An audit of the application of the principles of equitation science by qualified equestrian instructors in Australia

Amanda Warren-Smith

Research output: Book chapter/Published conference paperConference paperpeer-review


The principles of learning theory describe the ways in which animals learn. They establish clear guidelines and training protocols for correct training practices and methods of behaviour modification. Horses, like all animals, learn most effectively when training methods are appropriate to their cognitive ability and ethology, and are based on a valid application of the principles of learning theory. Inappropriate training practices can have a negative impact on the horse's welfare and can lead to conflict behaviours that jeopardise the safety of riders and handlers. Qualified equestrian coaches play a significant role in the dissemination of information on training practices as most participants in equestrian sports seek regular professional instruction. Therefore, to assess knowledge of learning theory among qualified equestrian coaches, a 20-question survey was distributed to all coaches registered with the National Coaches Accreditation Scheme in Australia (n=830). Of the 206 respondents, 79.5% considered positive reinforcement to be very useful, yet only 2.8% correctly explained its use in horse training, while 19.3% considered negative reinforcement to be very useful but only 11.9% could explain its use correctly. The results indicate that most equestrian coaches have, at best, a rudimentary knowledge of the principles that govern learning. This highlights the need for more appropriate education of coaches that aims to improve their understanding and application of training techniques for horses. Education of this sort has the potential to reduce behavioural conflict and ultimately improve the welfare of horses in training.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationISES
Place of PublicationItaly
PublisherFondazione Iniziative Zooprofilattiche e Zootecniche
Publication statusPublished - 2006
EventSecond International Equitation Science Symposium - Milan, Italy
Duration: 19 Sep 200620 Sep 2006


ConferenceSecond International Equitation Science Symposium


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