What's it like to be a horse: how to improve equine mental health
Horse & Hound|September 02, 2021
A World Horse Welfare webinar considered how best to support our horses’ mental wellbeing
ELEANOR JONES

CONSIDERING “what it’s like for a horse to be a horse” should be at the heart of efforts to improve equine mental wellbeing.

At a World Horse Welfare webinar on 25 August on horses’ mental health, Andrew McLean, who specialises in training horses and elephants, having evented to top level, was joined by former champion jockey and pundit John Francome and World Horse Welfare’s Caroline Heard.

Dr McLean, who co-founded the International Society for Equitation Science, spoke of what has changed in equestrian management and training.

He said science has had a huge impact on equine physical health, but “science hasn’t always helped us understand horses’ minds”.

He said we still understand animals in terms of hierarchy, for example, adding: “That’s a big legacy because when we say, ‘This one’s dominant,’ it leads us to thinking about and training horses in terms of dominance; that narrative is very strong.”

But he added that the “new frontier” is equitation science.

“In terms of welfare, the horse has always been seen in terms of its utility, and the aim in looking after them was to give them a better life,” he said, adding that this has moved on from a “better life” to “a more worthwhile life”.

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