horse, the human gave the horse food and shelter. Searching for food was no longer needed. This made the horse dependent on humans.
Through targeted breeding, humans have influenced the horse and the favorable horse characteristics have been maintained and exaggerated. There were also some characteristics which disappeared over time.
The horse evolved through the centuries from being a hunted animal to becoming among other things, a draught-horse, working horse, beast of burden, battle horse and riding animal.
The results of selective breeding and the differing requirements of both humans and the climate created many different horse breeds.
Only the Tarpan and Przewalski horse remain close to their original natures and most closely resemble the wild horses of the past. These horses remain in their natural habitat, out in all weathers living in herds as their wild ancestors did. Also the Konik horses are still close to nature:
Horses in captivity, however, have still many characteristics in common with their wild counterparts!
Overview horse characteristics
Here is a short overview of the horse's characteristics:
- The horse is a herbivore and feeds on mainly grasses, herbs, vegetables, and water.
- The horse is a prey animal for predators and his best defense is to flee.
- There for he is also called a flight animal. The horse can reach a very high speed when galloping.
- The horse is a herd animal. Without the protection of the herd it is difficult for the horse to survive in the wild. The horse lives in a group for security, protection, peace and a greater chance of survival. Many eyes and ears ensure that a threat or predator can be spotted quickly.
- The horse is also a social animal. A horse is always born in a harem and a harem usually consists of one adult stallion and on average two to five mares and their offspring who remain with the harem until they are about three years old. Real friendships can grow between two horses. Some friendships can last a lifetime.
- Horses are hierarchical animals. They live in a strict hierarchy and each individual has his place in the pecking order. This provides clarity and peace in the group.
- Horses are steppe/prairie animals. The wild horse is almost constantly moving in its habitat in order to find food, water and minerals.
- Therefore horses are movement animals. Also because of safety a prey animal needs to move a lot. A horse's nature still has a need for movement and this is a characteristic that has not been lost through domestication.
- Horses are a creature of habit with an internal body clock. Grazing occurs at certain set times and they know when it’s their scheduled time to rest.
- Horses are instinctive animals. A horse often acts instinctively. That means that the reaction is innate, unconscious but effective.