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Resolving Fear Issues in Horses: An Online Course for Equine Professionals

Please note, there is no auditing option for this course.

Date Register

Course begins: August 29th, 2020
Weekly online meetings begin: September 5th at 4pm Eastern
Duration: 6 weeks
Instructors: Robin Foster, PhD, CAAB, CHBC and Lauren Fraser, MSc, CHBC

Course Full

About the Course

Fear-based behaviors are common in horses and if left untreated they can become problematic. Chronic issues, such as needle and farrier phobias, can impact the horse's health and performance, result in lost revenue and increased expenses for the owner, and creates a risk of serious injury to horses and humans.

At the end of this six-week course you should be able to:

  • recognize signs of arousal, and fear,
  • assess the underlying and immediate reasons for fear-based problem behaviors, and
  • apply effective, evidence-based protocols to manage and resolve them.

You will also develop skills for working with clients, including:

  • taking a good history,
  • creating client-friendly shaping plans, and
  • preparing useful handouts.

Week 1: The equine fear response

Lecture 1: Part I-Introduction. Part II-Equine body language: Recognizing signs of relaxation, arousal, anxiety, and fear
Lecture 2: The fear response: The roles of heredity, the nervous system, experience, and environment 
Recommended Reading: Equine Body Language, Parts I & 2. Justine Harrison. (60 min)
Handouts: Reading equine body language: Green-yellow-red zone behaviors.
Video Exercise: What are these horses saying, and why? (20 min)
Quiz 1: (20 MC questions)

Week 2: A learning theory model of fear acquisition
Lecture 3: A learning theory model of fear acquisition and fear reduction
Lecture 4: Fear conditioning and the environment: The role of antecedent conditions
Recommended Reading (also for week 3): Knowing Your Horse: A Guide to Equine Learning, Training, and Behavior. Emma Lethbridge. (60 min). Note: The lectures in weeks 2 and 3 cover a lot of information about principles of learning. We recommend using this book as a resource to provide additional support on these topics, as needed.
Video Exercise: How might fear be learned in this situation? (30 min)
Handout: Antecedent Based Interventions
Quiz 2: (20 MC questions)

Week 3: Behavior modification for reducing fear and changing behavior
Lecture 5: Changing behavior through positive reinforcement, negative reinforcement, and punishment
Lecture 6: Reducing fear responses through desensitization, counter conditioning, and low-stress handling
Video Exercise: What's being reinforced here? Behavior modification do's and don'ts (15 min)
Quiz 3: (20 MC questions)

Week 4: Designing a behavior modification plan 
Lecture 7: Collecting a thorough history 
Lecture 8: Designing a behavior modification plan that can be put into action
Recommended Reading: Functional assessment: hypothesizing predictors and purposes of problem behavior to improve behavior change plans. Susan Friedman. (20 min)
Exercise: Collect a behavioral history (20 min)
Handout: Template for taking an equine behavioral history
Quiz 4: (20 MC questions)

Week 5: Implementing a behavior modification plan and measuring progress
Lecture 9: Implementing different models of a behavior change plan
Lecture 10: Assessing progress: How to measure gains and make training "stick" 
Recommended Reading: Effectiveness is not enough. (Susan Friedman) (60 min)
Video Exercise: Measuring baseline behavior and assessing progress (15 min)
Quiz 5: (20 MC questions)

Week 6: Putting it all together
Lecture 11: Case examples
Lecture 12: Instructions for student essay: Putting it all together (10 min)

Final written essay on a case example. Collect a history; identify cause of the fear reaction; recognize antecedents and contextual factors; account for owner characteristics and other constraints; design a behavior change plan and provide a rationale; outline the plan and the underlying techniques, and explain how they will work to change behavior; set realistic goals; explain how to prevent relapse (4 hours). Essays will be reviewed, and students will have one opportunity to revise an unsatisfactory final essay.

Course Activities, Objectives, & Assessment

Online Lectures: Each week includes two 45-60 minute narrated PowerPoint lectures that cover the main topics for that week. A list of suggested additional readings that expand on the lecture material may be available for some lectures.

Recommended Readings: Suggested readings that support each week's lecture content are listed in the syllabus and will be available online as pdf files. 

Additional Resources: For anyone interested in further exploring topics and issues related to this course on their own, a collection of references and resources has been included in a folder on the course web site.

Online Activities: Interactive activities will be assigned to give students an opportunity to develop and practice observational, assessment, and applied skills related to the lecture topics.

Live Discussions: Live, online discussions with instructors and other students will take place weekly at a fixed time, and the topic will coordinate with the course schedule.

The class runs on a weekly cycle that begins on Sundays, with live online discussions on Saturdays. Knowledge of the course material will be assessed through weekly quizzes and a comprehensive final written essay. 


Class Schedule

This six-week course will begin on the specified start date. The first four weeks cover the following topics: equine body language; the expression of fear and anxiety; how biology, the environment, and experience contribute to fear-based behaviors; and behavior modification techniques for reducing fear and changing behavior. Weeks five and six of the course focus on the practical issues of working with clients and applying the information to real cases. Students will have access to the course material for 60 days after the course ends.


Course Completion/CEU Requirements

To successfully complete this course, students must:

  • read the articles listed in the syllabus
  • complete any applied assignments for the week
  • join the weekly one-hour live discussion on the topic featured for that week
  • successfully complete all weekly quizzes to 100% mastery before the next segment

Passing scores on quizzes and submission of the final essay are both required to receive a certificate of course completion and CEU credits. Essays will have a maximum word count, and students will be given one opportunity to make revisions after instructor feedback. Students who miss more than two meetings will not receive credit for the course. Students should expect to spend an average of 4 hours per week on course material and viewing, depending on individual speed of learning and the week's materials.


Registration Information

Member Cost $339*
Non-Member Cost $409

*IAABC Members - log into your member account for the discount code


This program 720-34619 is approved by the AAVSB RACE to offer a total of 18.00 CE Credits (18.00 max) being available to any one veterinarian: and/or 18.00 Veterinary Technician CE Credits (18.00 max). This RACE approval is for the subject matter categories of: Category Two: Non-Scientific-Clinical using the delivery method of Non-Interactive-Distance. This approval is valid in jurisdictions which recognize AAVSB RACE; however, participants are responsible for ascertaining each board's CE requirements. RACE does not "accredit" or "endorse" or "certify" any program or person, nor does RACE approval validate the content of the program.


Online Course Cancellation Policy

  • Full refunds available more than 30 days before program start.
  • 50% refund available 16 - 30 days before program start.
  • No refunds available 15 or fewer days before program start.


About the Instructors

Lauren FraserLauren Fraser, MSc, CHBC is a clinical animal behaviorist and an IAABC Certified Horse Behavior Consultant. She is also the organization's Horse Chair and a member of the application review committee.

Lauren is an experienced horsewoman and has worked professionally with horses since 2006. Her MSc research examined the behaviour of horses subjected to forced 'laying down' during training. Lauren provides behavior consultations, both in-person and remotely, and offers educational events on horse behaviour and training. www.equinebehaviorist.ca

Robin FosterRobin Foster, PhD, CAAB, CHBC is a professor at the University of Puget Sound in Tacoma, WA, and an affiliate professor at the University of Washington.

She has taught courses in animal learning, behavior, and communication for more than 20 years, and conducts research on behavior and welfare of working and sporting horses. She provides behavior consultations, clinics, and educational workshops in the Seattle area through Adaptive Animals, LLC. http://www.horsebehaviorconsultant.com

If you have questions, email us at courses@iaabcfoundation.org.

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