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The Dominance Debate

The International Society for Equitation Science has released a position statement on the use and misuse of man-made concepts in horse training, such as dominance and leadership, warning they may jeopardize the creation of a harmonious relationship with the horse and compromise its welfare. The position statement encourages owners, riders, trainers and handlers to learn more about horses’ natural behaviour and cognitive (thinking) abilities, and to conduct all training in a calm, clear and consistent way, taking into account both the horse’s abilities and limitations. The statement summary reads: “Dominance hierarchies, alpha positions or leadership in social groups of horses are man-made concepts that should not form the basis of human-horse interactions. Horses are social animals that mainly interact with each other on a bilateral level (i.e. each horse has an individual relationship with each other horse), and it is unlikely that they have the concept of a rank order…

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