Everything Horse Magazine August 2021 Issue 44 - Page 37

Taking our time , reducing pressure and engaging in empathetic , positive and consistent training are the greatest educational gifts we can give to a horse .
HORSE WELFARE

Taking our time , reducing pressure and engaging in empathetic , positive and consistent training are the greatest educational gifts we can give to a horse .

Figure 1 : Valence
( positive or negative mood ) and arousal for training and competition
Table 1 . Equine physical development
AGE PHYSICAL DEVELOPMENT BEHAVIOURAL DEVELOPMENT
Birth
Pedal bone fused
Become curious about surroundings , exploring regularly interspersed
with play and lots of sleep . Gradually they get used to people in close
proximity from 2 weeks of age through the first few months of life .
6 months Short and long pasterns fused . Thoroughbreds and other light horses will reach 84 % of their mature height at the age of 6 months . During the first 6 months the foal will reach 46 % of mature weight . Bone mineral content ( BMC ) is at 68.5 %.
1 year Hock , cannon and knee bones fusing over the next 18 months . Thoroughbreds reach 94 % of mature height and 65 % of mature weight at 12 months . BMC is at 76 %.
2 years Bottom of the radius fuses . Tibia and top of radius fuses around 2.5 years .
Foals learn through interactions with other foals and horses of varying ages in their social group . At this stage they should readily leave the dam for periods of play with other foals . Often foals are weaned at this time ( much earlier than in a natural setting ).
Naturally foals may only just be weaned from the dam . Domestic weaning is often a traumatic experience occurring earlier in life , with lots of research showing that abrupt methods are damaging in later life . Object play is important for yearlings . Play between yearlings is often very physical and fast , they are practising life skills .
Horses are beginning to sexually mature at this age . Some behavioural changes may be seen as a result or hormonal changes . Horses at this age should be really used to people and being handled .
3 years
Femur and humerus fuse .
As the horse matures it spends less time sleeping and playing ( but this is still important ) and can concentrate for longer on tasks . The horse is now the equivalent of a human in their mid-late teens or even early twenties depending on the temperament .
3.5 years Scapula and Pelvis fuse , vertebrae begin to fuse over next 2.5-3 years .
By this age many horses may look mature however they may be easily over-aroused by new stimuli and are coming into the peak of their experiential learning period ( 3-6 years ).
4 years
Scapula and Pelvis fuse
The horse will be physically stronger and will be showing the
behavioural effects of its training up to this point .
5 years
Mandible and Pelvis fuse
The horse should now be able to adapt to interact with a variety of animals , humans and other stimuli in a calm way providing it has had positive and low-key introductions to these things throughout early life .
6 years Vertebrae fuse . Maximal BMC is achieved around 6 years .
The horse is entering its prime working years from a physical and mental perspective .
EVERYTHING HORSE MAGAZINE : AUGUST 2021 • 37