The role of the ethogram in equitation science

Hall, C. ORCID: 0000-0001-5916-311X and Heleski, C., 2017. The role of the ethogram in equitation science. Applied Animal Behaviour Science, 190, pp. 102-110. ISSN 0168-1591

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The development of a comprehensive ethogram that could be used to record the behaviour of the ridden horse in a range of different scenarios would provide a valuable resource for researchers within equitation science. However, the relevance of the behaviours included in such an ethogram and guidelines on how these behaviours should be interpreted need to be resolved before such a resource could be universally adopted. The aim of this review is to summarise and evaluate the ethograms used by researchers within equitation science to date, including comparisons between studies and information relating to additional measures taken. Evidence for behavioural interpretation based on equine social behaviour, qualitative behavioural assessment, physiological measures, specific situations and subjective assessment of ‘rideability’ is discussed with reference to the results and conclusions drawn by the authors of the studies included in the review. The behavioural signs of conflict between horse and rider and the potential sources of this conflict, including discomfort, pain, fear and frustration, are identified. To date the most common use of ridden horse ethograms has been in the evaluation of training methods and dressage performance, with the spotlight being on welfare concerns, in particular in relation to head and neck position. It is suggested that future work should include the development of ethograms that are relevant in other equestrian disciplines, where they have the potential to contribute to furthering understanding of the challenges faced by ridden horses and the behaviours associated with positive and negative responses to these. Although the association between specific behaviours and physiological measures was found to be inconsistent in many cases, and individual differences occurred, behavioural observation is still the primary means of evaluating the performance and welfare of the ridden horse. Consequently it is imperative to know what behaviours are important and why. By combining the evidence from the range of available sources it will be possible to get closer to an accurate interpretation of the meaning of different ridden horse behaviours. The evaluation of training methods and the adoption of appropriate performance criteria will only be possible when there is sufficient evidence on which to base these conclusions.

Item Type: Journal article
Publication Title: Applied Animal Behaviour Science
Creators: Hall, C. and Heleski, C.
Publisher: Elsevier
Date: May 2017
Volume: 190
ISSN: 0168-1591
S0168159117300643Publisher Item Identifier
Divisions: Schools > School of Animal, Rural and Environmental Sciences
Record created by: Jonathan Gallacher
Date Added: 05 Jul 2017 14:06
Last Modified: 24 Feb 2018 03:00

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