Recommended Reading List


Book cover
Equine Behaviour in Mind Written by behaviourists from the Equine Behaviour and Training Association (myself included), this book addresses how behaviour and welfare always need to be addressed, whatever area of the equine industry we are talking about.

Don't Shoot the Dog - Karen Pryor Perhaps the most commonly-recommended introduction to behavioural science and one to start with. Compulsory reading for anyone wanting to start clicker training or understand more about how animals (and people) learn. Just a note of caution - some of the examples of negative reinforcement are, errm, punishment.

At the Other End of the Leash - Patricia McConnell An excellent introduction to thinking from the perspective of your dog. While this is very much a dog book, there are so many areas of overlap that this should be considered compulsory reading for anyone wanting to learn more about how their horse thinks. Again, this is a good book to start with.

How to Create and Use a Shaping Plan - Ben Hart Invaluable guide to shaping that should be compulsory reading for anyone wanting to do anything with a horse. An e-book available from Ben's website. See his shaping plans on the same site.

The Art and Science of Clicker Training - Ben Hart A great introduction to clicker training horses, teaching the "how-to" basics but also including the ethics, the potential pit-falls and, crucially, when not to use clicker training.

How Dogs Learn - Burch and Bailey An excellent introduction to behavioural science, covering the historical perspective of both scientists and trainers. It's a dog book but very relevant to horses so don't let that put you off.

The Culture Clash - Jean Donaldson Another dog book, this time giving a slightly more advanced look at behavioural science. Some great plain speaking! My only caution with this book is that some of it is a little prescriptive, especally the last section - otherwise a very useful book.

The Nature of Horses - Stephen Budiansky An introduction to academic research into equine behaviour. It can give you a new and fascinating viewpoint from which to regard your horse.

If a Lion Could Talk - Stephen Budiansky A similar look at academic research into animal behaviour. It debates some of the big questions, such as animal cognition and nature vs. nurture. It is perhaps a little dated now but shows the train of thought which has led us to where we are today.

When Elephants Weep - Jeffrey Masson and Susan McCarthy An alternative look at the field of animal behaviour and cognition, discussing the traditionally-disregarded emotional side to animal behaviour.

Minding Animals - Marc Bekoff Another fantastic book which dares to go against the grain of traditional study of animal cognition, discussing emotions and challenging other academics to follow suit.

Psychology of Learning and Behaviour - Barry Schwartz, Steven Robbins and Edward Wasserman A formal textbook for anyone who really wants to know more about the science.

The Equid Ethogram - Sue McDonnell A formal catalogue of equine behaviours observed in both feral and domestic horses. Very well-referenced and lots of excellent photographs.

Wild Health - Cindy Engel An excellent discussion of how animals self-medicate, both in order to maintain health and treat problems. You will never look at your horse's grazing and browsing habits in the same light again!

Talking with Horses / Thinking with Horses / Horse Sense - Henry Blake A refreshingly honest and (for the period) forward-thinking approach to horse-training, communication and behaviour. He even ventures into the more ethereal subjects of ESP and telepathy. I don't agree with a lot of what he says but I really respect the way he calls punishment punishment, rather than trying to disguise it with flowery language (as is the habit of so many of today's trainers).

Horses Never Lie - Mark Rashid Mark Rashid has written a number of books and this is the third in the series. I prefer it to the others because it is more "theoretical" and about observing horse behaviour, rather than his own training techniques. His concepts of passive leadership and finding the try are excellent - just make sure you really assess whether the examples he uses put these concepts into practice.

The Road Less Travelled - M. Scott Peck "Life is difficult." So begins Peck's bestseller, as it takes you on a journey through subjects such as delaying gratification, love and "religion" (i.e. your "map of the world"). This book will help you to question who you are and your motivations for doing what you do. Very relevent to horse-training if you consider (as I do) the horse to be your mirror. Just be warned that you may learn things about yourself you wish you hadn't!

The Invitation / The Dance / The Call - Oriah Mountain Dreamer A series of books teaching you how you can live your life more fully and learn to become the person you really are. The Dance was my favourite but they should be read in order.

The Horseman Within / Elements of Horsemanship - Ben Hart Two more e-books available from Ben's website. These look at the more personal elements of horse-training, helping you to put the horse before your ego. Again, you might learn something about yourself that you wish you hadn't (but of course, your horse has known it all along so it's probably best that you catch up!).

The Horse's Mind - Lucy Rees Introduction to the true behaviour and nature of horses in their natural surroundings. Makes you wonder where some of the "dominance-theories" sprung from - real horses just aren't like that! This book is out of print and not easy to find but it's worth persevering.

Equine Behavior - Paul McGreevy A textbook for university students. An excellent and in-depth look at behaviour from an academic perspective. Lots of photographs and very well-referenced.

Wild Horses of the Great Basin - Joel Berger More advanced ethological study of a population of feral horses - one of the seminal works, again showing a view of horses which differs wildly from that often used as the basis for commercial training methods. Out of print but often available on sites such as abebooks.co.uk.

Let Horses Be Horses - Lesley Skipper Fairly novice introduction to thinking of horses in terms of their psychological and ethological needs.

On Becoming a Person - Carl Rogers A more advanced look at human behaviour by the father of the field of person- or client-centred counselling. A fascinating look at the relationship between the therapist (or horse trainer) and the client (or horse).

Dibs: In Search of Self - Virgina Axline Fascinating description of the play therapy undertaken by a young boy. There are many parallels between this therapy and how we *can* use free-shaping, if we choose to do so.

Why We Do What We Do - Edward Deci Behaviourism has its limitations and only skims the surface of the complex subject that is our motivation. Learn to distinguish between what are dubbed extrinsic and intrinsic motivation and see how prioritising autonomy can lead us to greater psychological health. Of course, he doesn't describe how to apply this to horses but some of us are thinking about how we could do so.....

The Celestine Prophecy - James Redfield A gripping adventure story which leads you to important concepts along the way. Another look at how you can live your life more fully and develop a new-found optimism.

The Alexander Principle - Wilfrid Barlow I feel that the Alexander Technique and the concept of "end-gaining" have so many parallels with human behaviour and "delaying gratification" that I wanted to include an introductory book on the subject. But of course, becoming more aware of the subtleties of your body language, breathing and posture has vital applications to handling and riding horses too.

Empty Cages - Tom Regan A highly persuasive book on animal rights - I challenge you to read this book and not feel that you want to make some changes to your lifestyle! But I also like the concept of "Empty Cages" when applied to horsey situations (see articles page).

And a few novels/films which are also relevant to the subject of behaviour......

Nineteen Eighty Four - George Orwell A somewhat disturbing exploration of operant conditioning applied to its extremes. Highlights how powerful fear of punishment can be.

Brave New World - Aldous Huxley A somewhat disturbing exploration of the extremes of operant and classical conditioning, although in a different way. Highlights how important it is to treat everyone as an individual when finding reinforcers.

The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time - Mark Haddon Both funny and sad, this is a book written from the perspective of a teenager with Asperger's syndrome. It gives such an insight into seeing the world through a different pair of eyes that I think its inclusion in this list is warranted.

Gandhi A fantastic (if long) film showing some lovely examples of poorly-timed punishment and reinforcement. And of course, Gandhi's message is pretty inspirational too.

A Clockwork Orange This film is violent and fairly disturbing, but in amongst that there is wonderful choreography, timing and effective punishment/negative reinforcement in action.

Applying this to children.....

While I don't pretend to be an expert, whilst bringing up my own young children I have read some wonderful books about parenting which are in-keeping with the ideas I've presented on equine behaviour..... You might also like to research subjects such as attachment parenting and home education.

The Continuum Concept - Jean Liedloff

Our Babies, Our Selves - Meredith Small

The Womanly Art of Breastfeeding - La Leche League

Why Love Matters - Sue Gerhardt

Three in a Bed / Letting Go As Children Grow - Deborah Jackson

Unconditional Parenting / Punished By Rewards / No Contest - Alfie Kohn

How Children Learn / Learning All The Time - John Holt

Raising Boys / Raising Girls / Raising Babies - Steve Biddulph

Recommended Reading - Barefoot Hoofcare

The Natural Horse - Jaime Jackson Study of American desert-dwelling feral horses, leading into Jackson's natural hoofcare. He recommends you read this book first - there's not so much on feet but interesting from a behaviour point of view.

Horse Owner's Guide to Natural Hoofcare - Jaime Jackson Useful introduction to the whys and hows of going barefoot. Bear in mind that some of it was written when he was collaborating with Dr. Strasser (particularly if you have an older edition) - some of this is now out of date.....

Making Natural Hoofcare Work for You - Pete Ramey An excellent guide to going barefoot. Ramey recommends you read the two Jackson books first. Again, some of this book is now out of date but Ramey has an excellent website with updates to his book (see links section).

The Chosen Road - KC La Pierre Another excellent introduction to going barefoot. La Pierre has a slightly different approach to Jackson and Ramey - I find there are advantages and disadvantages of each so prefer to study both!

The Lame Horse - James Rooney An excellent study of anatomy, both healthy and pathological.

Feet First: Barefoot Performance and Hoof Rehabilitation - Nic Barker and Sarah Braithwaite A detailed look at the hoofcare of horses in the UK, including diet, environment and rehabilitating pathology.