Equine Behaviour

Duration (approx)

100 hours


Statement of Attainment

Improve Your Horsemanship – Understand Horses – Develop Skills Employers Want

Understanding equine behaviour is more than handling horses. Horses are complex animals, their psychology is very different to other animals people are commonly familiar with. Truly knowing your horse can lead to a bond which can be extraordinary.  Don’t underestimate the power of your relationship with your horse. Horses reflect our own emotional states and can teach us things we don’t fully realise or recognise in ourselves.

• Develop your horsemanship skills
• Learn about the true nature of horses – understand why horses behave as they do
• Solidify and add to what you already know
• Show commitment to your learning and career
• Work at your own pace so you can still dedicate time to your horses
• Access our friendly support staff and have your own tutor to contact as you go – as much or as little as you need

Understanding equine behaviour is fundamental to form a trusting relationship and a strong respectful bond.

Handling horses involves risk. Understanding horse behaviour is vital to ensure the safety and well-being of horses and humans.
It is the responsibility of anyone working with horses to understand their nature and behaviour so they are effectively and properly cared for.

Understand Equine Behaviour

  • To manage horses better, as a rider, owner or trainer
  • Professional development for anyone working caring for horses
  • Follow your passion, work in the equine industry
  • Start studying anytime, work at your own pace
Understand and recognise what constitutes normal behaviour in your horse and learn to respond appropriately to abnormal behaviour. The study of equine behaviour provides a foundation for more sensitive and informed care and training of horses.

Lessons cover genetics, perception and behaviour, communication and social behaviour, sexual and reproductive behaviour, learning and training and behavioural problems.

Course Testimonial

“An essential course for anyone who works with or owns horses! Horses are more complex than many realise, horse lovers will find this a fascinating, essential topic. Anyone who works with horses will get value by completing this course. Having a deeper understanding of horse behaviour – their fears and intelligence – will allow you to minimise the frustration you may often feel when trying to handle your horse and hopefully encourage you to have patience, and communicate in a language they can understand” – J. Sciascia B.Sc. (Biology), Dip. Prof. Ed. (Horse Owner).

Lesson Structure

There are 7 lessons in this course:

  1. Introduction: Influences and motivation
    • Why study equine behaviour?
    • What motivates behaviour?
    • Reactive behaviour
    • Active behaviour
    • Cognitive behaviour
    • Species behavioural differences
    • Learned behaviour
    • Classical conditioning
    • Stimulus conditioning
    • Trace conditioning
    • Delayed conditioning
    • Operant conditioning
    • Terminology
  2. Genetics and Behaviour
    • Understanding the basics
    • Heritability
    • Epigenesis
    • Innate behaviour
    • Selective pressures
    • Social behaviour
    • Rank
    • Conflict
  3. Equine Perception and Behaviour
    • Imprinting
    • Negative imprinting
    • Sensory reception
    • Mechanoreceptors
    • Thermoreceptors
    • Chemoreceptors
    • Photoreceptors
    • Stimulus filtering
  4. Communication and Social Behaviour
    • Social Constraints
    • Herd Membership
    • Auditory signals
    • Chemical signals
    • Communication
    • Co-ordination
    • Cohesion
  5. Sexual and Reproductive Behaviour
    • Sexual encounter
    • Isolating mechanisms
    • Birthing behaviour
    • Foal imprinting
    • Maternal behaviour
    • Abnormal behaviour
  6. Learning and Training
    • Conditioning and learning
    • Shaping
    • Extinction
    • Habituation
    • Instrumental Learning
    • Thorndike’s Law of Effect (1913)
    • Operant and Respondent Behaviour
    • Pseudo-conditioning
    • Intero-ceptive Conditioning
    • Temporal Conditioning
    • Biological Aspects of Learning
    • Associative Learning
    • Obedience
    • Reinforcement
    • Punishment
    • Systematic desensitisation
    • Counter conditioning
  7. Behavioural Problems
    • Types of Abnormal Behaviour in Horses
    • Diagnosing Behavioural Problems
    • Indicators of Pain
    • Indicators of Mild Fear
    • Indicators of Extreme Fear
    • Stress
    • Stereotypes
    • Stable Vices
    • Prevention
    • Ridden Vices
    • Handling Vices
    • Problems during loading

Each lesson culminates in an assignment which is submitted to the school, marked by the school’s tutors and returned to you with any relevant suggestions, comments, and if necessary, extra reading.


  • Identify factors affecting equine behaviour
  • Describe the influence of genes on equine behaviour.
  • Explain how horses perceive and how they respond to various stimuli
  • Explain how horses communicate and the nature of their social organisation.
  • Explain the sexual and reproductive behaviour of the horse.
  • Describe the different ways that horses learn and how this can be applied to the training environment
  • Explain how and why behavioural problems occur and how they can be prevented

Why study Equine Behaviour?

Many people don’t contemplate the need to understand a horse’s behaviour until faced with not being able to make a horse do what is required.

The natural progression is to try to solve the specific difficulty, however this approach may only contribute to solving the specific problem.

Instead, we need to understand horses so that we can identify their needs appropriately. Only then can we identify the problem comes from the expectations we have on the horse and the manner in which we are dealing with the issue.

If we want to work with these beautiful animals, we have to acknowledge the differences between us and them and strive to understand their needs and priorities as best we can.

Only then will we develop the trusted bond between human and horse and work as a team.

Where will this course lead?

The following are just some of the job areas where a background in Equine Behaviour would be an asset:

•    Stablehand

•    Veterinary Assistant
•    Assistant in commercial equine centre/outlet
•    Horse Groomer
•    Pet Shop Assistant
•    Horse Trainer
•    Horse Riding Instructor
•    Assistant in horse riding schools
•    Pony Party Event Organisations

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