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Defining the terms and processes associated with equitation.

McGreevy, P.D., McLean, A.N., Warren-Smith, A.K., Waran, N., Goodwin D., 2005. Defining the terms and processes associated with equitation. Proceedings of the 1st International Equitation Science Symposium, Broadford, Victoria, pp.10-43. Eds: P. McGreevy, A. McLean, N. Waran, D. Goodwin, A. Warren-Smith. Post-Graduate Foundation in Veterinary Science, Sydney.

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The need for precise definitions is accepted in human psychiatry (DSM-IV, 1994) and is increasingly called for in veterinary behaviour medicine (Overall, 1997;

2005). In contrast, the use of non-scientific terms is customary in equestrian circles and is added to by contemporary trainers and self-styled horse whisperers. Data suggest that qualified equestrian instructors frequently confuse the meaning of terms that originated in behavioural science (Warren-Smith and McGreevy, in prep). Several descriptors may be used for the same behaviour, depending on the observer (Mills, 1998). The use of such terms may encourage imprecise and inappropriate interpretations of equine behaviour. For example, many layman’s terms imply subjective mental states in the horse and that horses are culpable participants in the training process. These assumptions can have negative welfare implications for the domestic horse and safety implications for riders and handlers (McLean, 2004).

Publication of the Equid Ethogram (McDonnell, 2003) is welcomed, since it defines terms that appear in the literature on free-ranging and managed horses. However, the Equid Ethogram includes discussion on few human-horse interactions. Since equitation science seeks to improve the welfare of horses and improve clarity of communication in their interface with humans, it is appropriate to address this apparent gap in the agreed hippological terminology.

This paper advocates the need for a glossary of terms that provide a scientific framework on which to base future discussions and debate. The challenge for equitation science is to define and quantify as many elements of the interaction between riders and horses as possible. Ethological and anatomical nomenclature can and should be used to describe a horse’s manoeuvres but the description and measurement of more conceptual and less tangible qualities, such as feelings (including happiness), depends on the development of more innovative techniques than are currently available. That said, it is possible to quantify acute and chronic stress through the measurement of heart rate and corticosteroid concentrations.

The glossary and definitions offered below will be presented at the First International Equitation Science Symposium and remain a living document that can be reviewed by subsequent symposia and downloaded from a nominated web-site. Underlined words have separate entries in this glossary.