Watch and learn: How learning theory can help with equine restraint


Horses who are difficult to handle can be dangerous but it may be that using learning theory can help restrain a non-compliant horse.

The topic is under discussion in the latest equine mental wellbeing webinar posted by international equine charity World Horse Welfare, with Dr Gemma Pearson showing how to restrain horses using learning theory, a highly effective method that can transform equine behaviour. Being able to restrain the horse in a way that is effective and humane is key to getting the job done safely.

Pearson also provides her perspective on using chemical and physical restraints, using licks or food for restraint/positive reinforcement, and teaching horses “manners”.

As well as being an equine vet, Pearson is one of only a handful of certified clinical equine behaviourists in the UK. The combination of these two qualifications gives her a powerful insight into equine behaviour and training, and her methods are highly effective.

Following her presentation, Pearson is joined for a panel discussion by Brad Hill, an equine vet and member of the equine teaching team at Nottingham Vet School, and Tony Evans, one of World Horse Welfare’s Field Officers. They share their thoughts on several issues, including how to optimise learning for horses, whether horses are ever ‘naughty’, and the role of equine submission in restraint.

The webinar is part of a series the charity is running over the summer in conjunction with the University of Nottingham’s School of Veterinary Medicine and Science.

About the presenters

Gemma Pearson is an equine vet based at the University of Edinburgh where she completed a residency. This included a certificate in advanced veterinary practice (equine medicine) and an MScR investigating the interactions between equine veterinarians and their patients. She has recently completed a PhD in which she investigated the stress response of horses undergoing veterinary care. She is one of only a few certified clinical equine behaviourists in the UK and currently runs an equine behaviour service at the University of Edinburgh. Pearson is also the Director of equine behaviour for The Horse Trust and Veterinary Liaison Officer for the International Society for Equitation Science.

Brad Hill is an equine vet who worked in first opinion practice before joining the equine teaching team at the University of Nottingham’s School of Veterinary Medicine and Science. He has worked in both ambulatory and referral hospitals and has a particular interest in equine stud medicine. During his time in practice, Hill realised the importance of understanding equine behaviour and the role that this plays in effective horse handling and restraint. In addition, his knowledge of behaviour, equine learning, and restraint forms a key part of his work in preparing the next generation of vet students for modern day equine practice, in which they need to get their (often challenging) work done safely whilst safeguarding equine welfare.

Tony Evans has worked at World Horse Welfare as a Field Officer for more than 10 years. Before this, he spent 22 years in the British Army, where he was the equitation instructor for The Kings Troop Royal Horse Artillery. He has also competed in show jumping, eventing and team chasing.

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