Equine Behaviour

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

Lesson Structure

There are 7 lessons in this course:

  1. Introduction: Influences and motivation
    • What is an equine?
    • Why study equine behaviouir?
    • Scope of equine behaviour
    • What motivates behaviour?
    • Categories of behaviour - reactive, active, cognitive
    • Species behavioural differences
    • Learned behaviour and learning ability
    • Other influences on behaviour
    • Behavioural differences between breeds
    • Related terminology
  2. Genetics and behaviour
    • Inborn, innate or inherited?
    • Understanding the basics of genetics
    • Effects of the environment
    • Heritability, epigenesis, interaction between species, survival
    • The importance of inborn behaviours
  3. Perception and behaviour
    • How do animals perceive things?
    • Imprinting
    • Types of stimuli
    • Stimulus filtering
    • Equine perception and behaviour
    • Sensory perception - horse verses human
    • Sight, taste, smell, touch, sound
    • The body language of horses
    • Fight or flight
    • Terminology
  4. Communication and social behaviour
    • Animal societies
    • Social constraints and herd membership
    • Signals of communication - chemical, tactile, visual signals
    • Social organisation - home range
    • Maintenance behaviour
    • Play behaviour
    • Lack of equine company
  5. Sexual and reproductive behaviour
    • Sexual strategies
    • Normal sexual behaviour - stallions, mares, mating, birthing
    • Foal imprinting
    • Normal maternal behaviour
    • Abnormal sexual behaviours - stallions, mares
  6. Learning and training
    • Conditioning and learning
    • Shaping, extinction, habituation, instrumental learning
    • Thorndyke's Law of Effect
    • Operant and respondent behaviour
    • More aspects of conditioning - pseudo-conditioning, interoceptive conditioning, temperol conditioning
    • Biological aspects of conditioning
    • Cognition and learning
    • Associative learning
    • Obedience, reinforcement, punishment
    • Reinforcement schedules
    • Flooding, Systematic desensitisation, exhaustion, punishment, habituation, counter conditioning, join-up/follow-up
  7. Behavioural Problems
    • Abnormal behaviour
    • Types of abnormal behaviour in horses
    • Diagnosing behavioural problems
    • Domestication
    • Stress
    • Stereotypes
    • Stable vices - crib biting, wind sucking, weaving etc
    • Prevention
    • Ridden vices - shying, tongue over bit, head tossing, rearing, bucking etc
    • Handling vices - leading, unwillingness to be caught, etc.
    • Transporting horses - problems during loading, horse trailer requirements

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


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

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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Marius Erasmus

Subsequent to completing a BSc (Agric) degree in animal science, Marius completed an honours degree in wildlife management, and a masters degree in production animal physiology. Following the Masters degree, he has worked for 9 years in the UK, and South
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Dr. Gareth Pearce

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