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  1. #1

    Exclamation Bit pressure?

    The following from Horse.com raises some interesting questions:

    Study: Horses Prefer Less Rein Tension

    by: Christa Lesté-LasserreNovember 08 2010 Article # 17218

    Do you ride with a bit? Hold your horses! Okay, now let go.
    According to a new study by European equitation scientists, horses might prefer to avoid rein tension rather than just get used to it. And beyond a certain force threshold, rein tension can cause conflict behavior. To make the most of training and to keep the horse's mouth sensitive, riders need to know when to apply less rein tension, generally when the horse displays conflict behavior.
    "This motivation to avoid tension is, of course, what we make use of during training," said Janne Winther Christensen, PhD, a research scientist at the faculty of agricultural sciences at Aarhus University in Tjele, Denmark, and primary author of the study. "Increased focus on timing of pressure release is likely to benefit both learning and welfare," she said.
    Christensen and her French and Ukrainian colleagues tested 15 two-year-old Warmblood fillies that had never before had bits in their mouths. By using young horses, the researchers were able to see how the horse reacts naturally to rein pressure before having the effects of multiple riders and trainers. By fitting them with snaffle bits with reins attached to a surcingle (a strap that fastens around a horse's girth area) at various set lengths, they were able to test the horses' willingness to stretch their heads beyond a gate to reach a bucket of oats and molasses. While they expected the fillies to refuse the rein tension the first day of the study and then gradually increase their tolerance over the following days, they were surprised to find that the opposite was true.
    "The horses applied a surprisingly high level of tension on the first day and apparently learned how to avoid the tension, rather than habituate to it," Christensen said, adding that they accepted tension as high as 10 N (Newtons) the first day but only up to around 6 N on the subsequent days. "This clearly demonstrates that horses do find tension aversive."
    Conflict behavior--mouth gaping, head lifting and tilting, and backing away--was associated with high rein tension in the study, said Christensen, who first presented her findings at the sixth International Equitation Science Conference in Uppsala last August prior to the study's upcoming publication in Equine Veterinary Journal.
    Earlier studies, performed by different research teams, on rein tension in more experienced horses have shown pressure tolerance up to 40 N, and the horses did not always display conflict behavior, she said. However, these more experienced horses might have become less sensitive to the tension because of extended training without proper pressure release, and they might have been disciplined for displaying conflict behavior.
    Ideally, riders should be able to benefit in their training from horses' natural sensitivity to the bit. "One would expect that the higher the level of training, the less tension is necessary to get the horse to respond," she said. "So the aids should become lighter and lighter in advanced dressage."
    The basic data provided in this study will be used in future studies of how different training techniques affect horse welfare and stress levels, according to Christensen.
    "Training horses by the use of negative reinforcement, such as bit pressure and release, requires responsibility from the rider in noting when the training becomes aversive and stressful for the horse," she said. "Thus, both amateurs and professional riders must be willing to adjust their training techniques if their horse is showing conflict behavior."
    www.hartetoharte.org
    Ask and allow, do not demand and force.



  2. #2
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    any link to the actual research journal article?



  3. #3
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    This paper was presented orally at ISES Sweden 2010 - 6th International Equitation Science Conference

    You can download the conference proceedings which includes abstracts.

    Lots of very interesting papers, well worth reading if only to see what's being worked on.



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  5. #5
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    Quote Originally Posted by spirithorse View Post
    thanks, but that's a magazine article, not a peer reviewed scientific journal article.


    Melan, thanks for the link. sometime when I have some time to kill I'll pull up the citation and get the journal article. Ethology is an interest of mine.



  6. #6
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    It is from a peer reviewed document
    www.hartetoharte.org
    Ask and allow, do not demand and force.



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    Makes sense to me - really it just seems like common sense that a horse would, in general, avoid rein pressure and particularly resistant/'hard' rein tension (ie. a closed hand or fixed rein). They are learning to move off pressure and seek release. However that is not to say that a horse does not mind or will not seek out 'rein tension' as it picks up the bit, as a natural course of its (classical) training - of its own accord (according to its progressive schooling). Thus if it is done by the horse's own accord, the horse will pick up the level of tension best appropriate to it as an individual. For example, my Quarab LOVES a LOOOONG droopy rein (exaggerated droopy), as did our Paint. However my main Thoroughbred reaches for the bit easily and establishes rein tension and contact, as does his sister and others I have worked with. The preceding horses would too if worked with similarly to the Thoroughbreds however irregardless each horse would establish its own level of rein tension via its level of contact with the bit. My mare (OTTB) is a lot lighter, for example, than my main gelding (OTTB) when he picks up the bit, as would be the Quarab and Paint then obviously, if they were asked to pick up the bit in a dressage sense (dressage vs. western). The rest of the time my hands are soft soft soft (even to the point of being half open in their 'neutral' position) and are not establishing rein tension - the horse can feel I am there, but there is no tension as a whole. Hence the lack of conflict behaviour as a result of resistance to rein tension, because the horse is the one to establish rein tension - as a result of its balance and development.

    Maybe I'm missing something though
    ....horses should be trained in such a way that they not only love their riders, but look forward to the time they are with them.
    ~ Xenophon, 350 B.C.



  8. #8
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    Quote Originally Posted by spirithorse View Post
    :"This clearly demonstrates that horses do find tension aversive."
    Conflict behavior--mouth gaping, head lifting and tilting, and backing away--was associated with high rein tension in the study, said Christensen, who first presented her findings at the sixth International Equitation Science Conference in Uppsala last August prior to the study's upcoming publication in Equine Veterinary Journal.
    Karosel, note that this paper was orally presented in August, and has not yet been published. So you won't find a journal article at this time.



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    They needed a "study" to figure this out?



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    Totally depends upon where they were connected...low or high???
    I.D.E.A. yoda



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    Quote Originally Posted by Donella View Post
    They needed a "study" to figure this out?

    Heh, I know!



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    Quote Originally Posted by Donella View Post
    They needed a "study" to figure this out?
    Guess they did, since they had a premise and they disproved it:

    While they expected the fillies to refuse the rein tension the first day of the study and then gradually increase their tolerance over the following days, they were surprised to find that the opposite was true.
    Neither seems self-evident to me; I think it's an interesting question. IE, they were expecting to see habituation to discomfort in the process of getting a reward, same as if you put on a pair of shoes that kinda pinched but you really liked, so you keep wearing them until they don't bother you so much even though they aren't really comfortable.

    Instead, the horses apparently figured out a way to have less tension and still get the reward. It's not clear how they did that from the abstract, and maybe not clear to the researchers. The question of where the sidereins were attached could be a part of that question, as ideayoda mentioned.

    So this isn't a study about whether or not horses like or don't like rein pressure. It's a study about habituation, or lack thereof, to rein pressure.



  13. #13
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    Quote Originally Posted by MelantheLLC View Post
    Karosel, note that this paper was orally presented in August, and has not yet been published. So you won't find a journal article at this time.
    I must've missed that part. thanks.



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