Reaseheath College in Cheshire has become one of the earliest colleges to adopt equitation science into its teaching programmes.

Over 135 equine students and staff attended a training day at the specialist college’s Equestrian Centre which focused on the principles of the International Society for Equitation Science (ISES). These include the study of learning, psychology, biomechanics and ethology (natural behaviour) and applies them to horse training.

Led by international Equitation Science Trainer Lisa Ashton of EquiSci and held on Wednesday 18 October, the event included an opportunity for students to get ‘hands-on’ in a workshop as well as to consolidate what they had already learned.

Lisa had previously delivered staff training during the summer and had produced a web based presentation which introduced the students to the fundamentals of Equitation Science. They had accessed this at the start of their studies in September and the training day offered an opportunity for them to ask questions and to put their learning into practice.

The day began with a practical demonstration of the principles of basic responses and the importance of considering the horse’s ethology and cognition. Teaching students that horses are not ‘being naughty’ as they do not possess the cognitive ability to make this choice is often a challenge. However, with Lisa’s support, Reaseheath’s team is developing and delivering a programme aimed at changing student thinking which will hopefully go on to influence the wider equine industry.

During the training Lisa encouraged the students to use the principles of Equitation Science in the way they handled their horses.  For the open minded the results were clear. For those who need a little more convincing, the challenge is set!

Students were given a worksheet to complete throughout the day which was then reviewed in smaller groups, resulting in some really good discussions and consolidation of learning. There were some ‘light bulb’ moments – a real motivator for those who teach for a living.

Reaseheath’s Equine Curriculum Area Manager Kerry Owen said: “We are committed to applying this approach with all of our horses as we firmly believe it will improve their welfare. The staff and students have really bought into this approach and I am so proud of what our team is doing.

“It is never easy to be the first to adopt new ways of thinking and I am sure some people in the industry will question our approach. But we have a strong team and I am confident that we can make a real difference to the lives of both horses and the people who work with them.”

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