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Are Horses Brave

author
Bob Roberts
• Thursday, 05 November, 2020
• 8 min read

Often, I hear owners and trainers comment that their horse is “chicken,” “gutless,” “spineless,” “counterfeit” and other admonishments not fit for print in a family magazine. In the days when horses roamed great ranges where food was sparse and predators plentiful, horses who hung around to find out if an unfamiliar object was truly dangerous were much less likely to survive, and pass on their genes to future generations, than those who got the heck out of Dodge.

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Contents

This extensive peripheral range offers the advantage of detecting predators easily, but comes at the expense of visual acuity (the ability to clearly discriminate fine detail). In short, we have an animal that sees far more than we do, but much less clearly, combined with a hair trigger flight response to leave quickly when anything suspicious comes into their visual field.

The horse’s brain has extremely large olfactory bulbs with a huge number of receptor cells giving them a sense of smell that makes ours laughable. Much of a horse’s alarm about seemingly invisible bogey monsters may be attributed to his ability to hear sounds that we cannot, without always localizing the source.

When we combine horses sensory perspective (huge on information input, but poor on discriminating detail) with a hard-wired instinct to flee first and ask questions later, it is quite remarkable that we do not end up with our butts in the dirt a great deal more often than we do. Some thrill seekers search out terrifying events for the adrenaline high, while others crave an evening at home with a good pilot noir and Season 4 of Downton Abbey.

“The Big Five” are N (Neuroticism, Nervousness, Negative effectivity), A (Agreeableness, Altruism, Affection), E (Extroversion, Energy, Enthusiasm), O (Openness, Originality, Open-Mindedness) and C (Conscientiousness, Control, Constraint), and along with their subcategories are thought to encompass most human personality traits. In a review of many animal personality studies, researchers Gosling and John found that three of the Big Five factors, Extroversion, Neuroticism and Agreeableness (and to a lesser degree Openness) could be used effectively in describing animal personality.

Various animals (including pigs, dogs, donkeys, chimpanzees and even guppies and octopus) demonstrated that individual differences may be organized along these personality dimensions. They found that the Big Five factors Neuroticism (anxiety, nervousness and reactivity), Agreeableness (being well-mannered), Extroversion (sociability with other horses), Openness (curiosity about new experiences) and Conscientiousness (reliability and dependability), as well as a factor they called Activity (energy), could reliably be applied to horses and showed variable individual differences.

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Kristiansen and colleagues (2013) replicated Morris’ study and extracted eight factors (Neuroticism, Activity, Conscientiousness, Agreeableness, Openness, Social Extroversion, Temperamental and Disciplined). They also included a “don’t know” option to tease out items that may not be applicable to horses, arguing that personality variables need to relate to an observable behavior that is available and detectable to the rater.

Interestingly, only Extroversion and Neuroticism showed consistency between subjective measures and observable behaviors. However, Neuroticism (which captures nervousness, reactivity, and excitability) consistently shows reliable, measurable, individual differences.

In spite of everything I have said, there is much we can do to build a horse’s tolerance for things that frighten him, regardless of where he may fall on the N factor spectrum. Event riders often use a buddy when introducing horses to water, and thereby circumnavigate a troubling and potentially career ending issue.

Make this strategy a first line of defense; leading the way before things get alarming, rather than after the panic has taken hold, will be more effective. Most of the behaviors we would like to see, however, do not occur spontaneously (jumping obstacles, dancing to music, suppressing an instinctive alarm reaction to terrifying stimuli), and so do not provide an opportunity for reward.

We would do well to eliminate value laden terms like brave,” “courageous,” “gutless,” or “chicken” from our equine vocabulary. A horse that needs to inspect every new obstacle he encounters is doing precisely what he was evolutionarily designed to do, and what kept his ancestors alive such that he is here today to continue doing it.

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Yet, horses have an amazing capacity to learn to overcome their natural flight instinct, to leap over immense obstacles, work as riot control police agents, fly in planes, or perform in front of immense jumbo trons in packed stadiums. On the occasions where they fall back to the “I’m out here” evolutionary default, we could afford them a little slack, and realize we have left a hole in their education.

So just try a few getting him used to different things method, and he'll probably toughen up a bit of good luck! We've all done it, “good, boy, .......... it's okay, ........... steady”The horse thinks, my goodness I was right to behave this way, look where is gets me, a pat and a kind word.

Your everyday handling of many situations will color a horses' judgement of you and they WILL change personality depending on how they feel in the pecking order. If they feel they are being looked after and someone is in charge they will chill out and rely on you to sort things.

I have put a lot of effort into stopping myself from tensing up/pulling back when he spooks or jumps, and I still sometimes do it is just natural reaction but most of the time I completely ignore him. I wouldn't want a robotic horse.) For example, I let my novice friend hack my pony, and he was a lot of worse.

I guess I just have to carry on getting him used to stuff that frightens him but it's a long process when he is scared of different things every day! My boy isn't brave, but riding affirmatively and always being prepared to back up signals has really built up the number of places we can go and things we can see happening comfortably and safely.

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The key for us has been not to strengthen the signals I give(which only made him more scared and intimidated by me), but for me to be far more alert, consistent and soft when I am working with him. I have to keep him on the aids and give signals he already understands, while being aware of his 'scary things' without focusing energy on them and constantly, softly correcting what I want Skye to do.

Even the 'firm tone' people recommend using to get attention switches Skye's brain off and makes him more worried. Some spooky horses go better without whips and spurs too, it can be like being yelled at when they're already just holding in there, I don't think they can blame for switching off and doing what comes naturally and running away or unloading the rider, being yelled at is scary.

My old TB was very spooky, his spooks made me fall off a few times and I got scared. Cue spooking gets worse and I end up terrified of riding him at all.

My boy isn't brave, but riding affirmatively and always being prepared to back up signals has really built up the number of places we can go and things we can see happening comfortably and safely. The key for us has been not to strengthen the signals I give(which only made him more scared and intimidated by me), but for me to be far more alert, consistent and soft when I am working with him.

I have to keep him on the aids and give signals he already understands, while being aware of his 'scary things' without focusing energy on them and constantly, softly correcting what I want Skye to do. Even the 'firm tone' people recommend using to get attention switches Skye's brain off and makes him more worried.

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(Source: greatqueenlina.deviantart.com)

Some spooky horses go better without whips and spurs too, it can be like being yelled at when they're already just holding in there, I don't think they can blame for switching off and doing what comes naturally and running away or unloading the rider, being yelled at is scary. The rider needs to be the person they can trust and have confidence in to lead them. We have a strong bond, which helps increase his confidence in me to lead him and look out for him, there have been incidents where other horses would have been long gone or being a drama llama where Skye chose to do the safe thing and keep following my directions, whatever else was happening.

I relax the reins to give him freedom to go forward, but not enough to spin around, and just keep my leg on, so he knows I'm there. So yeah whatever I'm doing obviously works which is all that matters really I guess I'm just wishing his personality was less jumpy and nervous (mainly with the jumping which is one thing I'm not overly confident about now) and I'm comparing him to another pony I used to ride who had absolutely no fear when jumping.

Maybe someone here rode all/most of them. Lookin more horses with most bravery and very high hp. Gotten wild bay mustang since I got into chapter 2, gonna look for grille dun mustang for that extra point of acceleration later and then next war horse with better stats available is one of those 4 after I'm done with chapter 2 but thing is they're all same stats except Tennessee and Hungarian cost 10 dollars more (150 instead of 140).

Polly going to get one of those two solar for fact of costing a bit more but still. Seeing how big hp, huge bravery war horses get unlocked during progression my idea of the best bravery and hp war horse progression looked like this.

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Sources
1 quizlet.com - https://quizlet.com/59101758/chapter-12-flash-cards/
2 medium.com - https://medium.com/datadriveninvestor/3-reasons-why-youth-voter-turnout-is-so-low-%EF%B8%8F-%EF%B8%8F-%EF%B8%8F-2e9990915b0
3 www.minnpost.com - https://www.minnpost.com/eric-black-ink/2021/01/voter-turnout-in-2020-set-a-record-will-it-continue-to-be-high/
4 aei.pitt.edu - http://aei.pitt.edu/32418/
5 www.cavalierdaily.com - https://www.cavalierdaily.com/article/2020/12/mattingly-voting-should-be-mandatory
6 blogs.lse.ac.uk - https://blogs.lse.ac.uk/politicsandpolicy/look-beneath-the-vote/
7 fox40.com - https://fox40.com/news/political-connection/rankings-which-states-dont-bother-to-vote-is-your-state-one-of-them/