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Fear reactions in trained and untrained horses from dressage and show-jumping breeding lines

By U. U. K. von Borstel, I. J. H. Duncan, M. C. Lundin, L. J. Keeling

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Horses' fear reactions are hazardous to both horses and human beings, but it is not clear whether fear is influenced more by training or by other factors such as genetics. The following study was designed to detect differences between young, untrained (U) and older, well-trained (T) horses of dressage (D), show-jumping (J), and mixed (M) genetic lines with regard to intensity of reaction and ease of habituation to a frightening stimulus. In five consecutive trials, 90 horses were exposed to a standardized fear-eliciting stimulus where intensity and duration of the reactions were recorded. Repeated measures analysis showed that flight reactions by J were less intense (p<0.05) than those by D or M regardless of training status or age. Habituation to the stimulus over time was not significantly (p>0.1) different between the disciplines, as indicated by similar slopes for all measurements, but reaction vigour declined faster for T than for U. These findings indicate that there may be a genetic basis for less strong, though not shorter-lasting, fear reactions in J compared to D or M lines of horses. Research including the estimation of genetic correlations between traits related to fearfulness and to performance would be required to verify this assumption.

Date 2010
Publication Title Applied Animal Behaviour Science
Volume 125
Issue 3/4
Pages 124-131
ISBN/ISSN 0168-1591
Language English
Author Address Department of Animal and Poultry Science, University of Guelph, Guelph, Ontario N1G 2W1, Canada.
Cite this work

Researchers should cite this work as follows:

  1. Animal behavior
  2. Animal genetics
  3. Education
  4. Estimation
  5. Fear
  6. Flight
  7. Genetic correlations
  8. Genetics
  9. Hazards
  10. Horses
  11. Mammals
  12. Methodologies
  13. peer-reviewed
  14. Primates
  15. Techniques
  16. training
  17. traits
  1. peer-reviewed