If you have a horse-crazy child who is starting to ride (or wishes they were), then a series of informative books  by British Columbia-based author and EC licensed coach Kathy Jackson make a great learning companion. The titles, Mom, I Want to Ride! and Let’s Go to Pony Camp teach kids about horses and riding from an equitation science perspective.

A woman holding a bay horse.

Author and coach Kathy Jackson. (photo courtesy Kathy Jackson)

Jackson, who earned an online diploma in the field from Equitation Science International, is a passionate proponent of this approach to our sport. If you don’t already know, equitation science is an evidence-based examination and analysis of training that seeks to put horse welfare first and foremost. One governing body is the International Society for Equitation Science (ISES), a non-profit organization based in the UK whose stated mission is to “promote and encourage the application of objective research and advanced practice which will ultimately improve the welfare of horses in their associations with humans.” The group provides an international forum for the scientific community that conducts equestrian research to share their studies with those in the horse industry.


A book cover.An example of how this school of thought has practical applications in the real world is the controversy over the mandatory use of double bridles in FEI-sanctioned dressage competitions. In 2022 the FEI established the Equine Ethics and Wellbeing Commission  in response to increased public concern over equine sport issues including animal welfare to “ensure equine welfare is safeguarded through ethical, evidence-based policy and practices.” In the case of the double bridles, what the scientific research demonstrated in terms of animal welfare differed in some cases to what certain riders preferred to use in training and competing.

This is only one example of the type of training and welfare issues where equitation science comes into play, and one where the ISES supported the application of what it calls a ‘precautionary principle’, meaning if there’s doubt about an issue that involved the welfare of the horse, then “the outcome should favour the interests of the horse until such time that research reveals there to be no welfare risk.”

Jackson, who keeps three horses at her home and teaches lessons to both adults and children, wanted kids to learn this type of “pro horse” approach to their riding and general horsemanship. “I love the science behind the training,” she says. “[It’s] always the welfare of the horse first.

A book cover.“I was so enthusiastic after studying equitation science and so enjoyed what I learned and saw how helpful its principles were to my own horses that I wanted to share some of my thoughts and ideas with others to get the word out,” she explains about her inspiration to write the books. “Storytelling is a fun way to engage with all age groups about horse welfare and improve the lives of our horses. We can and must do better for our equine friends.”

Jackson says there are three things she feels everyone should know about equitation science: first, that it is based on peer-reviewed science; second, that equitation science is accepted worldwide and is easy to understand; and third, that all horse owners and riders should learn and incorporate its ten training principles. These are human and horse safety, mental and sensory abilities, classical conditioning, desensitization, self-carriage, the nature of horses, emotion, operant conditioning, shaping, and cues. (For details of these principles visit the ISES website.)

To enhance the learning experience for her young readers, Jackson worked with her friend and fellow licensed coach, Erica Sutfin, whose colourful and whimsical illustrations bring the equitation science skills to life. The duo is collaborating on a third book in the series. You can order the books from their website here.