Working towards a new form of ethical horsemanship







Copyright © 2011 by Cadmos Publishing Ltd,

Richmond Upon Thames, UK

Copyright of original edition © 2010 Cadmos Verlag GmbH,

Schwarzenbek, Germany

Translation: Claire Williams

Design print edition: Ravenstein + Partner, Verden

Setting print edition: Das Agenturhaus, Munich

Cover photograph: Christiane Slawik

Content photos: Christiane Slawik

Editorial of original edition: Anneke Bosse

Editorial of this edition: Sarah Binns



All rights reserved: No part of this book may be reprinted or reproduced or utilized in any form or by any electronic, mechanical, or other means, now known or hereafter invented, including photocopying and recording, or in any information storage or retrieval system, without permission in writing from the publisher.

British Library Cataloguing in Publication Data

A catalogue record of this book is available from the British Library.


ISBN 978-0-85788-001-7


eISBN 978-0-85788-604-0


So tell me, riders, how do you feel about domination?

So tell me, riders, how do you feel about domination?


In recent years dominance seems to have become one of the key focuses of discussion and debate. Terms such as domination, control, dominance problems, hierarchy and dominance training seem to be on the lips of so many riders and trainers. Entire training methods rely on these terms and the models used to explain them. But do we really always have to dominate our horses? Are dominance and hierarchy really as significant in a horse’s day to day life as we are led to believe? And in many cases doesn’t a training system based on dominance do more harm than good?

Much of the terminology used by dominance-based trainers when explaining their systems comes originally from equine behavioural science. In spite of the advances within this branch of science some of the earlier ideas have been integrated into training methods, often without a full understanding of them. The typical behaviour of a herd, which has its own social structure and hierarchy, isn’t as obvious and one-dimensional as has been taught for decades. Meanwhile the scientific world is also seriously questioning the existence of a purely dominance-based hierarchy, both within a herd and in relation to humans. The stallions and mares of legend that take over leadership of their herds, and about whom much has been written, exist only in fairy tales. In addition, the question has to be asked whether training methods that rely for their basis on the principles of so-called ‘Dominance-based training’ really work in the way you are led to believe, or whether in fact the learning process behind them has nothing at all to do with establishing a new pecking order. The alleged absence of force in so many of these methods has to be strongly questioned.

Life as experienced in a herd, and the relationships that horses have with each other and with the people around them, leave a mark on other natural laws of behaviour. In this book I would like to try to dispel some of this confusion and give you an insight into a horse’s social life from a behavioural science perspective. In addition I will analyse horses’ natural associations and the tangle of their herd relationships as well as observing their relationship to humankind and our training methods. In doing this we will be able to paint a new picture of a horse’s social life and investigate an alternative method of training, which involves a more ethical type of interaction between horse and human.

This book should help you to assess different types of training methods for their understanding of equine behaviour and their freedom from force. I also hope to be able to give my readers the ability to differentiate between positive and negative training methods – whether at shows, competitions, or when choosing a trainer for your own horse. In being able to do this we are also contributing towards a more peaceful coexistence between humankind and the horse.


Marlitt Wendt, August 2010