Horses and People

We share your passion

At newsagents in Australia and New Zealand,
in print, as an app or by subscription.
App Store - Logo Google Play Store - Logo

Equitation Science / Behaviour


Horses today live longer, healthier lives than ever before. We selectively breed horses to jump higher, run raster, move more flamboyantly... But the question many horse lovers would like to know the answer to is this: Are they happy? Are the domesticated lives we provide our horses fulfilling? How do we know what great quality of life means to the horse, and how can we measure it and, of course, could we do better?


The International Society for Equitation Science (ISES) has released a position statement on the use and misuse of man-made concepts in horse training, particularly dominance and leadership, warning they may jeopardise the creation of a harmonious relationship with the horse and may compromise its welfare.

Series: Setting Good Ground Rules Series


Setting Good Ground Rules Part 1 - Introduction

07/08/2009 by Elsa Willans-Davis

Australian Equine Behaviour Centre - Elsa Willans-Davis is a full-time trainer at the Australian Equine Behaviour Centre in Broadford, Victoria. She is adept at training and teaching all facets of the AEBC training system from foundation training through to problem solving, dressage and jumping.

Setting Good Ground Rules Part 2 - Stop and Go

08/09/2009 by Elsa Willans-Davis

Australian Equine Behaviour Centre -   In this Part 2 of our series I will explain how I train the basic responses of “go forward” and “stop” from the ground. Before you start

Setting good ground rules Part 3 - Park

04/07/2012 by Elsa Willans-Davis

Many people wrongly expect the horse will know he is supposed to stand still when he is tied up or is in a horse box, when in reality we should first train every horse that once you ask him to stop, he should not move nor follow you until you ask him to do so with your lead rope or reins. This is what we call 'Park'.  

Setting Good Ground Rules - Part 6 Head Control

18/04/2010 by Elsa Willans-Davis

Australian Equine Behaviour Centre - Head control The prerequisites to training head control in hand are training your horse to go, stop, step back, and park at obedience level (see parts 1 – 5 of the series).


Equestrian people from all over Australia and the world will travel to the Land Down Under in November 2017 to attend the annual ISES conference; this year being held at Charles Sturt University in Wagga Wagga, New South Wales, Australia from Wednesday 22nd to Saturday 25th November, 2017. The theme 'Equitation Science in Practice: Collaboration, Communication & Change' will provide opportunity to consider how the use of horses from leisure, to work, to sport, goes hand-in-hand with horse welfare. 


As most horse lovers know, our modern-day horses evolved from a five-toed forest-dwelling mammal that was about the size of small foxes. In the intervening 60 million years, the horse’s morphology has changed radically to better suit running fast over the savannahs and grasslands they now inhabit in the wild.  Despite this, horses are still, in many ways, scared little critters scuttling through the undergrowth trying to avoid being eaten by something bigger. 


Horses Hate Surprise Parties: Equitation Science for Young Riders is the first book to present the scientific principles behind horse training in a simple and easy to understand format. Suitable for both young and not so young riders, the book provides clear explanations of horse behaviour and an easy to follow blueprint for training on the ground and under saddle. 


For the first time, a research team from the University of Pisa has measured the synchronisation of heart beats that occurs during horse-human interactions using smart textiles.   Ethologists and engineers from the University of Pisa, Italy, teamed up to measure heartbeat synchronisation induced by the emotional stimulation that occurs during horse-human interactions. They did this by aligning and comparing the respective heart rate variability (the time interval between heartbeats) via a wearable ‘smart fabric’ system.   


Why would anyone listen to what I say about training horses?


Like most people, most horses prefer to know what is expected of them and what is likely to happen to them in particular circumstances. Uncertainty leads to anxiety. A horse will respond to a confusing situation either by getting upset and trying to escape, or by making his own decisions about what to do and how to do it. Riders tend to respond to these equine reactions and decisions with increasingly violent and unconsidered signals, making the horse even more confused. A confused horse is a dangerous horse, and a dangerous horse is a potential welfare problem.


Having a bit in the horse’s mouth to give you control when riding it is generally considered to be normal. Historical reports of the human-horse relationship almost always depict a bit of some description in the horse’s mouth (Figure 1) and often the humaneness of such devices is not readily apparent (Figure 2). Recently however, there seems to be a bit of a shift towards finding more ethical ways of horse control. One such approach is thought to be the use of a bitless bridle (Figure 3).


Subscribe to Equitation Science / Behaviour