Biological Basis of Equine Behaviour - (30 credits)

Understanding the behavioural mechanisms of the horse is fundamental to studying their behaviour in both natural and artificial environments. This module looks at the underpinning biology of how horses perceive their environment, the biological processes responsible for interpreting that information to produce the behavioural output we see, from natural, homeostatic behaviours, to undesirable behavior patterns resulting from fear. The anatomy and physiology of the nervous, endocrine and sensory systems will be studied to identify their role in processing information, and effecting behavioural responses in a variety of environments. The impact of neurotransmitters and hormones on learning, stereotypies, stress and abnormal behaviours, as well as genetic influences, including breed and temperament, on behavior will also be discussed as we apply this information to the training and management of domesticated horses. This module also explores the behaviour of the horse in their natural environment, looking at their social organisation, methods of communication, sexual and developmental behaviours, feeding patterns and preferences, and motivational priorities. Students will examine the impact of domestic management systems on these natural behavioural patterns and the subsequent development of unwanted behaviours.