Equine Responses to Acceleration and Deceleration Cues May Reflect Their Exposure to Multiple Riders

Jessica McKenzie, Kate Fenner, Michelle Hyde, Ashley Anzulewicz, Bibiana Burattini, Nicole Romness, Bethany Wilson, Paul McGreevy
2020 Animals  
It is logical to assume that horses with multiple riders encounter variation in application of training cues. When training cues are inconsistent, we expect to see a decrease in trained responses or an increase in conflict behaviours. This study investigated the relationship between the number of people that regularly ride or handle a horse and the horse's response to operant cues. Data on 1819 equids were obtained from the Equine Behavior Assessment and Research Questionnaire (E-BARQ), an
more » ... e global survey of horse owners and caregivers. Three mutually independent indices (acceleration, deceleration, and responsiveness) were derived from a parallel analysis of E-BARQ items related to acceleration and deceleration cues. These indices were then subjected to multivariable modelling against a range of dependent variables including horse and human demographics, horse management, and the number of riders or handlers. The number of riders or handlers was a significant predictor for two out of three indices. As the number of riders or handlers increased, horses were more difficult to accelerate (regression coefficient = 0.0148 ± 0.0071; p = 0.0366) and less difficult to decelerate (regression coefficient = −0.017 ± 0.008; p = 0.030) than those with fewer riders or handlers. These findings suggest that horses' responses to rein tension cues are more persistent than their responses to leg pressure or whip cues. Alternatively, horses with these responses may be actively selected for multiple rider roles. Longitudinal studies of this sort should reveal how the number of riders or handlers affects horse behaviour and could lead to safer and more humane equestrian practices.
doi:10.3390/ani11010066 pmid:33396451 fatcat:hatppa2tbzhvxh3bbjv7ob232m