HRH Princess Anne (seated, center) attended the National Equine Forum (NEF), held last month in England. In this photo, she is observing a demonstration of the new National Equine Database for British horses.
Is natural horsemanship just popular science or does it have legs that will hold up under academic scrutiny? Many international educators with formal credentials in equine behavior and equestrian science are asking some tough questions. Others would like to see more academic recognition of natural horsemanship principles in the larger scope of equine behavior studies. The academic nuances of natural horsemanship were voiced in public last month at the National Equine Forum in England.
Dr Debbie Goodwin BSc PhD FLS, a Lecturer in Applied Animal Behaviour at the University of Southampton in England and President of the International Society for Equitation Science, presented her view of natural horsemanship. She explained how natural horsemanship trainers have produced a cultural change in the thinking and approach to horse:human interactions and how academic equine ethologists have been concerned at the way some natural horsemanship trainers have presented "equine ethology." (Ethology is the scientific name for the study of behavior in zoology.)
According to Goodwin, often personal opinions are claimed to be facts, without any associated objective study of horse behavior in the natural or domestic environment. She pointed out that good natural horsemanship trainers are talented observers of horse behavior and can detect and respond precisely to subtle cues during horse training but that not all followers of these methods are as effective as the originating trainers.
Dr Goodwin expressed the importance of sharing knowledge for the ultimate good of the horse and that natural horsemanship scientists studying horse behavior had recently formed International Society for Equitation Science (ISES) to help communicate their work.
ISES will host the 4th International Equitation Science Conference in Dublin, Ireland on August 2 to 4, 2008, just before the opening of the F?ilte Ireland Dublin Horse Show.