Equine Behaviour

Study this course in horse behaviour online to understand the nature of horses, for better management or effective training, or just to improve your relationship with your equine partner.

Course CodeBAG216
Fee CodeS3
Duration (approx)100 hours
QualificationStatement of Attainment

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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 current 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 the 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, communication 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‚Äôs 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?

Most people don’t contemplate the need to understand a horse’s behaviour until they are faced with the difficulty of not being able to get a horse to do what they want it to do. Human nature is to then consider how they can get the horse to do what they want it to do… and it is then that we turn to studying equine behaviour. The natural progression is to then try and solve the specific difficulty. This approach is very shallow and will only contribute to solving the specific problem. Instead, we need to understand horses so that we can identify their needs. Only then can we identify that 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:

•    Horse Educator
•    Stable hand
•    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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ACS is an Organisational Member of the British Institute for Learning and Development
ACS is an Organisational Member of the British Institute for Learning and Development

Member of Study Gold Coast, Education Network
Member of Study Gold Coast, Education Network

ACS Global Partner - Affiliated with colleges in seven countries around the world.
ACS Global Partner - Affiliated with colleges in seven countries around the world.

ACS is recognised by the International Accreditation and Recognition Council
ACS is recognised by the International Accreditation and Recognition Council

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Alison Pearce

University Lecturer, Quality Assurance Manager, Writer and Research Technician. Alison originally graduated with an honors degree in science from university and beyond that has completed post graduate qualifications in education and eco-tourism. She has m
Peter Douglas

Over 50 years experience in Agriculture and wildlife management. Former university lecturer, Wildlife park manager, Animal breeder, Equestrian. Peter has both wide ranging experience in animal science, farming and tourism management, and continues to ap
Anna Jones

Human Biology graduate, with post grad MSc in Equine Science. Tutor with ACS for a decade; in addition to time spent in managerial, research and lecturing positions elsewhere. She also has over a decade of practical animal management experience.
Cheryl Wilson

Cheryl has spent two decades working in agriculture, equine and education industries, across England, Scotland, Australia and New Zealand. She graduated with a B.Sc.(Hons), HND Horse Mgt, C&G Teaching Cert. For several years, Cheryl managed the distance
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