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How to ensure a simple, secure and efficient training of the young horse

Séverine Henry
Martine Hausberger


Horses’ education requires repeated interactions with a trainer and training sessions may be special moments during which the horse builds up its own positive or negative representation of humans, depending on the quality of the interaction. Previous works shed light on the beneficial effects of using the maternal influence in order to establish a trustful human-foal relation and facilitate the first education (haltering for instance) of the foal. But, how to ensure more efficiently the learning of more complex tasks such as saddle-breaking? In a series of studies, we demonstrate that: (1) the use of a positive reinforcement-based training improves not only speed of training (learning to remain immobile and undergo several handling procedures, accepting the first steps of saddle-breaking), but also attitude of young horses during training (i.e. less agressive behaviours) and horse-trainer relationship in contexts other than training, with long-term and generalized effects; (2) a negative reinforcement-based training induces conversely an increased emotional state in the horse leading to a less positive relationship; (3) only food reward is efficient as a primary positive reinforcement, as scratching the withers (commonly used as a classical reward in horse training) do not allow real progress in training, nor do it impact on the human-horse relationship during the tests. In conclusion, creating a positive learning situation appeared to benefit both learning and behaviour during the training sessions. It is also essential in order to ensure secure training in horses.

Dates and versions

hal-01345062 , version 1 (13-07-2016)



Séverine Henry, Carol Sankey, Martine Hausberger. How to ensure a simple, secure and efficient training of the young horse. 64th Annual Meeting of the European Federation of Animal Science, Aug 2013, Nantes, France. Wageningen Academic Publishers, 19, Book of Abstracts. ⟨10.3920/978-90-8686-782-0⟩. ⟨hal-01345062⟩
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