Assessing ridden horse behavior: professional judgment and physiological measures

Hall, C ORCID: 0000-0001-5916-311X, Kay, R and Yarnell, K ORCID: 0000-0001-7464-8764, 2014. Assessing ridden horse behavior: professional judgment and physiological measures. Journal of Veterinary Behavior: Clinical Applications and Research, 9 (1), pp. 22-29. ISSN 1878-7517

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The assessment of ridden horse behavior by 12 equestrian professionals (riding instructors n ¼ 4, riders n ¼ 4, veterinarians n ¼ 4) was compared with observed behavior and physiological measures (salivary cortisol and eye temperature). Horses (n ¼ 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 Fédération 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 < 0.05) and only the instructors associated neutral head carriage (32.76%-91.92% of RT) and vertical nasal angle (0.97%-68.90% of RT) as a positive sign (P ¼ 0.03 and P ¼ 0.04, respectively). Increases in salivary cortisol positively correlated with the duration of low head carriage (P < 0.05), suggesting that this way of going increased the demands placed on the horse. Increased eye temperature positively correlated with duration of nose carried behind the vertical when ridden (P ¼ 0.02) and negatively correlated with duration of nose carried in front of the vertical (P ¼ 0.01). Some discrepancy between physiological evidence and professional assessment of ridden horse behavior was evident as were differences between groups of professionals. Further evaluation of the association between behavioral signs and physiological measures is now required to ensure that the assessment of ridden horse performance is based on valid and consistent measures.

Item Type: Journal article
Publication Title: Journal of Veterinary Behavior: Clinical Applications and Research
Creators: Hall, C., Kay, R. and Yarnell, K.
Publisher: Elsevier
Date: 2014
Volume: 9
Number: 1
ISSN: 1878-7517
Rights: Copyright © 2014 Elsevier B.V.
Divisions: Schools > School of Animal, Rural and Environmental Sciences
Schools > School of Social Sciences
Depositing User: EPrints Services
Date Added: 09 Oct 2015 10:55
Last Modified: 05 Jul 2017 14:33

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