Student - 16 maart 2011

Learning from the horse's mouth

How good is the match between a horse and its rider? You can learn how to answer this question with the help of online film clips of happy and not-so-happy horses.

The appearance of a horse's ears, nose, tail and the way it moves can tell whether a horse is feeling comfortable. Film clips, based on different combinations of horse and rider, explain eleven characteristics of the body language of the horse. There are also film clips for practising.
The film clips have been shot by VHL students in Equine Leisure and Sports in Wageningen. Together with students from The Hague University of Applied Sciences, they filmed sixty horse-rider combinations in 2008 and 2009 for a 'Match or Mismatch' research into horse welfare and the interaction between horse and rider. Subsequently, the body languages of the horses were evaluated by six experts.
'The assessments made by all the experts turned out to be exceptionally uniform', says Mieke Theunissen, VHL lecturer and coordinator of the major Equine Studies. Then came the idea of developing an online course for horse riders, trainers and jury members in the equestrian sector. This course is also taught to students in Equine, Leisure and Sports.
'In this way, people can learn to understand a horse and be able to describe what they see in a better way', adds Theunissen. Beginners, as well as qualified horse riders, can benefit from this, she emphasizes. 'For people who have just entered the world of horses, seeing the extreme behaviours can help a lot. They can learn how to tell the differences. Experienced riders can learn how to make subtle distinctions, such as the differences in tension in the forehand or the mid-section of the body of the horse.'
The information is available in Dutch, as well as in English.

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