Mental rehabilitering av medicinskt friska hästar : kunskapsnivåer och praktiska handlingssätt
Sammanfattning: Traditional horse training methods often consist of negative reinforcement and punishments, and trainers sometimes tend to push the horse over its level of capacity, physically or mentally. Ignoring the horse’s warning signals could long term lead to various behavioural problems or even traumatize the horse. Horses that have been exposed to abuse, neglect or abandonment often have unknown background, which could somewhat complicate the rehabilitation of the horse after being rescued. These horses are usually fearful of humans to some degree although they could come across as apathetic, probably due to learned helplessness. This study aims to review the existing scientific literature regarding mental rehabilitation of medically healthy horses. It also aims to look into how the professional ethologist works with traumatized horses as well as horses with behavioural problems, and how a rehabilitation plan is formed. Mental rehabilitation of horses needs to be on the horse’s terms. It should be based on positive reinforcement and trainers will benefit from having patience and rewarding the horse’s positive behaviours instead of punishing negative ones. Every horse’s personality and past experiences are unique, and the rehabilitation plan should therefore be formed individually. A long-term and sustainable rehabilitation plan needs to be designed, which is flexible and can be adjusted if necessary. The horse’s needs should be prioritised over economic gain or the desire to get results quickly. The scientific knowledge levels regarding equine mental welfare are scarce. An increased focus here would probably lead to greater knowledge levels of the public as well. This would not only result in more successful rehabilitation methods but work preventively as well. It is important that people’s knowledge levels become more extensive, and above all realize that it is exclusively humans that cause and reenforce the behavioural problems experienced with horses. A good human-horse relationship requires spending the time and effort to understand the horse’s behaviour and pay attention to small signals given by the horse. In this way, horse owners can prevent the majority of problematic behaviours and traumatic experiences. Furthermore, it is of importance to realise when the horse simply does not understand what it is requested to do, and how one can help the horse understand.
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