Finding the best behaviour professional for your horse

Have you reached the end of your tether with your horse’s behaviour?

Those who’ve experienced unwanted behaviour with their horses know what it’s like to be at their wits end with worry! Feelings of frustration, being on tenterhooks around your horse and even having sleepless nights due to fretting about unhappy situations, are all too common. This means you might end up needing specialist care just as much as your horse!

If you or someone you know is feeling like this, you are NOT alone. Even those with vast horse experience can come across a challenge from time to time and need to seek professional help.

Undesirable behaviour communicates something IMPORTANT to us

The good news is, it’s time to give ourselves a break! This is because unwanted behaviour isn’t a sign of bad horse ownership or an indication that your horse is deliberately being naughty and laughing at you behind your back. Put simply, your horse communicates the only way he can – through his behaviour. How he behaves tells us much about how he THINKS and FEELS.

Although the behaviour can be unsafe or unwanted, try to keep an enquiring mind and see it as an opportunity to translate what important messages your horse is giving you.

So, before sleepless nights ensue and you consider selling your unmanageable horse (or worse: you end up in A&E and threaten your horse with a visit to the local pet food factory!), let’s consider the best solutions available.

 “Who you gona call…? HORSE BUSTERS!”

As conscientious owners we can naturally feel responsible for our horse’s actions. We can also be unsure on the best approach to take. Well meaning friends will each have a different opinion of how best to ‘deal’ with things. Online forums and social networking pages will offer a whole array of (usually conflicting) advice. If you ask your farrier, trainer or yard manager they will probably each have a different opinion too.

Whilst well meaning, they wont necessarily be knowledgeable in the fields of equine ethology or learning theory. So, despite their good intentions, they are unlikely to be able to recognise WHY the behaviour is happening and therefore how best to help.

Happily, more and more horse lovers are seeking help from behaviour professionals. Less happy however is the confusing array of horse whisperers, horsemanship gurus and wannabe Dr.Dolittles, all of which claim to be able to ‘fix’ your horse. Often with no academic knowledge or qualification in equine behaviour or learning theory, they still claim to use the best methods around.

Some of these methods can help SOME horses, but is it a gamble worth taking? Choosing the wrong method or technique FOR YOUR HORSE can exacerbate a problem. If not suitable it can be unkind for the horse and also make the things more unsafe.

What’s so special about the SEBC (Society of Equine Behaviour Consultants)?

It can be thoroughly bewildering for horse owners trying to find the best solutions for their horses. Things are improving though, with the number of recognised and registered industry professionals growing.

SEBC is the UK’s primary body regulating equine-specific behaviour consultants. Qualified, insured and registered SEBC practitioners look through a ‘scientific lens’ to establish the cause(s) of any behaviour. Importantly, they find out WHY the behaviour is happening, which is key to helping your horse in the best possible way.

If you book a visit with a SEBC professional, they will take the full story (history) from you. Then they will observe key signs in your horse’s body language. By doing this, the consultant will be able to explain to you any learned behaviour your horse has and, most importantly, whether there is any underlying emotion present, such as fear, pain, frustration or anxiety.

 Only then can appropriate methods be chosen and TAILORED FOR YOUR HORSE, to ensure the challenge is resolved for the long term.

Would you ask your farrier to rasp your horse’s teeth?

It’s unlikely that you’d ask your farrier to rasp your horse’s teeth, or ask your physiotherapist to take blood samples. Using the right person for the right job makes for the most effective and, in the long term, cheaper solution to the problem.

Employing a behaviour specialist can be by far the SAFEST and KINDEST option for your horse as SEBC promotes only safe and gentle methods.  You’ll be assured the highest level of customer care and professional support right through to a happy outcome.

Using somebody unqualified for the job can be like putting a plaster over a gaping wound and hoping it will stick and that the wound will heal.

Did you know?

Certain methods can temporarily suppress a behaviour as they address the ‘symptom’ and not the cause of the challenge. For example, in front of a large crowd a ‘problem loader’ is magically loaded into a trailer in 10minutes. This works because the ‘pressure and release’ method addresses the symptom of the problem (i.e. the horse planting it’s feet) rather the cause (i.e. the horse’s genuine fear, linked to a previous experience). That’s why following the show-stopper method, the horse’s unwanted behaviour can return, sometimes with a vengeance.

Don’t delay, make that call today!

Don’t hold your horses! It’s important to seek professional support and advice as soon as you can so help can be put in place for your horse. However, if things do reach crisis point, help is still at hand as registered consultants are used to dealing with extreme and very varied behavioural challenges.

We can all learn to better listen to what our horses tell us through their behaviour. When our horses’ messages are clearly heard and ‘translated’ we can then begin to truly help them. We are two totally different species after all, so we are continually learning how to communicate and live together in harmony.

Only when we’re fully informed can we be the change our horses want to see.