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Explaining the Evidence-Based Horsemanship model

Published: 1/17/2013
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By Maddy Butcher

If only we could discover what’s really best for our horses.

If only we could get inside their heads.

At the Alberta Horse Breeders and Owners Conference, Dr. Steve Peters took the ‘if only’ out of the equation. Speaking before standing-room only crowds, Peters laid out the groundwork for how best to evaluate everything from training methods to horse management.
He also devoted an entire lecture to ‘what’s under the hood,’ providing an introductory survey of the horse’s brain functioning.
It’s the stuff of Evidence-Based Horsemanship, a book he coauthored with Martin Black.

In the opening slides of his lecture, Peters explained the meaning behind the term, “evidence-based.” It’s familiar territory for this neuropsychologist, who’s been working in the health field for more than 20 years.

“An evidence-based approach relies on outcomes of observations and is informed by the most current scientific knowledge. Egos, persuasive salespeople, and charismatic personalities have little relevance,” he said.

Read about Evidence-Based Horsemanship seminar.

We can take this approach and apply it to our horsemanship. Here are examples that might be found in your barns and arenas. Cartoon drawings are by me and are not associated with Peters' presentation.

  • First, ask any question
Should I blanket my horse? Should I give him turnout or put him in a stall? Should I give him grain? Should I hold tight to the reins?

  • Second, acquire evidence.
This evidence can be anecdotal or scientific. But try to find evidence that’s done on a large scale by a respected source. And when you’re researching, get as close to the source as possible.

To read more on that, click here. (Scroll down and read about Dr. Cohen's keynote AAEP address)
  • Next, apply what you’ve learned.

Try turning out your horse or keeping him in a stall. Which suits him better?
Try letting go or holding tight to the reins.

Give yourself plenty of time to see changes and results.
If you have several horses, try different methods with different horses.

  • Finally, assess the evidence.
Using your research and anecdotal observations (from professionals and from your own experimentation), you can answer just about any question.

Pay attention to what’s best for your horse in terms of health, behavior, and performance. And always be open to new interpretation and additional research.

Coming soon:

“The drugstore is already in their heads”
-- Dr. Peters explains how we can work with the horse’s brain chemistry to optimize our care, riding, and management.

Read about Evidence-Based Horsemanship seminar.

Read more Evidence-Based Horsemanship articles here.

Photo by Kyla Pollard
Cartoons by Maddy Butcher

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1/18/2013 Joe
Love the drawings.

"There are no problem horses, only problem riders" - Mary Twelveponies