Course at a glance


The study of animal behaviour is now a recognised science. This Equine Psychology course is aimed at those with an interest in psychology and the way that horses behave, and how psychology can be used when handling, training and riding horses. In order to study equine psychology, the historic and general study of human psychology is first looked at, and built on to this is the specific issues that affect and impact upon horses. This will help improve the understanding and relationship that is built when living and working with horses.

The management of equines requires a basic grounding and emphasis on scientific aspects. People with an interest or wishing to work in equine life will also find this course very appealing as it covers everything needed to know about horses from what they eat, how this food is digested and waste removed, to their overarching behaviour. This Level 3 Diploma course is aimed at improving the knowledge base of owners, breeders/exhibitors and those involved with horses professionally.

Level 3 Equine Psychology Diploma Entry Requirements

All students must be 16 years of age and above to enrol into our Level 3 Equine Psychology Diploma course.

Level 3 Diploma courses require a minimum prior learning to GCSE standard in order that students can manage their studies and the assumed knowledge within course content.

Study Hours

Approximately 20 hours per unit.


Optional coursework and final examination.


Please note that you can enrol on this course at anytime.

Course Length

1 Year.

Endorsed By

Students at the college have the option to choose the awarding body of their course.

This course has been endorsed by :

Quality Licence Scheme:


Accord :

This courses’ awarding bodies are recognised for their high-quality, non-regulated provision and training programmes. This course is not regulated by Ofqual and is not an accredited qualification. Your training provider will be able to advise you on any further recognition, for example progression routes into further and/or higher education. For further information please visit Quality Licence Scheme website or Accord website

Level 3 Equine Psychology Diploma Course Content

Level 3 Equine Psychology Diploma Module 1 – An overview of psychology

The Equine Psychology course introduces the general principles of psychology in order to provide a foundation for the rest of the course. It covers the development of psychology as a science and how the mind, intelligence and cognition are defined in the different branches of human psychology. The different approaches to studying psychology, behaviour and some of the main psychological theories and well known scientists, and how these can be applied to animals and to horses in particular are studied. This module ends with a look at the history of the study of psychology, including the findings from the study of equines and other species, the arising trends and patterns.

Level 3 Equine Psychology Diploma Module 2 – Evolution of the Horse and Behaviour

Horses are one of the domesticated animals used for work, pleasure as recreational activities, sport and transport in the last 10,000 years. This unit covers the evolution of the horse and the development of the different breeds, and how this is related to the behaviour of the horse. The basics of genetics and inheritance of characteristics, the theory of evolution, and natural and artificial selection are covered in the guise of selective breeding. The history of domestication of the horse and the development of the different breeds to form certain characteristics of horse are discussed. How breed differences can affect the temperament and behaviour of a horse is studied as this affects their role and performance, so the evolution of the horse and the different breeds and different evolutionary theories is important to be studied.

Level 3 Equine Psychology Diploma Module 3 – Learning Theory

Although undoubtedly a lot of equine behaviour is instinctive, much of it is also learned, through life experiences or through deliberate training. This unit examines in detail how horses learn, are taught or trained and what impacts on this process. How psychologists have developed their theories of learning through experimentation is discussed. Environmental effects on learning, types of reinforcement such as the use of punishment and constraints on learning are discussed. How memory is important for learning to take place is explored.

Level 3 Equine Psychology Diploma Module 4 – Sexual and Reproductive Behaviour

Following on from discussing genetics to breed horses, the behaviour of horses can be affected by the process of reproduction, in terms of sexual behaviour of mares and stallions, and the nurturing shown by a mare towards her foal. Animals especially the males often show courtship and mating rituals, dances or behaviours. The hormonal changes occurring at puberty and the hormones involved in reproduction and their effects on behaviour, for both mares and stallions is studied. The oestrus cycle of the mare and how behaviour is affected throughout the cycle is explored. Specific issues are investigated such as pregnancy and nursing a foal, the effects of castration (gelding) on behaviour and the normal behaviour of a new-born foal.

Level 3 Equine Psychology Diploma Module 5 – The Psychology of the Young Horse

Horses are born needing some care from their mothers, but are much more independent than human young. The previous unit looked at the sexual and reproductive behaviour of the horse, and also the very early behaviour seen in a new-born foal. This unit carries on from there and covers the behaviour and psychology of the young horse as it develops, learns and grows. It starts by looking at the normal behaviour of a new-born foal, its innate behavioural development and the rejection of a foal by a mare, and the problems that can occur when hand rearing foals. The social ranking of a mare within a herd, under domesticated environments and how this can affect the behaviour of her foal is discussed. How a foal learns and makes associations, the procedure of weaning and separating foals from their clans, and the psychological impact of this can influence some of the early handling and training (breaking) that can be carried out with a young horse, so this must be addressed.

Level 3 Equine Psychology Diploma Module 6 – Natural Equine Behaviour

Horses are instinctive animals that rely mainly on their senses as they need this to protect themselves from prey in the wild. A lot can be learned about the natural behaviour of horses by studying ethology, the observation of animals within their natural environment. By watching a herd of feral equines, which behaviours are natural ones can be determined, and so does not cover the behaviour that is a direct result of training by humans, or that may be a direct result of life in a domesticated environment. Identifying the types of behaviours that are innate, how the various systems (senses, nervous and the endocrine systems) affect, influences and control behaviour are explored. The social structure of a natural herd and the ways horses communicate with each other is studied.

Level 3 Equine Psychology Diploma Module 7 – Equine Behaviour in the Managed Environment

The way horses behave in the wild may not be the same as within the human managed environment. The domestication of the horse and the different ways that horses are used for work, sport and recreation affects how they are kept. The way that artificial management are used to best enable and feeding techniques are in contrast to a natural lifestyle is discussed. The reasons why a natural lifestyle may not always be in the best interests of a domesticated horse are explored. This unit covers the tack and gadgets that may be used when riding or handling horses.

Level 3 Equine Psychology Diploma Module 8 – The Causes of Problem Behaviour

When we adopt animals from the wild and domesticate them, we alter their behaviour. Although horses are very adaptable, the environment in which they live may sometimes influence their behaviour, and could be the cause of some problem behaviour. The first thing to learn is what is normal and abnormal in terms of behaviour. Some common behavioural problems and the possible reasons behind them are examined. The internal effects on behaviour, such as hormones, health or genetics, or the effects of pain are discussed. The possible effects of diet, the environment (such as confinement or social interaction) and other factors on behaviour are addressed. The learning element behind some problem behaviour and the ways that humans could influence the behaviour of horses through the giving of confusing signals is studied.

Level 3 Equine Psychology Diploma Module 9 – Dealing with Problem Behaviour

In order to deal effectively with problems, we first need to understand why they are occurring. Without finding out the real cause, we are at best just masking the symptoms, and at worst we may be causing distress to the horse and impacting upon its welfare. Failing to address behavioural problems in horses could lead to an escalation of the problem, which could even potentially become dangerous. Some of the techniques that can be used to find out the causes of behaviour and the ways that problem behaviour can be dealt with are examined. It includes a different variety of methods that are currently employed, including traditional methods of preventing stereotypical behaviour. It should also be remembered that a solution that works for one horse may not be suitable in every case. Altering the managed environment to reduce behavioural problems and ways of dealing with common handling and riding problems are discussed, e.g. thought must be given to keeping horses stabled although they may need or prefer more freedom.

Level 3 Equine Psychology Diploma Module 10 – Training Horses using Psychology

As with children, the way horses are managed and the expertise and knowledge of the owners influence how they learn. Different ways of training horses is compared with traditional methods e.g. punishment often seen to be negative with some of the alternative methods. The ways horses learn and knowledge of learning theory can improve training techniques. Techniques such as working on the lunge, and free schooling, natural horsemanship methods, and a look at how the natural behaviour of the horse can be used to obtain results is examined. The body language of the horse and how it can be used to assess the training being given as well as the rider’s attitude and how this can affect equine behaviour is discussed from a psychological perspective.



This Level 3 Equine Psychology Diploma course can be used to gain entry to a Level 4+5 Diploma in Animal Studies.

Further information on our Level 4+5 Animal Studies Diplomas can be found here: