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

Registration for this course is now closed.

Sylvia Czarnecki

I joined the "clippers and needles" course to improve my knowledge in fear based behavior modification. I've learned a lot from the videos and papers during the 6 week course. I loved the focus on the horses body language to collect all the small signs in the behavior, collect data and put it all together to develop a clear behavior modification plan based on facts and not based on a personal opinion like most trainers do. It underlines the advantages of strategic and science based training with focus of animal welfare and ethical ways of handling problematic behaviors. The weekly zoom meetings are a great way to ask questions and work through the case studies. That all of the participants are able to share their thoughts was very helpful as you get many ideas and different sights to work on them. I really enjoyed this course!”

Sylvia Czarnecki

Co-Instructors:  Dr. Robin Foster, PhD, CAAB, CHBC and Lauren Fraser, CHBC
Start Date: October 9
Course Length: 6 Weeks
Cost:  $300 non-members; $199 IAABC members

Online Meeting Time: Sundays at 1:00 pm Pacific/4:00 pm Eastern

Course Description and Learning Objectives: 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 will be able to recognize signs of arousal, and fear, assess the underlying and immediate reasons for the 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.

The first four weeks of the course 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.  

The class runs on a weekly cycle that begins on Mondays, with live online discussions on Sundays. Each week includes two 45-60 minute PowerPoint lectures, along with readings and activities related to the lecture topics. Knowledge of the course material will be assessed through weekly quizzes and a comprehensive final written essay.


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.

Assessment: Knowledge of the course material will be assessed through weekly quizzes and a comprehensive final written essay. The weekly multiple choice quizzes are not cumulative, and include material from lectures and readings for that week.  Quizzes must be completed to 100%; students may repeat quizzes as often as necessary. For the final essay, students apply theory and methods learned in the course to a case example of an equine behavior problem.   Essays will be reviewed, and students will have one opportunity to revise an unsatisfactory final essay. Passing scores on quizzes and submission of the final essay are both required to receive a certificate of course completion and CEU credits.

Class Schedule

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, counterconditioning, 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). 

Students must complete and submit the final essay to receive credit for the course.  Essays will have a maximum word count, and students will be given one opportunity to make revisions after instructor feedback.

CEUs: 18 for IAABC and RACE

This program 720-25948 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 category of:  Category Three: Non-Scientific-Practice Management/Professional Development using the delivery method(s) of: Interactive-Distance. This approval is valid in jurisdictions which recognize AAVSB RACE; however, participants are responsible for ascertaining each board's CE requirements"

Dr. Robin Foster, PhD, CAAB, CHCB
Dr. Robin Foster, PhD, CAAB, CHCB


Robin 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 ( and she regularly writes commentaries for The Horse.

Lauren Fraser, CHBC
Lauren Fraser, CHBC

Lauren Fraser, CHBC is an IAABC Certified Horse Behavior Consultant. She is also the organization's Horse Chair, and a member of the application review committee. Lauren provides horse behavior consults, riding and training instruction, and presents educational events on horse behavior and training throughout BC. She is currently completing the University of Edinburgh's MSc in Clinical Animal Behavior program.

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