Dec 29

 Human-equine "predator-prey" relationship explored

  posted by helyn on 29.12.09 19:26 as General


New Report Documents the Faulty Science of "Predator-Prey” Relationship Between Humans and Horses

Colorado Springs, CO (December 14, 2009) — When she realized Mark was being too agressive with her filly, Dale Rose of Brandon, Mississippi got creative. Rose "gave” the teenager an imaginary glove to gentle his touch. "Then,” says the Wind Child Farm owner, "it became beautiful to watch.”

Whereas many trainers would have corrected the teen by telling him that humans scare horses because we’re their natural predators, Rose thinks "the predator-prey construct is at best a wobbly allegory” that needs serious revision. An article released today by the non-profit research and education organization Tapestry Institute says she’s right.

The predator-prey model of horse-human relationship has the reputation of being science-based and therefore reliable. But Dr. Dawn Adrian, Tapestry’s Senior Scientist, says it’s not good science.

Adrian, whose Ph.D. in Paleobiology is from UC Berkeley, says, "Humans do eat horses. But they eat dogs, too. Yet no one argues that the primary relationship between humans and dogs is predator-prey, or that dogs’ innate response to humans is fear. Dogs and humans have a complex evolutionary relationship, and so do horses and humans. Relationship is not a one-stop genetics shop.”

An example of erroneous biology is the explanation that horses instinctively buck riders because they mistake them for a predator. Horse predators, the argument goes, leap down from trees or cliffs to kill them with a bite to the back of the neck. So horses have evolved to instinctively fear, and try to dislodge, anything on their backs. But, Adrian points out, horses evolved on the plains — a place without trees or cliffs. And their natural predators worldwide are lions and wolves.

"Both wolves and lions hunt by running down their prey, coming at it low and from behind. So if you want to talk about horses’ instinctive relationships to predators, the issue is that they evolved long legs and hooves for a high-speed getaway in open country. Predators on their backs isn’t any part of that.”

Tapestry’s article on the science of predator-prey, released today on the organization’s website (http://www.thevoiceofthehorse.com/predatorprey), documents not only the ways that horses’ natural predators hunt, but how they kill too — and it’s not by a kill bite.

"There’s often a big gap between what scientists know and what the public thinks we know,” says Adrian. "So here’s the horse community doing its best to use valid, scientifically-based understandings of horses and it’s all tangled up in stuff scientists have known isn’t true for forty or fifty years. We’re trying to bridge that science gap so horsepeople have the information they need to do things better.”

Tapestry and Adrian have been bridging the gap between science and public for over ten years, through projects funded by five federal research grants, conferences and workshops, and invited presentations. Their Horse-Human Relationship Program serves Tapestry’s larger mission of integrating different ways of learning and knowing to help people reconnect to the natural world.

For more information, contact:
Anne Belasco, Esq.
Tapestry Institute
12495 Paint Mine Road
Calhan, CO 80808
Ph: 719-347-3090

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