Now that you are all properly “tenderized” (i.e. more open, malleable, and flexible in your thinking), we are ready to tackle a big piece of this learning journey – what we (think) we know about horses, and how we interact with them.

People of all levels of horsemanship frequently misinterpret equine psychology, physiological, communication, and behavior, commonly grounding their understanding of horses in information provided by horse trainers, books written by horse trainers, or on their own personal experiences. In most cases, this information is not derived from empirical scientific investigation, or even careful observation and non-biased study.

One of the common jokes in the horse industry is “what can two horse people agree upon?” and the answer is “that they don’t agree on anything at all”. This is telling, and indicative of the horse industry. There are countless “old wives tales” about horses, and the amount of misinformation about horses and horse handling/training techniques is quite shocking. This has been aided and abetted by a general lack of scientific study conducted with/on horses, and the prevalence of the “science-to-service gap” in which the results of the research that has been conducted never makes it into the hands of  the horse owners and horse professionals.

Take for example the question of whether or not horses see in color. Although research shows that horses can in fact, see color, horse professionals have taught their students or trainees for years that horses are “color blind”, and many continue to teach this information today. Another example even closer to our particular topic is round penning  – an activity taught by most every natural horsemanship trainer and used frequently in EAL/EAMH. We have been taught for years that round penning is a “gentle” way to start a horse and a positive option for interspecies communication using the language of Equus. The emerging research doesn’t agree, and frankly isn’t so keen on the act of round penning (and many of the other so-called “natural horsemanship” activities, even suggesting these activities can be detrimental to horses.

Finally, how often in EAL/EAMH have you heard that the “reason horses are so helpful is because they are prey animals….”. This way of describing horses can lead to the belief that horses live in a constant state of fear and hyperarousal, and that humans must be the responsible, all-knowing caretakers who shepherd the poor, helpless, terrified beasts through the world. This understanding of horses infantilizes them, making it easier to explain away certain trespasses.

Sadly, this is a common human behavior, used by certain cultural, racial, or gender groups throughout time to assert and maintain dominance over another group (which could include humans or animals, or even nature itself). Consider what men said about woman (and continue to suggest today). They are the “weaker” sex and need to be “taken care of” because they aren’t as capable or intelligent as men – which of course has led to men asserting their dominance and rule over women’s rights. Similarly, consider the rationale of invaders, who suggest that the indigenous people whose land they are taking are somehow incapable of caring for themselves, their people, or their land, and thus the invading group must step in and do it for them. As we know from history, this is the biggest lie ever told – And, it has been told repeatedly so that the invading group gets whatever resources they want regardless of the outcome.

All of these justifications have lead to countless atrocities to cultural, racial, sexual, and gender minorities, animals, and the natural world.

So, to set the record straight, horses actually spend the vast majority of their lives in “rest and restore” or “social engagement”, surviving in the wild BECAUSE of their relational nature and their ability to move quickly between neural states. Given the ability for self-governance, horses are exceptionally good at navigating the three-part nervous system; moving between social engagement, shutdown, or freeze-or-faint seamlessly as the need arises. This function allows them to remain both physically and emotionally healthy, and supports good decision-making abilities. Therefore, horses are not helpless, scared, thoughtless creatures in need of human leadership.

It is up to us to change how we view and interact with horses. Luckily, in recent years an emerging understanding of equitation science and rigorous ethological study has provided a platform from which to better understand horses, and to make informed and educated decisions about how we engage with them. This learning module is designed to further that effort; To get you thinking, to question your beliefs and biases about horses and how you engage with horses, and to learn new knowledge, skills, and information that will help you become an even better horse person and business owner.

I urge you to go forward with an open heart and an open mind, becoming voraciously curious, challenging your own beliefs, KNOWING YOU CAN DO THIS WORK, and forging a new path forward.

Learning Objectives

  1. Define equine ethology and describe the ethological characteristics of equines.
  2. Identify how ethological characteristics inform equine care and handling, and how attending to these characteristics can impact the health and wellbeing of equines.
  3. Define equitation science and discuss its role in equine-assisted mental health and equine-assisted learning especially in relation to safe handling practices.
  4. Recognize and interpret common forms of equine communication and behavior; including demonstrating the ability to differentiate between submissive/appeasing behaviors and engaged curiosity and learning.
  5. Demonstrate understanding and practical application of objective equine assessment.
  6. Recognize characteristics of equines suitable for equine-assisted learning.
  7. Identify and apply risk management protocols and procedures for equine-assisted learning and the associated forms.


The below list of articles and books are to be used at your discretion. These are resources to help you learn the desired content and meet the above objectives of this module. Please don’t get overwhelmed when you see this list. Just read what you can, and consider it a wonderful asset that you can draw upon and return to at any time you have a spare moment to do additional reading. Also, feel free to supplement these articles with other resources of your choosing as long as they speak to generally the same topics and content.

About the books, I would highly recommend purchasing as many of these as you are able to begin to build your equine library. Whether or not you read them during this class, they are valuable resources for your continued learning.

Public-Access Articles

Do Horses Like Being Groomed?

Groom Your Horse with His Comfort in Mind 

An Evaluation of Parelli’s Training Methods

Researchers Urge Rethink of ‘Monty Roberts’ Training Method

Reconsidering Natural Horsemanship

The Heavy Toll of Emotional Stress on Horses

Latest Research on How Smart Horses Are

The Secret Lives of Horses

How Human Behavior Impacts Horse Welfare

Yes, Animals Have Personalities

Scientists Discover that Horses are More Expressive than Chimps 

Study Confirms Horses ‘Talk’ to Human Handlers

Peer-Reviewed Research Articles

Fenner, K., Mclean, A. N., & Mcgreevy, P. D. (2019). Cutting to the chase : How round-pen , lunging , and high-speed liberty work may compromise horse welfare. Journal of Veterinary Behavior: Clinical Applications and Research, 29, 88–94.

Goodwin, D., McGreevy, P., Waran, N., & McLean, A. (2009). How equitation science can elucidate and refine horsemanship techniques. Veterinary Journal, 181(1), 5–11.

Goodwin, D. (1999). The importance of ethology in understanding the behaviour of the horse. Equine Veterinary Journal Supplement, 28(28), 15–19.

Krueger, K. (2007). Behaviour of horses in the “round pen technique.” Applied Animal Behaviour Science, 104(1–2), 162–170.

Lesimple, C., Fureix, C., Menguy, H., & Hausberger, M. (2010). Human direct actions may alter animal welfare, a study on horses (Equus caballus). PloS One, 5(4), 1–8.

Lansade, L., Bonneau, C., Parias, C., & Biau, S. (2019). Horse ’ s emotional state and rider safety during grooming practices , a field study. Applied Animal Behaviour Science, 217(January), 43–47.

Rørvang, M. V., Christensen, J. W., Ladewig, J., & McLean, A. (2018). Social Learning in Horses—Fact or Fiction? Frontiers in Veterinary Science, 5(September), 1–8.

Sankey, C., Richard-Yris, M.-A. A., Leroy, H., Henry, S. V., & Hausberger, M. (2010). Positive interactions lead to lasting positive memories in horses, Equus caballus. Animal Behaviour, 79, 869–875.

Starling, M., McLean, A., & McGreevy, P. (2016). The contribution of equitation science to minimising horse-related risks to humans. Animals, 6(3), 1–13.

Warren-Smith, A. K., & McGreevy, P. D. (2008). Preliminary investigations into the ethological relevance of round-pen (round-yard) training of horses. Journal of Applied Animal Welfare Science, 11, 285–298.

van Dierendonck, M., & Goodwin, D. (2005). Social contact in horses: implications for human-horse interactions. The Human-Animal Relationship, 65–81.

Important Books

*Hill, C. (1997). Horse health care: A step-by-step photographic guide to mastering over 100 horsekeeping skills. Storey Publishing.

*Hill, C. (2005). Horsekeeping on a small acreage: Designing and managing your equine facilities. Storey Publishing.

Hill, C. (2006). How to think like a horse. Storey Publishing.

*Gore, T., Gore, P., & Giffin, J. (2008). Horse owner’s veterinary handbook. Howell Book House.

McDonnell, S. (2003). The equid ethogram: A practical field guide to horse behavior. Lexington, KY: Eclipse Press.

McDonnell, S. (2005). Understanding your horse’s behavior. Lexington, KY: Eclipse Press.

McGreevy, P. (2012). Equine behavior: A guide for veterinarians and equine scientists (2nd edition). Saunders Ltd.

McGreevy, P., Winther-Christensen, J., von Borstel, U. K., & McLean, A. (2018). Equitation science (2nd edition). John Wiley and Sons Ltd.

Mills, D.S., & McDonnell, S.M. (2005). The domestic horse: The origins, development and management of its behavior. New York, NY: Cambridge University Press.

Schoen, A., & Gordon, S. (2015). The compassionate equestrian: 25 principles to live by when caring for and working with horses. North Pomfret, VT: Trafalgar Square Books.

Waring, G.H. (2007). Horse behavior (2nd edition). Norwich, NY: William Andrew.

*=these books can easily be substituted by other, more current books of your liking.


8/5-8/26: Work on assignments. Get together ASAP to figure out a plan for how you are going to organize yourselves and get the assignments completed!

8/26: 1st DRAFT OF ASSIGNMENTS DUE (to Leif) 

8/28: Video conference call: Wednesday, August 28th, 6AM-7:30AM. Each group presents progress on their assignment and gets feedback.

8/28-9/21: Work on assignments. Prepare for presentations. Reach out to Leif and other students for feedback as needed.

9/21-9/29: RETREAT/WORKSHOP. Student Presentations.

9/30-10/6: Work on Self-Assessment & Module Reflection


Small Group Assignments

Through a melding of self-directed learning (i.e. you choose how you will LEARN the content from the resources provided or from your own self-directed study) and small group work combined with practical application through both teaching and participating in hands-on activities, the assignments of this learning module are very different than the last, and require a new skill set and approach.

This module REALLY WILL TAKE SELF-DIRECTION, including reading, organizing, staying on track as best you can, and working together. BUT, PLEASE DON’T BE OVERWHELMED, you have lots of time. Even if it looks like a lot, when you dig in and get going I think it will become much less overwhelming. AND, REMEMBER YOU JUST HAVE TO GET STARTED – NO PROCRASTINATING!

The class will be broken up into four groups. Each group will have a different assignment they will work on leading up to the retreat. Prior to the retreat there will be opportunities for feedback and peer review, and the chance to revise your work to prepare for your hands-on presentations. During the retreat each group will lead their fellow students through a hand-on activity or lesson, and after the retreat there will be time for self-assessment and reflection.

Given your busy schedules, it is highly recommended that you block out time in the first week of this module to meet with your group members and discuss how you are going to accomplish the task at hand.

I can set up Zoom conference calls for each of your groups if you let me know when you would like to meet, and you can also schedule a time for your group to Zoom conference with me if that would be helpful. We can also schedule time to use FB or email for live chat. I offer these resources only to help your learning, they are not mandatory by any means. PLEASE REACH OUT IF I CAN BE OF HELP!

Group 1 (Tanya, Nikki, Kellie): Equine Risk Management & Equine Care

Learn about equine risk management and equine care, work through the Risk Assessment Sheet, and then develop Risk Management & Equine Care Procedures for EAMH/EAL.

  • I recommend you choose one of your facilities to use as the sample for this activity. Most of the content you will develop will be easily transferable to other facilities with minimal editing of the procedures.
  • Remember, what you create during this learning module will be a strong start towards a policies and procedures manual which you will need for your business.
  • To make this process FAR easier, please feel free to use any/all of the content from the Sample Risk Management & Animal Care Procedures I have provided, and add or delete based upon this assignment and your research and learning. Also consider asking anyone you know for samples of their risk management and animal care procedures – BORROW everything you can to avoid reinventing the wheel!

The outcome of your assignment is a completed Risk Assessment Sheet and a draft of potential Risk Management & Animal Care Procedures complete with necessary forms.


Hausberger, M., Gautier, E., Biquand, V., Lunel, C., & Jégo, P. (2009). Could work be a source of behavioural disorders? A study in horses. PLoS ONE, 4(10), 2–9.

Hawson, L. A., McLean, A. N., & McGreevy, P. D. (2010). The roles of equine ethology and applied learning theory in horse-related human injuries. Journal of Veterinary Behavior: Clinical Applications and Research, 5(6), 324–338.

Assignment Sheets and Sample Procedures & Forms:

Risk Assessment Sheet

Sample Risk Management & Animal Care Procedures

Incident Report Form

Release And Waiver Of Liability Assumption Of Risk

Medical Release Form

Physician Consent Form

Horse Lease Agreement

Farnam Equine Health Record pdf

Group 2 (Maddy, Miriam, & Anne): Equine Assessment

Part One: Develop an Equine Assessment for Involvement in EAL/EAMH. This includes developing a form and an associated procedure to use during the assessment process, as well as designing a hands-on assessment to be implemented with horses prior to taking them on a trial basis for EAL/EAMH. Prepare to teach your fellow students how to use both the written and hands-on assessment tool during the retreat.


Assessment of Horses in Therapeutic Programs


Part Two: Develop an objective Equine Evaluation to be used at regular intervals during involvement in an EAL/EAMH program. Also consider an adaption of the full assessment to be used pre/post EAL/EAMH sessions. Feel free to use any/all of the content from the sample I have provided, and add or delete content based upon this assignment and your research and learning.  Practice applying the evaluation with your own horses. Prepare to teach your fellow students how to use this evaluation during the retreat.

For both of these assignments, also see the “Sample Animal Care Procedures” document I have provided Group 1, and feel free to reach out to Group 1 to learn what they are working on as these two assignments do have some overlap.


De Santis, M., Contalbrigo, L., Borgi, M., Cirulli, F., Luzi, F., Redaelli, V., … Farina, L. (2017). Equine Assisted Interventions (EAIs): Methodological Considerations for Stress Assessment in Horses. Veterinary Sciences, 4(3), 44.

Hall, C., Randle, H., Pearson, G., Preshaw, L., & Waran, N. (2018). Assessing equine emotional state. Applied Animal Behaviour Science, 205(February), 183–193.

Hintze, S., Smith, S., Patt, A., Bachmann, I., & Wu, H. (2016). Are Eyes a Mirror of the Soul ? What Eye Wrinkles Reveal about a Horse ’ s Emotional State, 1–15.

Lesimple, C., Hausberger, M., Hommel, B., & Staios, M. (2014). How accurate are we at assessing others’ well-being? The example of welfare assessment in horses. Frontiers in Psychology, 5(21), 1–6.

Popescu, S., Diugan, E. a., & Spinu, M. (2014). The interrelations of good welfare indicators assessed in working horses and their relationships with the type of work. Research in Veterinary Science, 96, 406–414.

Sample Forms, Procedures, etc.

Equine Evaluation

Sample Animal Care Procedures

Group 3 (Andrew, Camilla, Tara): Including equine knowledge and skills in EAMH/EAL

Design three lesson plans involving equine physiology, psychology, ethology including communication and behavior, principles of equitation science, and safety in EAMH/EAL (or anything relatable included in the learning objectives that I missed ;). Design these lessons plans for three different populations you might work with in your EAL/EAMH practice. While all of you should find ways to work together and support each other, CAMILLA – it would be cool if you used this assignment to design an EAMH activity rather than an EAL activity, while Tara and Andrew can focus on EAL.

Prepare to deliver these lessons to your fellow students during the retreat.

Lesson Plan Template

Group 4 (Alison, Shonel, Michelle): Including Self-Care in EAMH/EAL

Design 3 lesson plans including horses that involve mindfulness, self-reflection, slowing down, grounding, centering, practicing the pause, self-care, or boundary setting. Prepare to deliver these lessons to your fellow students during the retreat. Consider how you might adapt or adjust the delivery of this content based upon your population and service type and be prepared to discuss this.

Lesson Plan Template

Burgon, H. L. (2014). Horses, mindfulness and the natural environment: Observations from a qualitative study with at-risk young people participating in therapeutic horsemanship. International Journal of Psychosocial Rehabilitation, 17(2), 51–67.

Hauge, H., Kvalem, I. L., Berget, B., Enders-Slegers, M.-J., & Braastad, B. O. (2014). Equine-assisted activities and the impact on perceived social support, self-esteem and self-efficacy among adolescents – an intervention study. International Journal of Adolescence and Youth, 19(1), 1–21.

Hands-On Activity

In an effort to off-set all the brainy work you guys will be doing, I am offering a hands-on activity to do with your horses. In this activity, you will be asked to observe equine communication and behavior, and carefully document your findings. Try to set aside preexisting beliefs, and just be with the horses; watch, listen, and learn from them while practicing quieting your body and brain.

Also consider as you do this activity how you could use it with your students/clients. Enjoy!

Horse Observation

Assessment & Self-Reflection

To conclude this module, you will be asked to complete and turn in the attached document.

Learning Module 2 Assessment & Self-Reflection