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Equitation Science / Behaviour

Development of facial expression pain scale

April 2014

A team of researchers from Italy, Germany and England have successfully developed and validated a standardised pain scale based on the facial expressions of horses, called the Horse Grimace Scale (HGS). Easily trainable, this new method will assist in pain detection in horses and could positively impact the welfare of horses that undergo routine painful procedures, such as castration.

UK study aims to understand back pain in horses - its management and treatment

November 2013

Physiotherapy techniques designed to manage back pain in humans have commonly been applied to treat equine back pain, however further research is still needed to link the symptoms and clinical findings, explains veterinary physiotherapist Gillian Tabor.

Can good horse training get any better?

October 2013

  Equitation Science coach and director of EquiSci Lisa Ashton reports from the 9th ISES Conference in Delaware, USA, where in a plenary duo, leading equine behaviourists Dr Andrew McLean and Professor Paul McGreevy explained how science can help us understand the more subtle and complex emotional aspects of horse-human interactions, and how future research in this area will help maximise training success and enhance horse welfare.

Is your horse in the mood to learn?

July 2013

Behaviour scientists say that learning processes are universal and just like all beings, horses can be trained, or more precisely they learn to modify their behaviour by three distinct processes: trial and error (operant conditioning); association (classical conditioning); and getting used to things (habituation). They named these the Principles of Learning, or Learning Theory; an apt name because as many horse people will tell you, they may work perfectly in theory, but turn out to be a lot more complex to put into practice.

Equitation Science Conferences Inspiring Future Generations

December 2012

Following the trend set by the International Society for Equitation Science, the 2013 Assessment and Asymmetry Conference, UK will provide another opportunity for scientists, technical experts and practitioners to work closely together, this time to specifically discuss how asymmetry impacts on horse performance, comfort and welfare, and how we can better understand and study it.

To Bit or not to Bit... Responses of young horses to bitted and bitless bridles during foundation training

December 2012

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).

Training the opportunist and the comfort-seeker

November 2012

Of all animals, humans are the ultimate calculating opportunists. While pressing the world around us into our service we have bred and trained a few of the other animals to suit our purposes. Among these domestic species, we are, I think, most indebted to dogs and horses. The nature of this debt is complicated by deep bonds, some of which appear to be more or less reciprocal. There is, for instance, an argument that our interdependence with dogs has been so great that we may have co-evolved.

Different Training Methods... are they really different?

November 2012

Learning theory explains the learning processes that occurr during negative reinforement (pressure-release), positive reinforcement, negative punishment, positive punishment, classical conditioning, and habituation. In this referenced article, Dr Amanda Warren-Smith argues that Learning Theory can help explain all horse-training methods, as well as identify any practices that compromise horse welfare.

UK Politicians Support Monitoring Noseband Tightness

August 2012

Members of the UK’s Associate Parliamentary Group for Animal Welfare (APGAW) have expressed their concern over the use of certain nosebands on horses in competition. APGAW is an all party group for members of both houses of the British parliament, formed to promote and further the cause of animal welfare by all means available to the Parliaments at Westminster and in Europe.

Linking science and practice

August 2012

Equitation Science is relevant to all horse training. It includes learning theory, ethology, cognition, biomechanics and sports science as a way of informing a more ethical and effective way of training horses. In recent years the rise of ‘natural horsemanship’ has led to too much emphasis on natural equine behaviour and not enough on learning behaviour. In fact, both are equally important. The difference between learning and training The behaviour of all animals changes as a result of their experiences: this is learning. It enables them to respond to changes in their environment.


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