Building Confidence: How Studying Equine Behaviour Helped this U of G Grad

Posted on Thursday August 11, 2022
Elizabeth Hoyle Pic - edited
Elizabeth Hoyle

 “I live my courses every day,” says recent Diploma in Equine Studies grad Elizabeth Hoyle. She isn’t exaggerating. Hoyle recently took a tumble off her horse and, in what could have been a scary situation, was able to keep herself calm thanks to what she learned in her equine studies courses.

Hoyle was on her Welsh cross horse, Pippa Littleton, in a new sand ring, listening to feedback from an instructor, when suddenly an unusually noisy incident occurred. Even though Pippa was desensitized well, and knew to pay attention to Hoyle, anything can happen in a new environment and as Hoyle advises, “humans always need to be aware.”

Hoyle reigned Pippa back into a jump standard and, with the poles coming down, unfortunately slipped and fell. Hoyle came off as Pippa pushed up to standing. What impressed Hoyle was that Pippa did not bolt or run to the barn, rather she stayed right near Hoyle and handled the noise.

“Pippa’s reaction to stay was a direct result of our training to desensitize and habituate her—and that is right out of what I learned all about in Equine Behaviour,” says Hoyle.

It’s natural for our instincts to kick in when unexpected events happen, but Hoyle says she didn’t panic and she’s not afraid to get back on the horse. "Understanding a horse's behavior, as opposed to anthropomorphizing them and thinking the horse did it to me, helps take the fear away. The more you know, the more you can create an objective reality in between what’s happening. I was able to talk myself into being rational and now when something happens, I can understand why my horse reacts this way or that,” explains Hoyle.

For Hoyle, who spent her career in marketing and financial services, horses have always been a part of her life, but it wasn’t until she finished her work that she was able to seriously start her equine education journey. “I was looking for something that I could commit myself to and learn about in a deep way.” Another motivating factor for her was that she didn’t want to be a passive owner of a thinking, functioning being.

“I wanted to fill a gap of knowledge in me. There were times at the barn when I would ask somebody how to do something and there’d be six or seven different methodologies or products to use. I’d follow all of them and by the end of it I wouldn’t know what I did or what worked. I wanted to make sure that I was doing the right stuff because it was validated by science.”

So, in 2018, Hoyle enrolled in the Diploma of Equine Studies and in May 2022 she completed her diploma with distinction.

“I feel like I can have legitimate conversations with my vet, equine therapist, and other horse professionals around me because I’ve been exposed to the new science that’s come out. It’s a huge confidence builder,” adds Hoyle.

To celebrate her accomplishment, Hoyle had her own convocation at the University of Guelph campus when picking up her certificate. Taking pictures all dressed up in front of the gryphon helped her realize her amazing achievement.

“I’m only sad I finished,” says Hoyle. But thanks to the great community she formed during her equine studies, this doesn’t mean the end of her journey. “I came out knowing a fabulous amount of people who I still correspond with,” says Hoyle, who mentioned that she still talks with one of her professors, is friends with several classmates online, and is even considering a master's degree.

As for advice she has for people considering the course, she says, "Number one: Do it. Number two: Don’t be intimidated, and do it at a reasonable pace so you can enjoy it."

“I don’t think anyone should own a horse without taking one of these courses,” she concludes.

Learn more about the Diploma of Equine Studies and more at Equine Studies Online.