Standing on the shoulders of giants: building foundations for the future of equitation science

Natalie Waran, Hayley Randle

Research output: Other contribution to conferenceAbstractpeer-review


Sir Isaac Newton famously wrote; “If I have seen further it is only by standing on the shoulders of giants” (nanos gigantum humeris insidentes), conveying the notion of discovering ‘truth’ by building on previous discoveries. It is widely agreed that globally as a body of horse practitioners we still don't know what we don’t know and even more importantly, what we need to know to improve equine welfare during handling, training, performance and leisure. Often we forget the true heroes, that is, those who have gone before upon who’s ‘shoulders of wisdom’ we have built our equestrian and equitation practice, which may or may not include enjoyment and/or achievement as a result. Examples of these could go as far back as Xenophon – who wrote about foundation training in young horses making key statements such as “The groom should stroke or scratch the colt, so that he enjoys human company, and should take the young horse through crowds to accustom him to different sights and noises. If the colt is frightened, the groom should reassure him, rather than punish him, and teach the animal that there is nothing to fear.” This basic advice resonates in Equitation Science based approaches being taken to young horse education today. Although there are also teachings within Xenophon’s book that are no longer considered acceptable (and certainly not in the interests of good equine welfare), the introduction of habituation to frightening things, the use of reassurance rather than punishment and the introduction and acceptance of positive emotions in horses (such as enjoying human company) are now all active and growing areas for research in the established field of Equitation Science.
Original languageEnglish
Number of pages2
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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