Understanding Horse Behaviour by Lesley Skipper explores how the natural, evolved behaviour of horses can be affected by the demands of domesticity, management, training and competition.
It examines the ethical and moral responsibilities of the thinking horse owner and horse lover. I enjoyed the writing style, which assumes that the reader is an intelligent adult on a quest for improved understanding. The author provides arguments that are well evidenced and thought provoking.
The book starts with a review of wild and feral equids and how various natural stress factors affect behaviour. It moves on to consider the natural behaviour of horses and how today’s domesticated horses deal with the demands made upon them.
The reader is taken on a journey of discovery as the author separately considers management and the need for the horse to be a social animal, training methods and discipline and how owners and riders can help horses, through a variety of methods, to be content and useful working animals.
The extensive sections on training continue the evidence-based challenges to the reader, covering everything from classical riding to “natural” training methods that are currently popular in some circles. All disciplines are covered and considered in depth.
Unfortunately the section on breed behaviour has a strong American focus and it lacks any reference to recent British animal welfare legislation or the “Five Freedoms”, which would so aptly have supported the author’s arguments.
Despite these minor irritations I would describe this book a delight to own, being of very high quality and beautifully produced with good colour photographs, and should be compulsory reading for all owners.