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Fri, 05 Jul


Online Summit

Applied Neuroscience Online Summit

From July 5-7 2024, 2022, Functional Horse Training will host an online summit themed around Applied Equine Neuroscience. Scroll down below for more information.

Applied Neuroscience Online Summit
Applied Neuroscience Online Summit

Time & Location

05 Jul 2024, 18:30 CEST – 07 Jul 2024, 17:00 CEST

Online Summit

About the event

Every two years, Thirza Hendriks from Functional Horse Training hosts a highly anticipated online summit. This third edition will delve into the fascinating world of nervous systems, a topic that Thirza passionately teaches at several educational institutions but has never explicitly covered in an online setting open to the general public. Scroll below for more information.


We all aspire to have horses that move fluently with a balanced mindset. As horse owners and/or professionals, we are committed to optimizing their well-being. However, despite our best efforts, we often encounter challenges such as injuries, pain, lameness, and stress-related behaviors. We tend to focus on output: the expressive behavior we don't like, the so-called physical ''crookedness'' in the horse. Impaired performance. Muscle development. Spinal posture. But what goes behind this? What happens before? What processes drive behaviors and movement (biomechanics)? We often focus on musculoskeletal structures, but all body tissues and functions are regulated by the nervous system and fluid pressures. As such, we should look at ''the thing before the thing''.

This summit aims to give you a deeper understanding of a crucial network that drives movement (biomechanics) and behavior and its potential for transformation in our horses: the nervous system. We will look at the interaction of the nervous system and other bodily tissues such as the endoncrine, metabolic,  fascia, cardiovascular- respiratory and muscular to understand why the nervous system is key for functional movement and mind. 

When working with horses, we constantly deal with their nervous systems' perception and interpretation of their body and the environment. Therefore, the nervous system is at the core of the horse's being and a key factor in its overall health that deserves to be in the spotlight.


In a 10-lecture series, you will embark on a journey into the intricate world of the nervous system(s). Complex science will be demystified and presented in a practical and understandable fashion. This weekend of nerding on neuroscience will not only be invigorating but also empower you with a deep understanding of your horse on both a physical and psychological level. It will inspire you to think outside of the box. Practical exercises and concepts will be presented for direct application with your own horse, giving you the tools to optimize their overall health and performance.

You will learn about:

  • Embryology of the nervous system
  • Neuro-anatomy & functional organization
  • Nervous system interactions (metabolic, endocrine, fluid pressures, force transmission and muscular) 
  • Fascia & Proprioception
  • Neuroplasticity 
  • Performing a basic neurological assessment
  • Neurodynamics and injury
  • Neurophysiology of pain
  • Neurophysiology of stress
  • Neurophysiology of learning
  • Stereotypic behaviors and syndromes
  • Applied neuroscience for functional horse training

(optimizing overall health and performance of the (sport) horse)

The lectures will be interactive, use dissection material to bring anatomy to life, and always deliver practical considerations/implementations.

If you can't attend the live lectures, there will be a replay of 6-12 months available. 

This summit will be presented in English, subtitles can be made available upon request for the replay. 


1.  Embryology of the equine nervous systems – by Emma Loftus (guestlecturer)        

       Friday July 5th 18.00-19.30 CEST 

In this lecture, Emma Loftus (AU) takes you through her favorite topic of embryology. With a passion for nature, she will take you through a fascinating journey of how the equine embryo develops into perfection.   Keywords:  Embryology; Nervous System Development

2.  Neuro-anatomy, functional structure and organization

      Friday July 6th 20.00-21.30 CEST   

This lecture is a deep-dive into all things nervous systems. A 101 what every horse lover, owner, trainer and professional should know.   This lecture will show substantial dissection footage of both the central and peripheral nervous systems, explain basic functions and nervous tissues and some thought-provoking science on the workings of various layers of the nervous systems.  

Key words:  Tensegrity; Neurotransmitters; nervous systems organization; nervous tissues; neurotransmitters; nervous system relationships; endocrine; metabolic; fascia; fluid pressures; 

3.  Proprioception - with guest lecturer Zefanja Vermeulen 

     Saturday July 6th 09.30-10.45 CEST  

In this lecture we will zoom in specifically on proprioception. What is it, why does it matter and how is it facilitated? What is the role of fascia?  Zefanja Vermeulen will share her insights as to how proprioception develops from the foal to the adult based upon her observation studies of both wild and domesticated horses.

Guest-speaker Zefanja Vermeulen   

Keywords:  Proprioceptors; Development

4.  Basic neurological assessment 

      Saturday July 6th 11.15-12.30 CEST   

This lecture is all practical. How can you test for neurological responses and detect possible abnormalities / proprioceptive deficits. A few real-life case studies will be presented to show a neurological assessment and its outcome in practice.

Keywords:  Neurological assessment in practice

5.  Neuro-dynamics and injury 

     Saturday July 6th 13.30-14.45 CEST   

What happens when damage occurs? What are some examples of injuries that affects the nervous systems?   The nervous system response to injury differs from many other cells in the body. As such, during this lecture you will learn the specialistic mechanisms of the nervous systems to cope with injury and how you can apply this knowledge practically.   Traditionally, the nervous system was thought to be immune-privileged by means of the blood-brain barrier. Nowadays, research has caught up and discovered the brain has its own immune system. During this lecture, we will take you through the neuro-immune system.

Keywords: Neuro-immune system; neural pathways and networks; Neural plasticity; Injury

6.  Neurophysiology of pain 

      Saturday July 6th 15.15-16.30 CEST   

As horse loves, we are devoted to optimizing our horse’s welfare which often includes minimizing / eradicating pain experiences. Despite pain generally perceived with a negative connotation, pain is part of life and therefore chances are that any horse owner will encounter pain expressions in their horse during life. This lecture is aimed to provide a deeper understanding on the concept of pain: What is pain? Different types of pain? Pain pathways, altered pain states, detecting pain in the horse   Keywords:  Pain; 

Types of Pain; Neurophysiology & Pathways; Pain Assessment; Pain Relationships

7.  Neurophysiology of stress       

     Sunday July 7th 09.30-10.45 CEST 

As with pain, stress and stressors are a part of life. Our ability to deal and neutralize stressors determines for a great part how we can cope with life and its challenges and therefore this lecture will provide you a deeper understanding how stress. What is stress? What is homeostasis? Different types of stress? Stress axis’s, detecting stress in a horse  

Keywords:  Stress; Neurophysiology & Pathways; Stress Assessment; Stress Relationships; Gut-Brain axis

8.  Stereotypic behavior and syndromes 

     Sunday July 7th 11.15-12.30 CEST    

In the first part of this lecture we will investigate repetitive behaviors such as weaving, cribbing and windsucking.   In the second part of this lecture we will dive into self-mutilation syndrome and sleep disorders such as narcolepsy and sleep-deprivation collapse.   What do we know about its causes? Can it be helped?   

Keywords:  Stereotype behavior; Sleep deprivation collapse; Self-mutilation syndrome.

9.  Neurophysiology of learning  

      Sunday July 7th 13.30-14.45 CEST 

How do horses learning and how is this facilitated?   When engaging or training horses, we are working with their nervous systems and their perception of the body and its environments. As such, it is crucial to understand how horses learn and we can optimize our interactions and training principles.

Keywords:  Different forms of learning; Neural plasticity; Learning theory; Dopamine; Equitation Science; Equine Behavioral Medicine

10.  Neuroscience and functional horse training 

        Sunday July 7th 15.15-16.30 CEST   

In this last lecture, all information presented so far will be brought together in a summary with practical tips for integrating neuroscience knowledge practically into your management and training. This lecture will trigger you to think outside the box and do things differently for better result: don't train harder train smarter! 

Keywords: Applied neuroscience; Functional Horse Training; Summary



6 Months Access general audience

12 Months Access Fundamentals Course Members   

Early bird: Earlybird20 for 20% discount until June 24th 23.59 CEST 2024. 

Fundamentals member will receive a separate discount coupon for 40% discount. 

 Immersion members will receive the summit content for free.

Links & Replay 

You will receive the live-links 7 days prior to the start of the event. The replays will be emailed directly 

after each day has finished so you can catch up in your own time zone. 

Questions can be asked during the live-event and after in a dedicated FB group or per email. 

Cancellation policy


Download the full brochure here


  • Participant

    This includes: • Full live access (+/- 13 hours) • Question options • Replay access




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