An investigation into physiological correlates of equine personality

Jolivald, A. ORCID: 0000-0002-9440-4107, 2021. An investigation into physiological correlates of equine personality. PhD, Nottingham Trent University.

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Objective equine personality tests enable the selection of horses for roles based on their typical behavioural responses to challenges. In humans and rodents, non-behavioural correlates of personality such as physiological reactivity to stressors and cognitive style have been identified. These traits are relevant to equine welfare and performance, yet little is known about their relationship with equine personality. Therefore, it is currently unclear what impact selection for personality has on these factors. This thesis aimed to address this gap by investigating potential neurophysiological correlates of equine personality. First, the Equine Personality Test (EPT) was evaluated for internal consistency, inter-rater reliability and test-retest reliability. This demonstrated that the EPT produces valid and reliable evaluations of the equine personality factors Agreeableness, Neuroticism, Extraversion and Gregariousness towards People. Following this, autonomic and HPA axis reactivity to stressors, chronic HPA axis activity and tonic striatal dopamine were investigated as potential neurophysiological correlates of equine personality measured by the EPT. They were measured through cardiac and salivary cortisol responses to experimental stressors, hair cortisol concentration and spontaneous blink rate, respectively. Although these physiological parameters have been established as correlates of personality in human and rodent models, no similar associations were identified in the horse. The EPT did not have predictive validity for physiological reactivity to stressors, suggesting that horses identified as non-reactive to stressors on a behavioural basis did not have equally low physiological stress sensitivity. Hair cortisol concentration was positively associated with Agreeableness, suggesting that compliant horses may experience greater HPA axis activity. These results raise concerns on the welfare of compliant, non-behaviourally reactive horses. Should they be confirmed by future research, these findings should inform the choice of methods used to select horses for roles, with a view to safeguard not only human safety but also equine welfare.

Item Type: Thesis
Creators: Jolivald, A.
Date: September 2021
Rights: The copyright in this work is held by the author. You may copy up to 5% of this work for private study, or personal, non-commercial research. Any re-use of the information contained within this document should be fully referenced, quoting the author, title, university, degree level and pagination. Queries or requests for any other use, or if a more substantial copy is required, should be directed to the author.
Divisions: Schools > School of Animal, Rural and Environmental Sciences
Record created by: Linda Sullivan
Date Added: 29 Jun 2022 13:48
Last Modified: 29 Jun 2022 13:48

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