The horse–human dyad: Can we align horse training and handling activities with the equid social ethogram?

Document Type


Publication Date



This article examines the recently completed equid ethogram and shows how analogues of social interactions between horses may occur in various human–horse interactions. It discusses how some specific horse–horse interactions have a corresponding horse–human interaction – some of which may be directly beneficial for the horse while others may be unusual or even abnormal. It also shows how correspondent behaviours sometimes become inappropriate because of their duration, consistency or context.

One analogue is unlikely to hold true for all horse–human contexts, so when applying any model from horse–horse interactions to human–horse interactions, the limitations of the model may eclipse the intended outcome of the intervention. These limitations are especially likely when the horse is being ridden. Such analyses may help to determine the validity of extrapolating intra-specific interactions to the inter-specific setting, as is advocated by some popular horse-training methods, and highlight the subsequent limitations where humans play the role of the ‘alpha mare’ or leader in horse handling and training. This examination provides a constructive framework for further informed debate and empirical investigation of the critical features of successful intra-specific interactions.