Nothing earth shatteringly surprising for us in the results of this new study,
Except the fact that it is getting publicity in mainstream horse circles.
Key points are:
According to a new study by European equitation scientists, horses might prefer to avoid rein tension rather than just get used to it. And beyond a certain force threshold, rein tension can cause conflict behavior.
"This motivation to avoid tension is, of course, what we make use of during training," said Janne Winther Christensen, PhD, a research scientist at the faculty of agricultural sciences at Aarhus University in Tjele, Denmark, and primary author of the study.
By using young horses, the researchers were able to see how the horse reacts naturally to rein pressure before having the effects of multiple riders and trainers.
While they expected the fillies to refuse the rein tension the first day of the study and then gradually increase their tolerance over the following days, they were surprised to find that the opposite was true.
"The horses applied a surprisingly high level of tension on the first day and apparently learned how to avoid the tension, rather than habituate to it," Christensen said, adding that they accepted tension as high as 10 N (Newtons) the first day but only up to around 6 N on the subsequent days. "This clearly demonstrates that horses do find tension aversive."
Earlier studies, performed by different research teams, on rein tension in more experienced horses have shown pressure tolerance up to 40 N, and the horses did not always display conflict behavior, she said. However, these more experienced horses might have become less sensitive to the tension because of extended training without proper pressure release, and they might have been disciplined for displaying conflict behavior.
I have not sought the horse of bits, bridles, saddles and shackles,
But the horse of the wind, the horse of freedom, the horse of the dream. [Robert Vavra]