Adaptive Management as an approach to supporting change in equestrian training practices

Research output: Other contribution to conferenceAbstractpeer-review


Adaptive Management (AM) is a structured, iterative process of robust decision-making in the face of uncertainty which aims to reduce uncertainty over time via rigorous system monitoring. AM has primarily been used in situations of environmental uncertainty with those responsible forresource management and has produced positive outcomes when used in the training of custodians of land and animals. AM is a structured interactive process that involves making an informed intervention to an existing system, monitoring the resulting effects, then adapting and refining future interventions to improve the system’s condition over time. As more is becoming known about the horse, it is becoming widely recognised that substantial changes to horse management and training are needed if contemporary welfare requirements are to be met. Much of this change involves moving away from established, often traditional, practice that has largely been unquestioned. Uncertainty is a fundamental aspect of change and it is reasonable to expect any trainer, however experienced and proficient, to experience doubt about implementing new methods. Many are likely to have previously resisted change and the trialling of new training methods on the grounds of horse and human safety, and potentially an unspoken but entirely understandable ‘fear of the unknown’. When humans experience uncertainty they tend to revert to the familiar, even though the outcomes are known not to be the best or preferable. It is likely that practitioners beginning the process of changing their training methods to those encompassing the principles of learning will experience uncertainty. Since the AM approach provides a structured process for learning, reflection and refinement, it is proposed as a useful tool to support these practitioners. With support, the practitioner will be able to appraise the success of their training actions (namely the application of stimuli) and subsequent reaction (response), in relation to desired outcomes and comparison with past behaviour (desired andundesired) on an individual horse basis and evaluate it against a welfare framework. Successful actions can be repeated and those that failed to result in a successful outcome, not repeated. As successes become more frequent, practitioners’ confidence will increase and their application of stimulus–response–reinforcement will continue to improve, becoming more accurate, purposive,intuitive and welfare-friendly in their training. A dual approach based on informal AM (at theindividual horse level) and formal AM which drives large-scale evidence-based adaptation of practice will result in global improvements to the welfare of horses used in equestrianism.
Original languageEnglish
Number of pages1
Publication statusPublished - 22 Nov 2017
Event13th International Conference of the International Society for Equitation Science : ISES 2017 Down Under - Charles Sturt University, Wagga Wagga, Australia
Duration: 23 Nov 201725 Nov 2017
Conference number: 13 (Conference website, link to proceedings)


Conference13th International Conference of the International Society for Equitation Science
Abbreviated titleEquitation Science in Practice: Collaboration, Communication and Change
CityWagga Wagga
OtherThe 13th international conference of the International Society for Equitation Science took place on 23rd-25th November 2017 at Charles Sturt University in Wagga Wagga, NSW, Australia. This was the third time that the conference was in Australia (following Clonbinane, Victoria in 2005 and Sydney in 2009). Charles Sturt University is one of the few providers of degree level Equine Science education in Australia with ample equestrian facilities to host an international conference of this calibre, with the support of a wide range of sponsors.

The conference theme ‘Equitation Science in Practice: Collaboration, Communication and Change’ attracted over 150 delegates from 17 different countries and all Australian states. The theme was supported by an academic programme of 29 oral presentations and 28 posters. Delegates learnt about the role of the horse in education including breeding work, foal handling and contribution to the veterinary industry and survival of other horses. Each of the 3Cs (Collaboration, Communication and Change) were thoroughly addressed and the two workshops - Standing on the Shoulders of Giants (designed to develop an appreciation of the pillars of Equitation Science in order to identify future directions with valuable input from ISES Honorary Fellows all of whom have been globally recognised for their contribution to Animal Welfare) and Human Behaviour Change (designed to identify key areas where change in human practice is needed to improve horse welfare) were enjoyed by Practitioners and Academics, Students and Honorary Fellows alike.

The conference was fully and actively supported by senior Charles Sturt University staff (Prof Glenn Edwards, Head of School of Animal and Veterinary Science, Prof Tim Wess, Executive Dean of Science and Prof Andrew Vann, Vice Chancellor).
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