MSc, Postgraduate Diploma, Postgraduate Certificate

Equitation Science

Typical offer: 2:1 honours degree

Duration: 1-3 years; full-time and part-time options

Awarding body: Hartpury University

Delivery: Online and campus-based; block delivery

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Course overview

Improve the welfare of horse and rider through ethical decision-making underpinned by the latest scientific research. This course can be studied in CPD module blocks, making it ideal for professionals, or via more traditional academic pathways.

World-leading experts

You’ll learn from leading lecturers and industry experts who are changing the world of equitation science, influencing the development of new ethical policies and practices that challenge the status quo. They will support you to make evidence-based assessments of horse and rider welfare in a range of contexts including during training and competition.

World-leading facilities

Combining learning, research and commercial activities, our facilities will enable you to apply theory to practice as part of real-world projects, using the latest technologies. These include 230 horses on campus, an Equine Therapy Centre, Equestrian Centre hosting over 200 events each year, and an Equine Assisted Activities Arena.

Ideal for professional CPD

The course is ideal for graduates and professionals, offering more traditional academic or shorter CPD qualifications. Block module delivery makes it ideal for professionals looking to upskill to help fulfil organisational objectives and missions.

A mix of online and campus delivery, full and part-time options, makes it easy for you to fit your studies around other commitments.

Apply now Contact us: +44 (0)1452 702244

What you'll study

What you'll study


Focus on the application of equitation science principles in real-world practice. You’ll develop knowledge and understanding of the latest scientific advances surrounding the popular area of horse-human interactions. You’ll investigate the benefits of connection for both parties, developing your ability to promote positive affective states.

Practical sessions and demonstrations will facilitate first-hand experience of the application of equitation scientific theory. Our campus provides the base for a range of learning contexts including humans and horses in therapy, competition and leisure. Through our industry networks, you could also study equestrian services (policing or military uses) and the working equid within developing countries.

Projects recently undertaken have uncovered new welfare understanding of nocturnal behaviour, workload modelling, dietary supplement efficacy, performance parameter assessments and the therapeutic benefits of equine therapy.

Whilst learning how to design and deliver evidence-based welfare assessments for the horse, you’ll appreciate the wellbeing of the human partner. You’ll develop your skills using a multidisciplinary approach to explaining horse training, for example, from a learning theory perspective that removes anthropomorphism and emotion.

Enabling you to engage with and influence the wider equestrian industry, you’ll also be supported to understand proven human behaviour change theories, utilising key psychological principles to change minds and improve national and global practice.

Your dissertation will enable you to research an area of your own interest. In addition to compulsory modules, you’ll select from specialist modules in equine biomechanics and further investigate equestrian research. These modules have been designed to widen your appreciation for the role of the horse in society.

Postgraduate Certificate and Postgraduate Diploma

Studying a postgraduate certificate or diploma is ideal for those who want to complete a specific part of this master’s degree, without the academic research (see module section for details of topics included). You’ll have the option to top-up your qualification to a full master’s degree on completion.


Below you’ll find the modules for this course. Successful completion of your modules will enable you to gain academic credits that may accumulate towards your final master’s degree award (pass, merit or distinction). Modules change each year in line with student, industry and research demands.

  • MSc students will study 180 credits, made up of all modules
  • Postgraduate diploma students will study 120 credits, made up of all taught modules except for the Postgraduate Dissertation
  • Postgraduate certificate students will study 60 credits, including the module Advanced Equine Learning and Cognition
  • CPD students can study part of or all of one module and more

Compulsory modules

Develop your knowledge and understanding of the latest equine learning and cognition research
developments. You’ll hear from a range of lecturers who are at the forefront of their fields within the area of equine learning and cognition with opportunities to evaluate and critique current research.

Investigate the benefits of horse-human interactions for both parties; investigate the promotion of positive affective states in both members of the horse / human dyad. You’ll explore a range of situations to encourage questioning of the status quo within equestrianism in an objective and innovative manner, including the issues surrounding the Social License to Operate.

Develop your knowledge and understanding of the latest developments and thinking in the welfare assessment of both horse and human within the exploitation of the horse by the human, whilst still appreciating the welfare of the human partner.

Discuss research methodologies and applications, as well as strengths, weaknesses and limitations of different methods.

Develop and implement a research project of your choosing. You’ll be allocated an individual supervisor to guide and support you to undertake this innovative independent piece of research.

Optional modules

Gain exposure to, and analysis of, research across a wide range of topics within the field of equine science
including seminar and conference attendance.

This module introduces you to natural and domestic behavioural patterns of the horse, covering, amongst
other topics, learning theory in relation to training and management.

This module allows students to explore the fundamentals of equine exercise physiology in the context of
different equestrian disciplines and their application to training.

The application and assessment of biomechanical principles to equestrian athletic performance.

This module aims to provide students with the knowledge and analytical skills to critically examine the
ethics and the sustainability of practices within the global equine industry in relation to a variety of

This module aims to provide students with the knowledge and evaluative skills to debate the ethics and
practicalities surrounding management of the horse within a range of societal pressures and the wider social responsibilities of the industry.

You will undertake an extended literature review in an area of your choice, supported by an academic

Explore the physiological and biomechanical demands of the rider across difference disciplines and how
the rider adapts and modifies to harmonise with the horse.

Please visit our document library for more module information.

Further module information

How you'll study

How you'll study

We're committed to supporting you to fulfil your unique potential while you're here so that you can achieve your personal and professional goals.

Your learning experience

Learning channels have been designed to suit different learning styles, including campus-based and virtual lectures, workshops and practical demonstrations. You’ll be taught by different academic experts, many of whom also work in industry, and hear from industry professionals in lectures.

Your support network

You'll benefit from a strong support network from day one. This will range from your lecturers and your personal tutor to our specialist academic (Achievement and Success Centre), employability (Innovation, Careers and Enterprise) and wellbeing teams.

Further details

One year, full-time (MSc)

You can study this qualification full-time and subsequently complete within one year.

Two-three years, part-time

Alternatively, we offer flexible part-time options to help students to manage their studies alongside other commitments. These options can be tailored to suit your own needs, enabling you to complete your qualification in two or three years. Please enquire for further details.

Upon successful completion of your modules, you’ll gain academic credit that accumulates towards your award. The marks you gain may contribute towards your final master’s degree differential award (pass, merit or distinction).

The course is taught in English.

Modules contain a mixture of scheduled learning – lectures, online learning, workshops and practical sessions – alongside independent studies.

The course is taught in English.

Contact learningPlacement learningIndependent learning
MSc degree12%0%88%
Postgraduate Diploma16%0%84%
Postgraduate Certificate16%0%84%

Teaching contact time and method will vary depending on the module you’re studying. You’ll be expected to dedicate at least two to three hours of independent study per contact hour.

You’ll be assessed through practical exams and written assignments. Some modules will include a mixture of assessment types, whilst others will be based on one. Feedback will be provided in written form, with the option for follow-up discussions with academic staff.

Written examPractical examCoursework
Postgraduate Diploma


Postgraduate Certificate0%0%100%
  • Scheduled teaching generally will be delivered in a blended model with a mix of onsite synchronous delivery, asynchronous virtual delivery and practical block week attendance at set times within the academic year. Dates to be confirmed before commencement of the course.
  • Full-time students will typically study two practical blocks and an average of two onsite synchronous delivery weekends (Friday – Sunday) supported by asynchronous virtual delivery
  • Part-time students typically study one practical block and fewer days of blended delivery across an academic year
  • Attendance dates and timetables will be made available before enrolment.


Your career

You’ll have opportunities to develop your skills in the real-world, whether with our horses, riders and coaches on campus or via our industry links further afield. This includes equine therapists, charities, competition and leisure centres, services (policing and military) and organisations using working equids in the developing world.

Work experience

Our commercial equine therapy centre and rider performance centre offer opportunities for students to gain industry experience to support their careers. With teams made up of expert personnel alongside volunteers, you could have the opportunity to get hands-on with clinical cases and to network with the range of allied professionals that involved in the training, rehabilitation and management of the horses, including coaches, veterinarians, farriers, nutritionists and more.

Furthermore, opportunities exist to gain valuable industry experience by volunteering at the national and international level events hosted by our Equine Centre. These include the NAF Five Star Hartpury Horse Trials and the NAF Hartpury International Festival of Dressage.

Guest lecturers

Industry professionals form an important part of your learning, enabling you to gain insights into real-world practice. You'll hear from guest lecturers on this programme who are selected to extend your learning and professional networks, recently including physical therapists, veterinary surgeons and research scientists within the field of equine behavioural science.

Field trips

Recent field trips on our postgraduate equine courses have included visits to places such as Redwings Horse Sanctuary, Tweenhills Farm and Stud, and Kingswood Stud, home of the Kurtsystem. The trips facilitate both industry networking and the opportunity to experience the application of science in practice with those using it on a daily basis.

Conferences and events

You'll be encouraged to take an active role in industry events and conferences. Students often present their dissertations and research projects at conferences - this is great experience for their CV and helps them to develop their reputation in the animal sector. Recent conferences attended including our own annual Alltech-Hartpury Student Research Conference and the global International Society of Equitation Science conference.

Graduate destinations 

As a graduate, you'll be ready to progress directly into the field of equitation science as follows:

  • Welfare and Research Officer, Equine Welfare Charity
  • Educational Officer
  • Training and Rehabilitation Manager
  • University Lecturer

Please note that postgraduate diploma and certificate student opportunities may differ, depending on modules studied.



Our world-class facilities

You’ll have access to a diverse range of facilities while you’re here, many of which are newly built and world-class. Alongside lecture halls and workshop spaces, these include:

Equine Centre

Our commercial livery yard has stabling for 230 horses, and modern equestrian facilities. The Equine Centre provides a diverse learning and research environment. Riders and horses at different performance levels, alongside diversity of stabling types, offer students extensive opportunities to enhance their learning and practice.

Projects recently undertaken utilising Equine Centre resources have uncovered new knowledge in nocturnal behaviour, workload modelling, dietary supplement efficacy and performance parameter assessments, to name only a few.

Hartpury indoor and outdoor international arenas includes IP cameras offering live and delayed footage of ridden and ground-schooling training and behaviour, providing the chance to analyse using associated high-quality footage.

Equine Assisted Activities Area

An open sided indoor arena alongside a round pen with gallery in a quieter part of the Equine area enable students to develop knowledge and understanding of the horses’ behaviour.

Equine Therapy Centre

Our campus Equine Therapy Centre is among the best in the UK, being a highly reputable and well-established referral centre for over two decades. Alongside being a successful business, treating a diverse range of horses, from Olympic athletes to companion ponies, it’s a place of learning for our students, embedded into both teaching and research activities.

The Margaret Giffen Centre for Rider Performance

Our Margaret Giffen Centre for Rider Performance is the most advanced of its kind in the world at an academic institution. It provides the perfect place for you to develop real-world expertise, providing access to world-leading equipment and industry experts. Facilities within the centre are incorporated into relevant modules within the programme and, where relevant, are available for use within your postgraduate research project.

Science laboratories

Our laboratories are modern and well equipped, providing the ideal spaces for scientific activities and research.

Study spaces

Our University Learning Centre has books, journals, ebooks, computers and breakout study spaces. In addition, we have a study Lounge - an informal space with sports equipment, study booths and chill-out spaces to support both studying and relaxation. Postgraduate students also have a specially designated study area with 24-hour access.

Entry requirements

Entry requirements


2:1 honours degree in a relevant subject. Students with 2:2 and relevant experience will be considered on a case by case basis.


Students with non-relevant qualifications but with sufficient work experience or professional experience will be considered on an individual basis.


In addition to the academic qualification an IELTS 6.5 or equivalent is required. You may also need to evidence proficiency in English language.

Please contact us for further information:

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Fees and funding

Tuition fees and financial support

Please visit our finance pages for information on tuition fees and student loans, as well as non-repayable grants, bursaries and scholarships, eligible to different groups, to support with study costs.

Explore student finance

Extra costs

Clothing and footwear (circa £100)

Outdoor clothing: The outdoor nature of this discipline may also require you to wear all-weather clothing and appropriate footwear whilst engaging in practical aspects on the yard eg. long trousers, gloves and boots. The purchase of this clothing is your own responsibility.

Hartpury University branded clothing is also available through our online shop, for those who wish to purchase it. However, this is not essential.

Visit Hartpury shop

Optional field trip (circa £500)

Costs need to be self-funded.

Performance Sports Academy membership

Find out costs and details for joining one of our performance Sports Academy teams.

Our Sports Academy

Hartpury gym

Find out about costs and details for joining the Hartpury gym.

Discover more

Equine Academy

If you have the talent and drive to develop your skills as an equestrian athlete alongside your studies, you may be eligible to join our Equine Academy. For further details including costs, please visit our Equine Academy page.

Visit Equine Academy


We have stabling for 230 horses on campus. If you're interested in having your horse at Hartpury on DIY livery while you study, please visit our livery page for details and costs.

Livery options

Accommodation and living costs

Please visit our student accommodation page for details.

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Supporting para-equestrian wellbeing

We’re working with the Fédération Équestre Internationale (FEI) to uncover new science behind para-rider partnerships, improving connection and harmony between horse and rider.

Our famous Margaret Giffen Centre for Rider Performance has been the home of this important research, where expert teams have been revealing important new wellbeing insights to inform this unique athletic partnership.

One Welfare

Be at the forefront of global initiative One Welfare. Optimise best practice as part of the interconnection between animal welfare, human wellbeing, biodiversity and the environment.

From poverty and community support to socioeconomic issues, sustainability and abuse, our students and staff are helping the concept of one welfare to be understood, implemented and adopted on a global scale. By joining this course, you too can pioneer this mission.

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Get in touch

We would love to hear from you, so please get in touch. You can ask a specific question or simply pop your details in to be kept up-to-date with news and events.

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Important information

Every effort has been made to ensure the accuracy of our published course information, however our programmes are reviewed and developed regularly. Changes or cancellation of courses may be necessary to ensure alignment with emerging employment areas, to comply with accrediting body requirements, revisions to subject benchmark statements or as a result of student feedback. We reserve the right to make necessary changes and will notify all offer-holders of changes as and when they occur.

*Reflects activities after 15 months for those full-time, two years students who graduated in 2020.