Can we all agree on what horses do? An ethology workshop with Dr. Marc Pierard

May 6, 2019 | by Chelsea Decoster, BBRM Equine Management student

For the equine industry to move forward regarding science and studies, a basis needs to be established regarding our understanding of [equine] behaviour

marc pierard photo
Dr Marc Pierard

To train someone, you need to know how they learn. For horses, that is by looking at their behaviour. In the science jargon it’s called ethology. But how can we learn about their behaviour if the definitions regarding their behaviour are never consistent. Dr. Marc Pierard will be talking about the importance of equine ethology in his workshop at the 15th annual ISES conference at the University of Guelph from August 19th-21st, 2019.


From a young age, Dr. Marc Pierard was fascinated with horses. Like some people, he didn’t have any relatives or family friends who owned horses, so his love for them came from movies. However, he didn’t start riding until he was 32 years old when a friend invited him to come riding at his barn, and he has been riding ever since.

marc observing
Dr Pierard observing horses in the Nemaiah Valley, BC

At the University of Antwerp, Belgium, he studied animal behaviour. He chose that university because there were five faculty members and numerous assistants studying animal behaviour. So, it seemed like the best idea was to go and learn more about animal behaviour there. Afterwards, he completed his Ph.D. at KU Leuven, Belgium and is now a lecturer in animal behaviour and welfare at Hartpury University (UK). His research focuses on applied ethology and equitation science.

In 2006, he attended his first ISES conference in Italy. Since then he has been going every year. At this year’s conference, Dr. Marc Pierard will be conducting a workshop around equine ethograms.

He believes that for the equine industry to move forward regarding science and studies, a basis needs to be established regarding our understanding of their behaviour, and this can be done with ethograms (a catalogue of behaviours). There are a lot of ethograms with different definitions regarding certain behaviours. Pierard believes that ethograms need to be:

• Valid (information needs to be accurate)

• Reliable (so people can use it consistently and get the same results every time)

• And lastly, it needs to be agreed upon

His main goal for this workshop is to have an interactive discussion and to eventually write a more advanced ethogram with the feedback and information gathered throughout the workshop. As a registered delegate of the conference, come join the free workshop being held on Sunday August 18.


Registration is now open for the 15th annual ISES conference. Don’t miss the early bird deadline of June 1 for conference registration. For all the details and links to registration and accommodations, visit the Equitation Science website or the Horse Portal.


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