We all know our equines can communicate very well when they want something or dislike a particular situation, still, it was a privilege last weekend when we came to the nearest yet to fully understand how equines learn.

BHS Scotland got 2024 off to a flying start with, “Learning Theory and Shaping Behaviour To Improve The Wellbeing and Training Of The Horse”, delivered by Angelo Telatin at The Scottish National Equestrian Centre on Sunday, January 7.

A very engaging interactive day kept over one hundred coaches and riders glued to their seats at the Scottish National Equestrian Centre (SNEC) despite the minus 3 temperatures – hot coffee was flowing freely.

Angelo is a professor at Delaware Valley University's Equine Science and Management program, and he arrived in Scotland directly from Sweden having holidayed in his native Italy and then delivered training to the Swedes; he is very popular in Europe.

Also a Fellow of the British Horse Society Angelo has dedicated his life to blending animal psychology (essentially how horses learn) with practical safe training techniques based on positive and negative reinforcement.

At SNEC he quickly loaded a horse that would never go into a trailer, gave a mock injection to a needle shy horse, and helped a horse rider combination with their mounting issues, simultaneously making the world safer, horses and their people happier, and creating harmonious scenes where discord ruled before. Better for everyone.

Angelo says it was his natural curiosity that enticed him to study animal psychology and apply it to equine training, he came to science through horses and says theory without practice is useless, practice without theory is senseless. His methods apply to riding too and he quickly had the horse that would not go forward propelling itself around the arena, the horse that would not extend showing beautiful length, and the green jumper approaching fences with a pleasant attacking attitude and care.

So, with the eyes of society upon the horse world currently a renewed humane and systematic approach to working with horses is so welcome and for our Scottish Accredited Professional coaches, it reinforces much of their good BHS practice and provides another tool in the toolbox when it comes to tackling problems. Being eternally curious is a good New Year’s resolution and everyone of the many who attended learnt something new.

In equine welfare the emerging emphasis on wellbeing and recognition of animal feelings feeds beautifully into Angelos’s work – we almost see the horses and ponies making their own decisions when it comes to their comfort and there is such an emphasis nowadays on the provision of good experiences – through correct care and positive experiences resulting in animal’s leading their best lives.

Correct nutrition, suitable environment, good health, and appropriate behaviour and handling in their work all conspiring to keep a horse or pony in a positive mental state – and that contentment is the fifth domain of animal welfare. Nutrition, environment, health, behaviours, and the resulting happy mental state fits the needs of happy horses. The behaviour part encompasses interaction with humans as a main tenet and that is what wizards like Angelo Telatin seek to improve.

It's great he came to share his knowledge - if our Scottish horses could talk they’d say: “Thank you”.