10 Horsemanship Science Resources on TheHorse.com

10 Horsemanship Science Resources on TheHorse.com

Researchers are studying how horses learn, what methods are most effective for teaching new tasks, the best ways to maintain good equine welfare during training, and more, and equestrians—and their horses—are reaping the benefits.

Photo: Alexandra Beckstett, The Horse Managing Editor

In the past, a substantial part of horse training relied on tradition. It comprised what worked for our trainers, friends, and professional horsemen. Teaching horses is certainly still partly an art, but researchers are now putting science behind it, as well. They’re studying how horses learn, what methods are most effective for teaching new tasks, the best ways to maintain good equine welfare during training, and more, and equestrians—and their horses—are reaping the benefits.

We’ve compiled 10 resources to help break down the science behind horsemanship and get you started on using this so-called learning theory in your own horse training. Find additional resources on the “horsemanship science” page or by searching “learning theory” on TheHorse.com.

ARTICLE: Thinking Like a Horse By gaining a better understanding of how horses associate and learn, can we train them more effectively and ethically? Equine behavior experts and equitation scientists explore how the horse’s mind works and what methods he uses to learn what we’re trying to teach him. Read More

ARTICLE: How Equine Memory Systems Work Horses, like humans and other animals, have different memory systems that allow them to store information they have learned. But which memory system a horse uses each time he learns a new task depends on a variety of factors—some of which we, as handlers, can’t control. Read More

PODCAST: Understanding Horse Behavior Why do horses do the things they do? A certified animal behaviorist answers listener questions about how horses learn, the causes of common stereotypies, herd dynamics, and more. Listen Now

ARTICLE: 10 Learning Theory-Based Horse Training Principles Dr. Andrew McLean shares principles that can help riders and trainers maintain horse welfare during training and are key to ensuring horse and rider safety and helping a horse perform at his best. Read More

ARTICLE: Training a Zorse: A Learning Theory Exercise Science-based horse trainer Andy Boothe shares how he used learning theory principles to train Stormy, a zebra-horse cross who he said had “complicated instinctive behavior that really challenged my training skills.” Read More

COMMENTARY: On Equine Research, Empathy ... and Elephants Dr. Andrew McLean describes equitation science's beginnings and how learning theory can apply to far more than horses. Read More

ARTICLE: Is Your Horse Ready to Learn? Australian researchers have determined that a little mental warm-up to prepare your horse for learning can go a long way toward effective, ethical training. Read More

ARTICLE: Behaviorist: Train According to Horses' Ethology, Cognition It might seem obvious, but taking a horse’s biological needs and capabilities into consideration can make for more efficient (and more ethical) horse training, says one international equine behavior expert. This includes their ethology (the study of animal behavior that provides information on how animals have evolved to live) and cognition (the ways animals process information about the world). Read More

ARTICLE: Can Learning Theory Lower Equine Vets' Injury Risk? A survey into occupational injuries in the United Kingdom revealed that an equine veterinarian is the most more dangerous profession compared to any other civilian occupation in the U.K. One veterinarian believes learning theory techniques (such as positive and negative reinforcement) could make horse handling safer for practitioners. Read More

PODCAST: An Introduction to Equitation Science Join two internationally acclaimed equitation science researchers to find out how this growing field of study can improve equine welfare, as well as you and your horse’s relationship. Listen Now

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