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With four fantastic speakers squeezed into a jam-packed schedule with practical activities and demonstrations, our Love Your Horse day on May 21st in Essex was a great day had by all.
Looking at the world from our horses’ perspective was at the heart of Eric Belloy’s session on stereotypical behaviour and also key to Roxane Kirton’s presentation on “problem” behaviours.
Eric emphasised the importance of preventing the development of stereotypical behaviour by managing horses in a way that minimises stress and summarised evidence that shows horses may be genetically predisposed to displaying these behaviours.
Stress was also a theme in Roxane’s fantastic introduction to how horses learn. Roxane opened by drawing attention to the labels such as ‘naughty’, ‘stubborn’ or ‘lazy’ that are easily applied to horses but which actually prevent us finding the solutions that are available.
Roxane’s many fascinating facts included horses having the largest amygdala (the brain’s fear centre) of any domesticated animal; horses being blessed with photographic memories that do not alter with time the way ours’ do and horses need to carry out a task in five different contexts on average to be able to generalise the behaviour to new circumstances.
Plenty of nodding heads around the room suggested that Roxane was definitely striking a chord with many of her audience!
Participants had the opportunity to watch a demonstration of body condition scoring over lunch, which lead nicely into the session on “Feeding the Leisure Horse” given by Spillers nutritionist Sarah Nelson. Sarah was a brilliantly engaging speaker who got a huge amount of information across in a concise and accessible way and anyone who throws chocolates at her audience is bound to go down well!
Things became even more interactive after a fantastic overview of first aid for wounds by House and Jackson veterinary nurse Michelle Wilson when we were challenged to put principles into practice by describing a wound to the ‘vets’ on the other end of a phone who then had to draw the wound onto our life-size plastic horse to see how accurately the information had been conveyed. A real eye-opener in the importance of communication.
Thanks must go to the House and Jackson Horse Clinic for making their fabulous facilities and staff available and to Spillers for sharing their nutritional know-how with us. We sincerely hope that everyone who attended the day feels they really can ‘love their horse’ in the most practical way by caring and communicating with them more effectively and enjoyably.