Equine Student Creates Positive "Ripples"

Posted on Tuesday March 22, 2022
Holly Gillman
Holly Gillman

One of the main goals of the University of Guelph’s Equine Studies Online program is for students to take what they’ve learned and apply it in the real world to create sustainable change.

For current equine student Holly Gillman, this goal has already been achieved through her ongoing work with horse behaviour, a subject she pursued further after becoming the owner of a horse with behavioural issues.

Facing this challenging situation, Gillman turned to those around her for solutions. Conflicting opinions and suggestions for questionable welfare practices led her to rely on the science-based courses offered in the Equine Studies Online program at the University of Guelph (U of G).

“There are a lot of well-intentioned people in the horse world; but, unfortunately much of the information provided is no longer accurate based on what we have come to know and understand of horses today,” says Gillman. “Education is key to creating an awareness of the challenges our equines face in their domestic world and how they struggle to cope and adapt to their environments. When we have an understanding of this, we can set them up better to be successful while maintaining good welfare.”

The confidence Holly gained from her education helped her stand out at the Animal Training Academy, a learning platform with a considerable library of lessons and tutorials by renowned animal and behaviour experts.

Every month, one person within the animal training community is recognized for their contributions and the positive ripples they are creating in the world.

In January 2022, Gillman received the 'Recognition of Ripples' for her determination and dedication to helping two fearful and untouchable ponies.

“When a barn owner asked for help, after trying everything she had learned in her 30-plus years of experience, I thought it would be an incredible and challenging opportunity to learn from, and I certainly did,” recalls Gillman. “Within five sessions of approximately 45 minutes each, I was hand-feeding both ponies and had taught them to target using positive reinforcement; they are now actively engaged in training in a positive way.”

Gillman’s initiative created life-changing differences not only for the ponies, but also for the barn owner who is now adopting a more science-based approach after 30 years.

“Receiving an education from the equine program has helped me to feel more grounded and confident in what I know about horses,” says Gillman. “I wish there were more distance learning opportunities in Canada for this field of study; universities like the University of Guelph are helping to lead the way for horse management and training.”

Following her education at the University of Guelph, Gillman plans to apply to the International Association of Animal Behaviour Consultants to become a certified horse behaviour consultant.

“The science is evolving, and the welfare of horses is being called into question more than ever before,” says Gillman. “I am extremely passionate about bringing the world of science to the horse world and Equine Guelph is such an integral part of my journey.”

Holly is currently working towards the Equine Welfare Certificate and the Diploma in Equine Studies at U of G.