In this article, Animal Scientist Dr. Tim Potter discusses the common misbelief that the behavior and cues of horses varies drastically across breeds and disciplines.

The Setting Doesn’t Matter

The equine industry today is extremely diverse. Equine enthusiasts participate in a variety of activities and enjoy many different breeds of horses. Activities include those in the English discipline, Western discipline, and Rodeo events, just to name a few.

A commonly held belief among horse people is that their specific breed or discipline is radically different from others. For example, cues required for a horse to execute a flying lead change are the same for a reining horse as it is for the dressage horse. However, participants in those events or disciplines rarely stipulate the consistencies.

As I was starting my career as an Equine Scientist, I accepted a position in a part of the country where the breeds and disciplines of horses were quite different from the ones I had grown up with. I expressed this concern to one of the professors on my graduate committee, to which he replied, “The digestive systems, the reproductive systems, and the behavioral characteristics are the same. Familiarize yourself with the breed and discipline and apply the principles you know”.

The following are areas of equine science that are the same, regardless of breed or discipline:

  • Instinctive Behavior of “Fight or Flight”
  • All Horses Have Blind Spots
  • Most Accidents Occur because of Carelessness
  • Horses are Predictable
  • Horses Learn by Repetition, Not by Reasoning
  • Never Reward Negative Behavior

Horse Safety Investigations

Robson Forensic provides specialized forensic experts to investigate injuries to riders as well as claims of neglect and abuse toward animals. Our experts can approach these investigations from the perspectives of horse trainers, facilities owners, nutritional specialists, and more. Contact animal scientist, Dr. Tim Potter to discuss your case and how Robson Forensic can assist.


Featured Expert

J. Tim Potter, Ph.D., PAS

Dr. Potter is an Equine Scientist with experience in both the academic and corporate sectors. He provides technical investigations, analysis, reports, and testimony toward the resolution of commercial and personal injury litigation involving areas of equine science, including nutrition, reproduction, behavior and training, safety issues, facility design and construction. Nutrition work includes feed formulation and production issues, on-farm feeding management, and analyses of interactions between formulated feeds and use of supplementation in the total diet. Reproduction work includes evaluation of nutritional status and reproductive efficiency, manipulation of the estrous cycle and effects of stress and/or environmental factors associated with reproductive status. Behavior and training work includes behavioral factors associated with training, and evaluation of potential abuse issues associated in the training process. Safety work includes evaluation of factors and scenarios that are related to safety, including lesson barns, safety issues at horse shows and at private facilities, and determining on-site person(s) of knowledge.