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Equitation Science

  • Photo: 
    Shutterstock, Petri Volanen

NOVA PhD course of 4 ECTS, organised by Dr. Elke Hartmann, Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences (SLU).
Course dates and location: 12-16 Aug. 2019, at the National Equestrian Centre Strömsholm, Sweden.

Course Description
The course provides an in depth theoretical/practical knowledge at advanced level of horse behaviour/learning and its consequences for horse welfare and human-horse interactions. The course is designed to develop the participants’ scientific skills and ability to utilize an evidence-based approach when dealing with horses.

The course provides participants with scientific and practical tools with which they can validate human-horse interactions to identify training methods which are ethical, effective and highlight those which represent problems for horse welfare.

Programme Outline

  • Day 1: Introduction equitation science (history, animal rights/welfare) | Equine ethology (behaviour, instincts, biological niche, maintenance behaviour, behavioural needs, domestication, breeding) | Equine perception, communication (senses, social organisation/behaviour)
  • Day 2: Applied ethology (adaptability, umwelt, rationale for studying behaviour, ethogram, anthropomorphism, dominance-leadership concepts, housing, legislation)
  • Day 3: Equine cognition, learning (perception, nervous system, neural control of emotions, learning theory, social learning, stress/pain and learning, motivation) | Influences on performance (biomechanics, laterality, temperament, conformation)
  • Day 4: Applied learning theory (unwanted behaviour, safety, shaping, habit formation, predictability/controllability, equipment, training principles, emotions and learning, ethical equitation), Workshop
  • Day 5: Research methods and communication

Pre-/Post-Campus Assignments
Participants will run a small-scale literature review on a topic relevant to equitation science. Key results shall be presented orally. A popular short article shall be written about the chosen topic and suggestions provided of how to implement results in practice. This will be further developed during active group discussions during the course week and a written report shall be handed in after the course.

Learning Outcomes
After course completion, students are expected to objectively discuss and evaluate human-horse interactions and provide evidence based solutions to real-life problems, initiate research and communicate results to the scientific community and lay audience.

Describe horses’ biological needs. Discuss, integrate an ethological approach to training, welfare assessment. | Define, explain learning theory and apply it to re-/training, accounting for horses’ mental/sensory abilities. | Define abnormal behaviour. Reflect upon the development of unwanted behaviour. Provide solutions based on scientific evidence. | Critically evaluate, explain the effects of management, human/rider on horse welfare. | Discuss, communicate, implement an evidence-based approach to human-horse interactions.

Evaluation Elements
After active participation in all parts of the course including the presentation of the home assignment, 4 ECTS are given.

Pedagogical Approach
The course consists of lectures, group discussions and seminars, home assignment and workshop where theoretical knowledge is put into action to bridge science with practice. These approaches will promote active learning and engage students in discussions and cooperation. Real case scenarios will be implemented throughout.

Estimated Workload

  • Lectures: 25 hours
  • Seminars: 15 hours
  • Group work/discussions: 5 hours
  • Independent work: home assignment 70 hours

Prerequisite Knowledge
Postgraduate degree or passed academic courses in e.g. animal/equine/veterinary/agricultural/sports science, biology, veterinary nursing or equivalent knowledge obtained by other means, i.e. professional rider/coach, full-time or part time employment in the horse sector. By opening up for participants other than students with relevant academic qualifications, we will achieve a broader dissemination of knowledge and facilitate collaboration between academia and practice.

Admission for NOVA courses is handled by the course organiser/ the NOVA member institution organising the course. Please see the links in the margin for more information.

Apply here 


No course fee applies for NOVA, non-NOVA or BOVA students. Course fee of 450 Euros will be charged for all other participants, e.g. professional rider/coach, full-time or part time employment in the horse sector. Travel costs and costs for accommodation is not covered for any participant. Local accommodation at the course venue is available (Single room: from 57 to 76 Euros/night, double room from 115 Euros/night).

Published 27. March 2019 - 9:20 - Updated 4. June 2019 - 12:45