Ally Schultz

October 11, 2014
Intern/Mentor GT, Pd 6
Research Hypothesis Assignment

In The Eye of the Beholder: The Importance of Human-Animal Bonding and The Use of
Reinforcements in Promoting Positive Outcomes in Horse Training

Research Question and Hypothesis:
What is the impact of human-animal bonding and the elimination of unwanted force on a
horses overall training achievements?
With the use of a trusted handler and “natural” based horsemanship, a horse will be more
willing to perform specific tasks asked at an increased rate of action.

Background and History of the Issue:
Abuse in the form of training horses is evident at almost any barn one might visit. This
could include jabbing of the horses’ mouth with a severe bit or whipping the horse for
reasons the horse does not understand. From this, the horse may not perform at its highest
ability. From the time horses were first domesticated and used for work and recreational
purposes, some people had opposing opinions on how breaking and training horses
should be done. Recently, “natural” based horsemanship has become very popular among
horse owners due to their want for a connection and healthy bond with their equine
companion. There have been numerous experiments and research on the impact of
human-horse bonds as well as horse behavior when it comes to bonding. There have been
few researchers who have dug deep enough to connect how horses naturally
communicate with other horses and how a person can mimic this to create a positive
environment. There has been close to no research on the two put together; how with a
human-animal bond present already and the use of “natural” based horsemanship can
affect the horses’ performance.

Problem Statement and Rationale:
The way horses are trained and how that horse looks forward to the work it is being told
to do is important to me because I have seen a multitude of abuse cases and unhappy
horses. I have also experienced this myself with my own horse and the barn I am

currently located at. When horses feel like they are being pressured to do something, they
may not do it as well as they are able to. With the introduction of “natural” based
horsemanship and bonding into the horse and owners relationship, they will be able to
reach goals that would be harder for them to do without both factors. There is not enough
research being done that brings the two factors together to actually show the positive
impact as a whole from it.

Basis of Hypothesis:
I focused my hypothesis on a specific type of handler and training method because there
is a lot of research done about either factor but rarely both. Also, I have been hearing
controversy about both factors since I began riding and training horses. With the
controversy, I’d like to dig deeper into both sides people take. I am interested in viewing
statistics and research done on a controlled setting of horses with both factors present. So
far, the research I have done has supported the ideas of both factors greatly but I have not
yet found a source with negative thoughts with either factor. With this, the sides are very
limited and I’d like it not to be.

Operational Definitions

“Natural” based Horsemanship: Used in my hypothesis, it refers
to a training method in which the horse’s natural way of
communication, such as with body language, is the main focus of
training. The horse and handler are “equals” but the handler is
the leader. Both positive and negative reinforcements are used but
it does not make the horse unbearably uncomfortable.
Specific Tasks: Examples could be to touch an object on cue, be
ridden and saddled calmly, and answer to body language or vocal

Research Design:
I would like to conduct experimental research. If this becomes possible, I will create an
experiment with two horses but with one, recreate my hypothesis. Then I would create
tasks both would have to complete. I will mainly use qualitative and descriptive research
though. I will interview many horse trainers, survey horse owners and riders, and observe
training methods and the outcome of those. I will also use statistics from other
experiments that focus on only one or both factors and combine.