Horse behavior in an arena is examined to determine their Umwelt, or point of view. When in an arena singly, horses displayed home base behavior, spending their time near the entrance, and excursion behavior, trips into the arena. At home bases, horses paced against the wall, pushed against the gate, looked out, and rolled. On excursions, they displayed a “sniff, look, and loop” pattern; sniffing the ground on the outward leg, looking with ears forward down the arena at the apex, making a faster return with ears back. When free with a pair mate, the area of its excursions expanded and if a pair mate was tethered at the far end of the arena, a horse shifted its home base to that location. When ridden, horses displayed similar sniff, look, and loop behavior centered toward the entrance. Experiments on memory for the arena showed it was good but was reset each day. A model suggests that behavior is shaped by a spatial gradient, in which stress expands in proportion to distance from home, and an exploratory gradient, in which patrolling is a part of each day’s outing. Science-based horsemanship can provide insight into a horse’s view of its world and is relevant to safe horse handling.
Part of the book: Equine Science