Horses have played a major role in human history, from a food source when hunted and farmed, to aiding us through war and agriculture, before more recently being used for sport and recreation. Because the training of horses is based around tradition, people still use knowledge passed on through generations and frequently discuss ‘the art of horsemanship’ with very little science to back this up. This article, the first in a two-part series, discusses how horses learn and how understanding this can be used to make working with horses easier and safer. This article uses case examples to explain operant conditioning and classical conditioning. The second article, to be published in a subsequent issue of In Practice, will consider habituation and shaping.
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