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The 2018 Seminar will be on Saturday, September 29th from 10.30 to 4.30, at Myerscough College & University Lecture Theatre, Preston.


Rachel Bedingfield from Connection Training will be continuing our exploration of emotion with a talk amplifying the work of Jaak Panksepp and other neuroscientists along with equine ethology and expression of emotions. She will go on to show the relevance of this to helping your horse to feel calm, happy and playful whilst learning.

Dr Andrew Hemmings, Principal Lecturer in Animal Science, head of Academic Centre - Equine Management and Science, Royal Agricultural University Cirencester, will talk about a strategic approach to training and management using behavioural indicators of brain activity.

Jenni Nellist BSc(Hons) MSc, Animal Behaviour & Training Council (ABTC) Registered Clinical Animal Behaviourist, Full Member of the Association of Pet Behaviour Counsellors (APBC), will talk about how human effects on the horse's physical and social environment affect equine mood and behaviour, with a special focus on sports horses and feral ponies; on the hill and in closer confinement; from management and husbandry to training. Jenni will be going in-depth sharing her knowledge and experience of the competition and  hill pony environments.

Everyone is welcome including non-members, at a cost of £15 per person (members) and £35 (non-members). Students £5.00.

For details as to how to pay and/or book, please contact Judith Turner

or tel. 01423 770144


The 2016 Seminar was held at  Nottingham University School of Animal, Rural & Environmental Science, Brackenhurst Campus, Southwell on Saturday 22nd October.

Here's a review from one of the attendees - a full report is in the 2016 Winter Journal.

As a Veterinary student at the University of Nottingham, I was absolutely inspired after listening to three incredibly talented researchers talk about their findings. The whole day was very well organised, with the opportunity to speak to the speakers as well as all the paraprofessionals in the room, who come to learn more about the amazing research currently underway.

The first talk of the day was by Lynda Birke on her current research: 'Togetherness: the Horse-Human Partnership'. She spoke about her findings and her limitations and I found the talk incredibly interesting. We learnt about the way an animal understands people’s needs and how familiarity with people affects how the horse moves. It was interesting to know how Lynda collected her data throughout her longitudinal study and how many things she had to think about in order to proceed with her research. She used a mixed methodology and I was intrigued to learn what she did to avoid bias. Lynda used external observers for her research, as well as conducting interviews, taking videos for more detailed analysis, and incorporating quantitative research into her project, by looking at heart rate. With this kind of research I discovered how difficult it is to gain such a small amount of information towards the bigger picture. I think Lynda, having incredible amounts of experience, clearly knew what she was doing and dealt well with all the challenges of her research. I found her talk incredibly inspiring and I think it is so useful to take notes at this kind of event; especially as a Vet student as understanding a horse’s body language is incredibly important for Vets. Horses will be much less likely to communicate with you if they do not know you and as a Vet this means we will need to be much more aware of them. From Lynda’s talk, I also took away a lot of knowledge regarding the way she conducted her research and I hope that I will be able to use some of her skills when I do my project next year.

Shortly after, we had a talk by Jen Wathan: 'Understanding Facial Expressions in Horses – the “Equine Facial Action Coding System (EquiFACS)’. This was absolutely brilliant and it was amazing to see all the different expressions that can be controlled and how many different parts of the face can be manipulated by the horse, in lots of different combinations. Jen’s study showed that there are 17 different facial expressions in horses. As a vet student I thought this was incredibly fascinating to know and it would be interesting to know how many people, vets and owners, are aware of these facial expressions and what they mean. I think understanding these expressions would give a much bigger insight into communication with horses; which is a vital skill when interpreting the health of an animal. It is also important, as an owner, to understand the needs of our horses. Horses use their expressions in fusion dynamics which allows them to communicate with each other in a herd. Hopefully, in the future we too will be able to understand them more, even though we cannot communicate back. Jen talked about how important it is not to categorise a facial expression into a specific behaviour as if we do this we miss the vital detail. It was interesting to listen to Jen as she spoke about the anatomy and the muscles of the face and I think this was so useful for a vet student to relate where these facial expressions came from and think about this in diseased animals. For example, if an animal has facial paralysis, they would lose some of their facial expressions and it would prevent them from communicating with us, in one of the few ways that they do. This will allow is to sympathise a lot more with the animal. It was interesting to learn the way Jen conducted her experiment and her use of photos of positive, negative and neutral facial expressions to see the way a horse reacts to another horse also. Overall, the talk was amazing and I gained a lot more understanding about the complex facial expressions horses present to us.

Finally, Karina Bech Gleerup presented her research on 'Pain Recognition in Horses'. She spoke about the Equine Pain Face in low degree pain, such as lameness. This was incredibly fascinating research and something I feel as a vet student we should definitely be able to interpret at an early stage. Pain is a topic which is only recently being so well developed in the Veterinary profession and I think it is such a vital part of our understanding! I was very interested in what Karina had to say. Pain is very important; without pain an animal would not know to move away from a harmful stimulus or to stay still after an injury. Otherwise the horse would further injure itself and by feeling pain it allows for a faster recovery and allows us to monitor the amount of painkiller necessary, while taking into account the pain threshold for each animal. Karina talked about the quadrant of pain and welfare and spoke about the question marks of an animal having a pain free environment and low welfare as well as having good welfare but being in pain. Are these situations ok? Sometimes we do not understand these low grade pains in horses as they so subtle but the horse could be trying to communicate this to us and it is important that we listen. Low degree pain can be hard to detect but if not detected can lead to chronic pain, which is obviously something we strive to avoid. It is important to be able to detect changes in behaviour and this is where owner-vet communication is vital. Karina worked to develop the equine pain face, by using a blood pressure cuff to induce light to moderate pain and look at the facial muscles to develop the scale. I liked the clear categories she designed and I think this will be very important in veterinary medicine as it is a very clear method of understanding these small pain signals. Karina spoke about the importance of behaviour changes in states of hyperalgesia and I think this is also crucial to understand, the horse is not being ‘naughty’, it is in pain, and we need to think about what we could identify in this kind of situation. Post low degree pain we see lots of other signs which are easier to identify, the important thing about recognising the pain face is understanding the subtle signs before it reaches the stage of being too painful for the horse. I think this was fascinating research and I am excited to be able to use this in my profession and prevent the pain and suffering of horses even more. After all, where would we be if we could not communicate with each other?

I would like to thank all 3 speakers for sharing their findings with us. All of the speakers gave me something to think about and hopefully some extra knowledge that I can go on to use in my Veterinary career. Throughout the day, there were several opportunities to ask the speakers questions and lots of room for debate. Behaviour is such a developing and expanding topic that it was fascinating to hear the opinions in the room and it was so lovely to see such a wide variety of professionals including, behaviourists, trainers and vet students, as well as owners themselves. As a second year vet student at the University of Nottingham, this was an incomparable experience and was a brilliant way to relate our teaching on behaviour to more specific areas of current research. Having spoken to several paraprofessionals throughout the course of the day I realised how important it is for us all to work together, at the end of the day, for all of us, the main priority is the horse’s health and welfare. I would like to thank the EBF for inviting us to this brilliant event and am looking forward to keeping up to date on the world of behaviour using their informative website. I have an enormous passion for behaviour and I think that this was a brilliant opportunity to meet the leaders in this field, as well as get chance to know their opinions.

Behaviour is such a massive part of the understanding of horses and I think it is often overlooked. I am very lucky to be part of Nottingham Veterinary School where behaviour is understood as such an important part of our profession and is incorporated into the curriculum so frequently throughout the course. I hope by keeping on top of current research as well as attending seminars and incorporating the learning we are so lucky to receive; the future generation of Vets will have a much deeper understanding of behaviour and hopefully this will help us to improve our profession even further. Thank you again for this fantastic opportunity, I cannot wait to see what other research we can explore!

Polina Boynova