Section 9 of The Animal Welfare Act 2006 for England and Wales states that an animal needs to be able to exhibit normal behaviour patterns
How horses learn and respond to training is a field of increasing investigation and is leading to a better understanding. Horses respond best where aids and instruction are clear and consistent. Ill-timed or inappropriate reprimands will be counterproductive and may lead to the very problems the trainer is trying to avoid.
Any disciplinary action taken must be timely, i.e. only applied at the time of the misbehaviour. Any action must be proportionate to the need and only applied by a competent person, who should seek advice in cases of difficulty.
Restraint should only be applied for the period when it is actually required. The restraint should be the least severe, yet most effective method available, appropriate to the need.
If chemical restraint (i.e. sedative drugs) is needed it must only be prescribed and administered either by a veterinary surgeon or on their specific instruction for that particular animal and the particular circumstances. Sedatives should not be used as a substitute for good horse management.
Section 4 of The Animal Welfare Act 2006 makes it an offence to cause unnecessary suffering to an animal.
Horses should be handled quietly, with care and patience to avoid injury, pain or distress. Handling and restraining devices must be used humanely and with regard to the horse’s natural movement, behaviour, temperament and physical capabilities. They should only be used by sensible, competent persons.
All tack and handling equipment should be maintained in a good, clean, functional condition. Expert advice should be sought regarding the fitting of new saddles or harness.
All horse clothing should be fitted correctly, to avoid slipping or rubbing and causing discomfort by any means and to avoid the risk of entanglement.
If a horse believes he is higher than humans in the pecking order of his social circle, this can be quite straightforward to remedy if the right approach is taken. The key is not to interpret the horses’ behaviour as deliberately difficult or aggravating; he is probably behaving quite naturally according to equine logic. Rehabilitating a seemingly aggressive equine involves showing them that humans are happy to take on ‘management decisions’ for the group and he can sit back and take a less stressful role. Horses don’t have egos in the same way humans do and can usually readjust to a new place in the hierarchy without developing insecurities or resentment!
In all cases, the most important factor is to ensure that the person undertaking rehabilitation work has all the skills and experience necessary, as in the wrong hands, even with the best intentions, behavioural problems can quickly be made worse.