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Assessing ridden horse behavior: professional judgment and physiological measures

By C. Hall, R. Kay, K. Yarnell

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The assessment of ridden horse behavior by 12 equestrian professionals (riding instructors n=4, riders n=4, veterinarians n=4) was compared with observed behavior and physiological measures (salivary cortisol and eye temperature). Horses (n=10) were ridden at walk, trot, and canter in a predefined test of approximately 2-3 minutes. Video footage of the ridden test (RT) was analyzed using Observer XT 10 and duration of behavioral states/events recorded. Saliva was collected in the stable, after the warm-up (WU) and at 0, 5, 15, 30, and 60 minutes after the RT. The saliva was analyzed for cortisol (enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay) and the difference between minimum and maximum concentration (ng/mL) and associated sample times recorded. Eye temperature was measured using an infrared thermal camera (MobIR M8), static images (stable, after WU, after RT), and video footage (WU and RT) with maximum eye temperatures derived from set intervals. Mean maximum eye temperatures during ridden work were calculated. Video footage of the RT was observed by the 12 equestrian professionals who each scored the horses on 7 performance parameters derived from the Federation Equestre Internationale rules for dressage events and the training scale of the German National Equestrian Federation (relaxation, energy, compliance, suppleness, confidence, motivation, and happiness). These scores were compared with behavioral and physiological measures and correlations investigated (Spearman's rank order correlation). Higher percentage durations of high head carriage (ranging from 0 to 50.75% of RT) and the nose carried at an angle in front of the vertical (0%-74.29% of RT) correlated with overall less favorable assessment by the equestrian professionals ( P

Publication Title Journal of Veterinary Behavior: Clinical Applications and Research
Volume 9
Issue 1
Pages 22-29
ISBN/ISSN 1558-7878
DOI 10.1016/j.jveb.2013.09.005
Language English
Author Address School of Animal, Rural and Environmental Sciences, Nottingham Trent University, Brackenhurst Campus, Southwell, Nottinghamshire NG25 0QF,
Cite this work

Researchers should cite this work as follows:

  1. Animal behavior
  2. Animals
  3. Evaluation
  4. Eyes
  5. Head
  6. Horses
  7. Hydrocortisone
  8. Mammals
  9. nose
  10. peer-reviewed
  11. saliva
  12. temperatures
  13. training
  14. ungulates
  15. vertebrates
  16. Veterinarians
  1. peer-reviewed