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Improving the Recognition of Equine Affective States

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A key welfare problem for horses is that people commonly fail to recognise, and consequently neglect to resolve, equine behavioural signs of distress, worsening the welfare of the horse and potentially putting the safety of the handler at risk as a result. Members of equestrian Facebook groups were asked to view six videos and assess the horse's behaviour in each; the authors selected the videos and considered each video to demonstrate behaviour associated with negative affective states. An additional six equine behaviourists also completed the survey as an "expert comparison group" from whom we could define "correct" answers; their responses were consistent with each other and the views of the authors. Although the majority of respondents successfully recognised behaviour indicative of distress in some instances, behaviour associated with negative affective states was commonly missed; videos featuring natural horsemanship and bridle-less riding were particularly interpreted incorrectly to be positive experiences for the horses. Binary logistic regression analysis (72.1% success rate) confirmed that the different video types (ridden dressage, natural horsemanship, in-hand dressage, bridle-less riding, Western reining and behavioural rehabilitation) were strong predictors for obtaining a correct answer (p < 0.01) but that experience of equine-ownership was not. Of the equestrian activities preferred by participants, only proponents of clicker training showed an increased likelihood of obtaining the correct answer (p = 0.05). Even when behavioural signs suggestive of negative affective states were recognised, a minority of respondents stated that they would be happy for their horse to be treated similarly. In conclusion, behavioural signs of equine distress are poorly recognised; they therefore warrant an increased prominence in education and the outreach activity of welfare organisations, in order to reduce equine suffering.
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Article
Improving the Recognition of Equine Aective States
Catherine Bell 1, *, Suzanne Rogers 1, Julie Taylor 2and Debbie Busby 1
1Equine Behaviour and Training Association, Godalming GU8 6AX, UK;
suzanne@learningaboutanimals.co.uk (S.R.); evolutionequine@gmail.com (D.B.)
2EPONA-TV, 3400 Hillerød, Denmark; julie@epona.tv
*Correspondence: catherinebrocksopp@gmail.com
Received: 28 October 2019; Accepted: 3 December 2019; Published: 11 December 2019
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Simple Summary:
People commonly fail to recognise the behavioural signs that horses display when
they experience pain and fear. Consequently, the distress remains unresolved, reducing the horse’s
welfare and having potential safety implications for the handler. In order to investigate the public’s
ability to recognise such signs of equine distress, members of equestrian Facebook groups were
asked to view and comment on six videos; these videos were selected by the authors on account
of their portrayal of horses behaving in a manner suggestive of negative aect. For comparison,
responses were also obtained from six equine behaviourists, who identified behaviours suggestive of
varying degrees of distress. While respondents successfully recognised behaviour consistent with
negative aect in some instances, videos featuring natural horsemanship and bridle-less riding were
often wrongly interpreted to be positive experiences for the horses. Despite recognising behaviours
indicative of distress in some videos, a minority of respondents nevertheless said they would have
been happy for their own horse to be treated similarly. Participant age and experience had little eect
on the results; however, responses by people who had selected “clicker training” as their preferred
equestrian activity were more closely aligned with those of the equine behaviourists, suggesting that
clicker trainers might be more accurate in their recognition of equine distress than other members of
the equestrian community. This study can be used to inform the outreach activity of education and
welfare organisations, through improved recognition, and subsequent reduction, of equine distress.
Abstract:
A key welfare problem for horses is that people commonly fail to recognise, and consequently
neglect to resolve, equine behavioural signs of distress, worsening the welfare of the horse and
potentially putting the safety of the handler at risk as a result. Members of equestrian Facebook
groups were asked to view six videos and assess the horse’s behaviour in each; the authors selected the
videos and considered each video to demonstrate behaviour associated with negative aective states.
An additional six equine behaviourists also completed the survey as an “expert comparison group”
from whom we could define “correct” answers; their responses were consistent with each other and
the views of the authors. Although the majority of respondents successfully recognised behaviour
indicative of distress in some instances, behaviour associated with negative aective states was
commonly missed; videos featuring natural horsemanship and bridle-less riding were particularly
interpreted incorrectly to be positive experiences for the horses. Binary logistic regression analysis
(72.1% success rate) confirmed that the dierent video types (ridden dressage, natural horsemanship,
in-hand dressage, bridle-less riding, Western reining and behavioural rehabilitation) were strong
predictors for obtaining a correct answer (p<0.01) but that experience of equine-ownership was not.
Of the equestrian activities preferred by participants, only proponents of clicker training showed
an increased likelihood of obtaining the correct answer (p=0.05). Even when behavioural signs
suggestive of negative aective states were recognised, a minority of respondents stated that they
would be happy for their horse to be treated similarly. In conclusion, behavioural signs of equine
distress are poorly recognised; they therefore warrant an increased prominence in education and the
outreach activity of welfare organisations, in order to reduce equine suering.
Animals 2019,9, 1124; doi:10.3390/ani9121124 www.mdpi.com/journal/animals
Animals 2019,9, 1124 2 of 13
Keywords: horse; behaviour; welfare; stress; pain; fear
1. Introduction
The failure of equine caregivers to recognise, and subsequently to resolve, expressions of equine
stress and pain has been highlighted as a key welfare concern [
1
]. Lack of education, lack of awareness
of behavioural indicators of pain and stress, and misinterpretation of a few such behaviours as
“naughty” were thought likely factors. The report [
1
] concluded that more research into the links
between behaviour, stress and pain is required and that more widespread education is needed in order
to enhance equine welfare. A preliminary attempt to provide such education has been undertaken
by the Equine Behaviour and Training Association (EBTA) [
2
] in the “Ladder of Fear”, a concept
extended from the canine “Ladder of Aggression” [
3
], but the subject is still commonly omitted from
educational programs.
Behavioural indicators of pain and stress are relatively well established in the literature, albeit with
a high dependence on physiological information that is unavailable to typical equine owners or handlers.
An equine “pain face” and “pain ethogram” have been recognised [
4
6
] and the typical behavioural
indicators of stress that have been identified are comparable—muscular tension, triangulated or
wide eyes
, elimination, tail swishing, ear position, and attempts to flee from frightening stimuli [
1
,
7
,
8
].
A hierarchy of behavioural indicators with increasing stress was found in stabled horses [
9
], which
coupled observable behaviours with physiological measures. Indicators might be subtle, for example
eye “wrinkling”, eyelid “twitches” and blink rate [
10
,
11
], or more overt such as bucking, head-tossing
or rearing for example [
12
]. Reference [
12
], a detailed review of studies of behaviours of ridden horses,
also concluded that individual dierences between horses and inconsistencies amongst researchers
(e.g. dierent behaviours considered and dierent physiological data obtained) make it dicult to
obtain an objective association between behavioural indicators and aective states.
The inability of owners to recognise patterns of behaviours of horses that underpin negative
emotional states has been explored by [
13
] and has been confirmed to have major welfare implications.
This is complicated further by the potential for individual horses to be more, or less, overt in their
behavioural expression of underlying emotions, and for the eect of training to mask any emotional
response that would otherwise be present [
14
]. Likewise, individual horses cope with stress in dierent
ways [
15
]. Of particular concern is when a horse appears “calm” or “relaxed” but could equally be
described, colloquially, as “switched o” or “shut down”. The potential for learned helplessness—and
its causes—in horses was discussed in [
16
]. Similarly, the likely potential for equine depression has
been observed in some ridden horses, which is linked to stereotypical behaviours and episodes of
“withdrawal” [
17
,
18
]. While it is not clear whether these states are all the one and the same, the
likelihood that they exist, coupled with the potential for owners to perceive them as a desirable state
such as “relaxed”, is cause for concern. In order to identify behavioural indicators of distress, it is
important to recognise that an absence of those indicators does not necessarily equate to an absence
of distress.
Identification of behavioural criteria for recognition of negative emotional states is undoubtedly
challenging. However, if subtle, early indicators are missed or ignored by the handler, then there
is a greater risk that these responses will escalate into more dangerous behaviours (both for human
or horse), such as bucking, rearing, kicking, biting, and bolting. A greater number of dangerous
behaviours lead to an increased likelihood of punitive action by the handler, mistakenly believing the
horse to be recalcitrant, causing a further source of distress to the horse [
19
]. Therefore, for the sake of
equine welfare and human safety, improved communication to the “typical horse owner” as to when
horses are suering from negative aect is needed for example [20].
Animals 2019,9, 1124 3 of 13
The aim of this study is to investigate the ability of members of the equestrian community to
recognise signs of negative aective state. Without such recognition, the likelihood of such states being
alleviated is minimal and becomes a welfare issue.
2. Materials and Methods
2.1. Respondents
The data used in this study were obtained via a survey that was distributed (in the first instance)
in five equine-related Facebook groups (Horse and Hound, Surrey Horse and Pony, Hampshire Horse
Riders, Chit Chat and Tack and Happy Horse and Pony), with members based predominantly, but not
exclusively, in the U.K. Care was taken to select Facebook groups that were large (>1000 members)
and representative of the equestrian community, and no particular training approach was favoured.
Some participants opted to share the survey further, into other groups or personal feeds, broadening
its audience more widely.
The survey was conducted according to the Code of Ethics and Conduct of the British Psychological
Society. Participants were informed of the purpose and contents of the survey, their right to withdraw,
data confidentiality and adherence to General Data Protection Regulation; they then provided their
informed consent to participate in the study and have their anonymised data published.
2.2. Materials
Respondents were shown six video clips with duration of a few seconds to two minutes,
in each
of
which a horse was being handled in a dierent manner—(1) ridden dressage, (2) natural horsemanship
(a training philosophy claiming its origins in observations of wild horse behaviour, for example [
21
]),
(3) in-hand
dressage, (4) bridle-less riding, (5) Western reining and (6) behavioural rehabilitation
(working to improve the aective state of the horse) (Figure 1). All footage and images were obtained
from the archives of EPONA-TV (co-authoring this study), from a body of ongoing investigative,
editorial work, which sought to look into the way’s horses are used for sport, leisure and entertainment
and the ways in which these uses impact the welfare of the horse. To comply with industry best
practice and to respect the privacy of the athletes and performers depicted, all footage was obtained
at public events with fully visible camera equipment. The videos were selected on account of the
authors recognizing the horses to be demonstrating a variety of behavioural signs of stress,
both subtle
,
such as muscular tension and triangulated eye, and more overt, such as pinned ears and tail swishing.
Video 6 (behavioural rehabilitation) was slightly dierent from the others, in that, although the horse
certainly appeared anxious and distressed, the handling was calm, undemanding and was less likely
to risk worsening the aective state of the horse. Whilst an understanding of the underlying source
of such distress should be paramount in any behavioural rehabilitation work, it was not considered
here whether the causes of the behaviours observed in the videos were linked to the training itself,
chronic or acute pain, failures of management practices to meet the equid ethogram or the horses’
previous history [
22
,
23
]. In particular, no judgment was oered on the handlers, the type of training
taking place or the horses’ experiences beyond these clips; instead the focus was on the horses’
behavioural responses that took place during the videos, which might or might not be representative
of other occasions.
Demographic information was obtained for each respondent—age, country of residence, preferred
equestrian activity (single answer selected from—clicker training, dressage, endurance, eventing,
“happy hacker” (i.e., leisure rider), hunting, natural horsemanship, polo, show jumping, Western
and “none of the above but enjoy spending time with horses”) and level of experience (multiple
answers selected from new (<5 years) horse owner, experienced owner, experienced past owner but
currently not a horse-owner, not an owner and professional trainer/instructor/behaviourist/veterinarian
or veterinary-nurse/farrier or trimmer/other). Finally, participants were asked to grade on a 4-point
Likert scale their self-perceived ability to recognise fear, stress and anxiety in horses, and to describe
Animals 2019,9, 1124 4 of 13
the behavioural signs that they would normally use to recognise fear and stress. A 4-point scale
was chosen to ensure that respondents could be more definite in their response, rather than selecting
a mid-point.
Animals 2019, 9, 1124 4 of 13
excited, fearful, frustrated, playful, relaxed, stressed, stubborn, submissive, switched off or
“resigned”. These affective states might or might not have been experienced by the horse, and the
participant was asked to select any number of these options that they recognised in the body language
of each horse. The affective states were selected on the basis of being every-day language commonly
used by horse owners to describe their horses, correctly or otherwise. Participants were also asked to
state on a 3-point Likert scale whether they would be happy for their own horse to be treated in such
a manner and, in free text without word limit, to explain their answers. Finally, participants were
asked more generally to state, in a free text answer, the behavioural responses that they considered
indicative of equine distress.
Figure 1. Screen-shots from each of the six videos presented to participants. The horse in each was
handled according to a specific equestrian activity— (1) ridden dressage, (2) natural horsemanship,
(3) in-hand dressage, (4) bridle-less riding, (5) Western reining and (6) behavioural rehabilitation.
2.3. Procedure
In order to obtain an expert consensus with which a “correct” answer could be defined, the
survey was also sent directly to all clinical and accredited equine behaviourists who were listed at
the time of the survey on the register held by the Animal Behaviour and Training Council (ABTC).
The advantage of using the ABTC register is that those listed are highly qualified and recognised
behaviourists in the U.K. and have a variety of backgrounds in terms of education and experience.
Therefore, any agreement between them, regarding interpretation of the behaviours demonstrated
by the horses in the videos, can be considered to be reasonably accurate. Six of the behaviourists
contacted agreed to provide survey responses and consequently became an “expert comparison”
group (all qualified with the International Association of Animal Behavior Consultants but with a
range of prior experience and qualification) with which the respondent data could be compared. In
order to avoid any conflicts of interest, the ABTC behaviourists also authoring this paper were not
included in the expert group. While use of the term “behaviourist” is unfortunate, due to
behaviourism being concerned only with observable stimulus-response behaviours, it remains
accepted terminology in the industry and is used here to be synonymous with “behaviour
consultant”.
The data were collected via the Google Forms platform, and prepared for analysis and plotted
via a combination of Microsoft Excel and bespoke C-Shell scripts. The quantitative data were
analysed using SPSS v. 25 (IBM, Armonk, U.S.A.) for Mac. Initial relationships between variables
were assessed using Pearson’s Chi square test of association. Since some pairs of variables had small
Figure 1.
Screen-shots from each of the six videos presented to participants. The horse in each was
handled according to a specific equestrian activity—(
1
) ridden dressage, (
2
) natural horsemanship,
(3) in-hand dressage, (4) bridle-less riding, (5) Western reining and (6) behavioural rehabilitation.
Each participant was given a set of 13 possible aective states—angry, anxious, conflicted (defined
in the survey as “experiencing two emotions at the same moment in time”), enjoying it, excited, fearful,
frustrated, playful, relaxed, stressed, stubborn, submissive, switched oor “resigned”. These aective
states might or might not have been experienced by the horse, and the participant was asked to select
any number of these options that they recognised in the body language of each horse. The aective
states were selected on the basis of being every-day language commonly used by horse owners to
describe their horses, correctly or otherwise. Participants were also asked to state on a 3-point Likert
scale whether they would be happy for their own horse to be treated in such a manner and, in free text
without word limit, to explain their answers. Finally, participants were asked more generally to state,
in a free text answer, the behavioural responses that they considered indicative of equine distress.
2.3. Procedure
In order to obtain an expert consensus with which a “correct” answer could be defined,
the survey
was also sent directly to all clinical and accredited equine behaviourists who were listed at the time of
the survey on the register held by the Animal Behaviour and Training Council (ABTC). The advantage
of using the ABTC register is that those listed are highly qualified and recognised behaviourists
in the U.K. and have a variety of backgrounds in terms of education and experience. Therefore,
any agreement
between them, regarding interpretation of the behaviours demonstrated by the horses
in the videos, can be considered to be reasonably accurate. Six of the behaviourists contacted agreed to
provide survey responses and consequently became an “expert comparison” group (all qualified with
the International Association of Animal Behavior Consultants but with a range of prior experience
and qualification) with which the respondent data could be compared. In order to avoid any conflicts
of interest, the ABTC behaviourists also authoring this paper were not included in the expert group.
While use of the term “behaviourist” is unfortunate, due to behaviourism being concerned only with
Animals 2019,9, 1124 5 of 13
observable stimulus-response behaviours, it remains accepted terminology in the industry and is used
here to be synonymous with “behaviour consultant”.
The data were collected via the Google Forms platform, and prepared for analysis and plotted via
a combination of Microsoft Excel and bespoke C-Shell scripts. The quantitative data were analysed
using SPSS v. 25 (IBM, Armonk, U.S.A.) for Mac. Initial relationships between variables were assessed
using Pearson’s Chi square test of association. Since some pairs of variables had small sample sizes,
the significance of any association was confirmed with Fisher’s exact test. Pairs of variables found to
have significant associations were explored further using forced entry binary logistic regression analysis.
Since the sample sizes of the experts and participants were too disparate to use for a statistically
meaningful comparison, it was necessary to define whether a participant response could be considered
“correct” or “incorrect”. In order to find a reasonable balance between robustness and subjectivity,
a response
was considered “correct” if it met two specific criteria. Criterion 1 required at least
one of the responses that 4–6 of the experts (4
NExp
6) had selected. Criterion 2 required an
absence of all responses selected by zero experts (
NExp =
0
)
. All other participant responses were
considered “incorrect”.
3. Results
The survey received 185 participant responses in addition to the six expert responses. All experts
were located in the U.K., as were 79.5% of the participants. Other participants were located in the U.S.A.
(6.5%), Canada (4.9%), other European countries (4.9%), Australia (3.2%), South Africa (0.5%) and Brazil
(0.5%). The preferred equestrian activities of participants were numbered as 28.1% dressage, 27.6%
“happy hacking”, 10.8% eventing, 10.8% clicker training, 5.4% natural horsemanship, 4.3% endurance,
2.2% Western riding, 2.2% show jumping and 0.5% polo. A further 8.1% said that that they were “none
of the above but enjoyed spending time with horses”; for convenience, this group was labelled “others”
in later discussion. When asked about their experience with horses, 137 participants claimed to be
experienced horse owners, of whom 20 were also professionals within the equine industry; 8 were
experienced former owners of whom 2 were also professionals; 19 had owned horses for fewer than
5 years, 2 of whom were professionals; and 5 were not owners at all. A further 16 selected only the
‘professionals’ category. Of the 40 stating that they were professionals within the equine industry,
29 were
instructors or trainers, with some also classifying themselves as behaviourists. In response to
the question about ability to recognise behavioural expressions of fear, stress and anxiety, 75 claimed
“yes, definitely”, 91 “yes, somewhat”, 18 “perhaps/sometimes” and 1 “probably not”.
3.1. Expert Responses
When asked generally to state the typical signs that they would use to determine whether a horse
was frightened and/or stressed, the experts listed a variety of behavioural responses, of which a subset
would likely be shown by an individual horse. While some were overt behaviours,
such as
rearing or
flight, the majority were subtle, such as eye movements, breathing rate or yawning. Some comments
reflected a wider understanding of causal factors such as avoidance of tack or changes in social
behaviour. While detailed analysis of these qualitative responses is beyond the scope of this paper
and will be the subject of a future work, the key point is that the experts were aware of potential early
behavioural indications that are likely to reflect the onset of negative aect.
Table 1shows the responses given by the experts to the videos. The 13 aective states have been
listed according to how many experts selected that option: for each video clip, the top line lists the
responses selected by 4 or more experts, the bottom line lists unanimously rejected responses and the
middle line lists the remaining responses. For example, the experts were unanimous in observing
that the horse in video 1 exhibited behaviours associated with stress and did not exhibit behaviours
associated with anger, enjoyment, excitement, play, relaxation or submissiveness. For each video,
there was unanimity with respect to some video/aect pairs and disagreement for others. However,
Animals 2019,9, 1124 6 of 13
any contradiction
tended to reflect the similar nature of the aective states (e.g., fear vs. anxiety) rather
than any fundamental disagreement over the horse’s general experience.
Table 1.
Responses of the 6 experts to the 6 videos included in the survey. Each video shows a horse being
handled in a dierent equestrian activity—(1) ridden dressage, (2) natural horsemanship, (3) in-hand
dressage, (4) bridle-less riding, (5) Western reining and (6) behavioural rehabilitation. The second
column lists the 13 survey options regarding the aective state of the horses and, in parentheses,
the number
of experts who selected this option. For each video, the top line lists the responses selected
by 4 or more experts, the bottom line lists unanimously rejected responses and the middle line lists the
remaining responses.
Video Expert Response (NExp)
Video 1
Conflicted (4) Frustrated (4) Stressed (6)
Anxious (3) Fearful (2) Submissive (1) Switched-o(1)
Angry (0) Enjoying (0) Excited (0) Playful (0) Relaxed (0) Stubborn (0)
Video 2
Stressed (4)
Anxious (3) Conflicted (3) Fearful (2) Frustrated (3) Submissive (1) Switched-o(3)
Angry (0) Enjoying (0) Excited (0) Playful (0) Relaxed (0) Stubborn (0)
Video 3
Conflicted (4) Fearful (4) Frustrated (4) Stressed (6)
Angry (1) Anxious (3) Submissive (1)
Enjoying (0) Excited (0) Playful (0) Relaxed (0) Stubborn (0) Switched-o(0)
Video 4
Fearful (5) Stressed (6) Submissive (4)
Anxious (3) Conflicted (3) Frustrated (2) Switched-o(2)
Angry (0) Enjoying (0) Excited (0) Playful (0) Relaxed (0) Stubborn (0)
Video 5
Fearful (4) Stressed (5) Submissive (4) Switched-o(5)
Anxious (3) Conflicted (3) Frustrated (2)
Angry (0) Enjoying (0) Excited (0) Playful (0) Relaxed (0) Stubborn (0)
Video 6
Anxious (4) Conflicted (6)
Fearful (3) Frustrated (1) Relaxed (1) Stressed (3)
Angry (0) Enjoying (0) Excited (0) Playful (0) Stubborn (0) Submissive (0) Switched-o(0)
3.2. Participant Responses
When asked to list the generic behavioural signs that they would use to determine whether a
horse was frightened and/or stressed, many respondents were able to provide a set of subtle behaviours
similar to those noted by the experts. However, a greater proportion of overt behaviours were also
included, such as bolting, pushiness, vocalising, “foaming at the mouth” or trembling. While these
would all have been correct responses, anecdotal experience of working in behavioural practice
indicates that earlier and more subtle suggestions of distress would typically also have been present,
consistent with the hierarchy of behavioural indicators of stress found in [9].
All participants selected at least one aective state for each video clip and typically selected
more than one. Figure 2shows all aective state selections for each video. It was clear that the
responses included a high number of “anxious”, “conflicted”, “fearful”, “frustrated”, “stressed” and
“submissive” selections, in keeping with the experts. However, for some videos there was also a lower
but consistent selection of those aective states that were typically not selected by the experts—“angry”,
“enjoying it”, “excited”, “playful”, “relaxed” and “stubborn”. Such selections prompted the need for
Criterion 2 in defining correct/incorrect responses. For example, a participant selecting “frustrated”
and “fearful” for video 1 would be considered correct, whereas “frustrated” and “playful” would be
considered incorrect.
Animals 2019,9, 1124 7 of 13
Animals 2019, 9, 1124 7 of 13
Figure 2. Total numbers of selections of each affective state for each of the 6 videos—(a) Video 1:
ridden dressage, (b) Video 2: natural horsemanship, (c) Video 3: in-hand dressage, (d) Video 4: bridle-
less riding, (e) Video 5: Western reining and (f) Video 6: behavioural rehabilitation.
Figure 3a shows the total numbers of correct and incorrect participant responses as compared to
the expert responses. There is a significant difference between the videos (𝜒(5) = 229.39, p < 0.001;
Cramer’s V = 0.46, p < 0.001) with videos 1, 3 and 5 receiving significantly more correct answers,
videos 2 and 4 receiving significantly more incorrect answers; video 6 was almost equal, receiving
just one more correct answer than incorrect. Figure 3b shows the total incorrect answers, according
to whether they failed on account of Criterion 1, 2 or both. Again, the proportions depended on the
video in question, with Criterion 1 prevalent in videos 2 and 5 and Criterion 2 prevalent in videos 1
and 3.
Figure 2.
Total numbers of selections of each aective state for each of the 6 videos—(
a
) Video 1: ridden
dressage, (
b
) Video 2: natural horsemanship, (
c
) Video 3: in-hand dressage, (
d
) Video 4: bridle-less
riding, (e) Video 5: Western reining and (f) Video 6: behavioural rehabilitation.
Figure 3a shows the total numbers of correct and incorrect participant responses as compared to
the expert responses. There is a significant dierence between the videos (
χ2(5)
=229.39, p<0.001;
Cramer’s V =0.46, p<0.001) with videos 1, 3 and 5 receiving significantly more correct answers,
videos 2 and 4 receiving significantly more incorrect answers; video 6 was almost equal, receiving
just one more correct answer than incorrect. Figure 3b shows the total incorrect answers, according to
whether they failed on account of Criterion 1, 2 or both. Again, the proportions depended on the video
in question, with Criterion 1 prevalent in videos 2 and 5 and Criterion 2 prevalent in videos 1 and 3.
Animals 2019,9, 1124 8 of 13
Animals 2019, 9, 1124 8 of 13
Figure 3. (a) Total number of correct responses for each video, (b) percentage of incorrect answers in
relation to the criterion on which they failed. A response was considered “correct” if it met two
specific criteria. Criterion 1 required at least one of the responses that 4–6 of the experts (4≤𝑁

6) had selected. Criterion 2 required an absence of all responses selected by zero experts (𝑁 =0).
All other participant responses were considered “incorrect”. For each plot, the video numbers
correspond to— (1) ridden dressage, (2) natural horsemanship, (3) in-hand dressage, (4) bridle-less
riding, (5) Western reining and (6) behavioural rehabilitation.
Pearson Chi-square tests also examined the associations between obtaining a correct answer and
the participants’ age, preferred equestrian activity, experience and self-perceived ability to recognise
equine distress. Fisher’s exact test was included to account for small sample sizes in some pairings.
Videos 3 and 5 showed a significant association between increasing age and correct response, albeit
with a relatively small effect size (𝜒(5)= 12.68 and 10.11, respectively, p < 0.05; Cramer’s V = 0.27
and 0.24 respectively, p < 0.05). Videos 1, 2 and 6 showed a significant association and medium effect
size between preferred activity and correct response (𝜒(9)= 22.76, 21.78, 19.37, respectively, p <
0.05; Cramer’s V = 0.36, 0.39, 0.33, respectively, p < 0.05). These results are illustrated in Figure 4.
Ignoring activities with fewer than five participants, video 1 was over-represented by “happy
hackers”, dressage riders and endurance riders, video 2 by clicker trainers and “others” and video 6
by clicker trainers, endurance riders and “others”. Videos 3 and 6 showed a significant association
between experience and correct response (𝜒(4)= 16.16, 12.67, respectively, p < 0.05; Cramer’s V =
0.30, 0.26, respectively, p < 0.05), but somewhat erratically, with experienced and new owners
obtaining more correct responses in video 3 and professionals scoring higher in video 6. There was
no association between correct response and self-reported ability to recognise fear, stress and anxiety
for any of the videos.
Binary logistic regression analysis was used to explore the possible association between
preferred equestrian activity, participant experience and successful recognition of negative affective
states. A model with three predictor variables—Video, Activity and Experience—was used to predict
the likelihood of correct answers (N = 1,110). The model was successful in predicting 72.1% of the
outcomes (p < 0.01) compared with the null, intercept-only model. Table 2 lists the categories that had
a significant effect on the model. The video categories made a significant contribution to the model,
with an increasing likelihood (exp (B) > 1) of correct answers for videos 1, 3 and 5 and a decreasing
likelihood (exp (B) < 1) for videos 2 and 4. Past experience and non-ownership made decreasing
contributions to the model. Being experienced or a professional did not make a significant
contribution to the likelihood of obtaining correct answers. Finally, the only significant (almost, p =
0.05) contribution from the activity categories was clicker training, albeit with a very large upper
confidence limit.
Figure 3.
(
a
) Total number of correct responses for each video, (
b
) percentage of incorrect answers in
relation to the criterion on which they failed. A response was considered “correct” if it met two specific
criteria. Criterion 1 required at least one of the responses that 4–6 of the experts (4
NExp
6) had
selected. Criterion 2 required an absence of all responses selected by zero experts (
NExp =
0
)
. All other
participant responses were considered “incorrect”. For each plot, the video numbers correspond to—(1)
ridden dressage, (2) natural horsemanship, (3) in-hand dressage, (4) bridle-less riding, (5) Western
reining and (6) behavioural rehabilitation.
Pearson Chi-square tests also examined the associations between obtaining a correct answer and
the participants’ age, preferred equestrian activity, experience and self-perceived ability to recognise
equine distress. Fisher’s exact test was included to account for small sample sizes in some pairings.
Videos 3 and 5 showed a significant association between increasing age and correct response, albeit
with a relatively small eect size (
χ2(5)=
12.68 and 10.11, respectively, p<0.05; Cramer’s V =0.27
and 0.24 respectively, p<0.05). Videos 1, 2 and 6 showed a significant association and medium eect
size between preferred activity and correct response (
χ2(9)=
22.76, 21.78, 19.37, respectively, p<0.05;
Cramer’s V =0.36, 0.39, 0.33, respectively, p<0.05). These results are illustrated in Figure 4. Ignoring
activities with fewer than five participants, video 1 was over-represented by “happy hackers”, dressage
riders and endurance riders, video 2 by clicker trainers and “others” and video 6 by clicker trainers,
endurance riders and “others”. Videos 3 and 6 showed a significant association between experience
and correct response (
χ2(4)=
16.16, 12.67, respectively, p<0.05; Cramer’s V =0.30, 0.26, respectively,
p<0.05), but somewhat erratically, with experienced and new owners obtaining more correct responses
in video 3 and professionals scoring higher in video 6. There was no association between correct
response and self-reported ability to recognise fear, stress and anxiety for any of the videos.
Binary logistic regression analysis was used to explore the possible association between preferred
equestrian activity, participant experience and successful recognition of negative aective states.
A model with three predictor variables—Video, Activity and Experience—was used to predict the
likelihood of correct answers (N=1,110). The model was successful in predicting 72.1% of the outcomes
(p<0.01) compared with the null, intercept-only model. Table 2lists the categories that had a significant
eect on the model. The video categories made a significant contribution to the model, with an
increasing likelihood (exp (B) >1) of correct answers for videos 1, 3 and 5 and a decreasing likelihood
(exp (B) <1) for videos 2 and 4. Past experience and non-ownership made decreasing contributions to
the model. Being experienced or a professional did not make a significant contribution to the likelihood
of obtaining correct answers. Finally, the only significant (almost, p=0.05) contribution from the
activity categories was clicker training, albeit with a very large upper confidence limit.
Animals 2019,9, 1124 9 of 13
Animals 2019, 9, 1124 9 of 13
Figure 4. Numbers of correct answers according to preferred activity for videos 1 (ridden dressage),
2 (natural horsemanship), and 6 (behavioural rehabilitation), the three videos for which there was a
significant association. Numbers in parentheses indicate total numbers of participants within each
activity category.
Table 2. Results of the binary logistic regression analysis. A model with three predictor variables—
video, activity and experience—was used to predict the likelihood of obtaining a correct answer and
was successful in 72.1% of outcomes as compared to the null model. The predictors that had a
significant effect on the model are listed; the odds ratio was >1 for increasing contributions to the
model and <1 for decreasing contributions to the model.
Predictor Variable Sig. (P) Odds Ratio (exp (B)) 95% Conf. Int.
Ref. (Video 6: behavioural rehab.) - 1 -
Video 1 (ridden dressage) <0.01 3.23 2.05–5.10
Video 2 (natural horsemanship) <0.01 0.12 0.07–0.21
Video 3 (in-hand dressage) <0.01 3.25 2.06–5.11
Video 4 (bridle-less riding) <0.01 0.46 0.30–0.71
Video 5 (Western reining) <0.010 2.41 1.56–3.73
Ref. (Experienced) - 1 -
Past Experience <0.01 0.18 0.09–0.35
Not an Owner 0.02 0.37 0.16–0.86
Ref. (Polo) - 1 -
Clicker Training 0.05 9.77 0.97–98.15
Finally, the participants were asked whether they would be happy for their own horse to be
handled in a similar manner as observed in each video. Of particular interest was whether those who
believed that less desirable affective states (angry, anxious, conflicted, fearful, frustrated, stressed,
stubborn, submissive and switched-off) were present, and that the more pleasurable states (enjoying
it, excited, playful and relaxed) were absent, would consider it an acceptable state for the horse to be
in during training. The answers are represented in Figure 5; total numbers of participants featured
were n = 171, 78, 160, 127, 144, 103 for each video, respectively. Black indicates those participants who,
despite recognising negative affective states, would still permit their horses to be treated as in the
video. Dark grey indicates a middle category for those who would “partially” permit the handling
and light grey indicates those who would not. Of the sample of 185, just 6 participants were in the
light grey category—i.e. considered the horse to be experiencing negative affective states and that it
was unacceptable—for all 6 videos and 30 for videos 1–5. Of the 30, 11 were clicker trainers, compared
Figure 4.
Numbers of correct answers according to preferred activity for videos 1 (ridden dressage),
2 (natural horsemanship), and 6 (behavioural rehabilitation), the three videos for which there was a
significant association. Numbers in parentheses indicate total numbers of participants within each
activity category.
Table 2.
Results of the binary logistic regression analysis. A model with three predictor variables—video,
activity and experience—was used to predict the likelihood of obtaining a correct answer and was
successful in 72.1% of outcomes as compared to the null model. The predictors that had a significant
eect on the model are listed; the odds ratio was >1 for increasing contributions to the model and <1
for decreasing contributions to the model.
Predictor Variable Sig. (P) Odds Ratio (exp (B)) 95% Conf. Int.
Ref. (Video 6: behavioural rehab.) - 1 -
Video 1 (ridden dressage) <0.01 3.23 2.05–5.10
Video 2 (natural horsemanship) <0.01 0.12 0.07–0.21
Video 3 (in-hand dressage) <0.01 3.25 2.06–5.11
Video 4 (bridle-less riding) <0.01 0.46 0.30–0.71
Video 5 (Western reining) <0.010 2.41 1.56–3.73
Ref. (Experienced) - 1 -
Past Experience <0.01 0.18 0.09–0.35
Not an Owner 0.02 0.37 0.16–0.86
Ref. (Polo) - 1 -
Clicker Training 0.05 9.77 0.97–98.15
Finally, the participants were asked whether they would be happy for their own horse to be
handled in a similar manner as observed in each video. Of particular interest was whether those who
believed that less desirable aective states (angry, anxious, conflicted, fearful, frustrated, stressed,
stubborn, submissive and switched-o) were present, and that the more pleasurable states (enjoying it,
excited, playful and relaxed) were absent, would consider it an acceptable state for the horse to be
in during training. The answers are represented in Figure 5; total numbers of participants featured
were n=171, 78, 160, 127, 144, 103 for each video, respectively. Black indicates those participants who,
despite recognising negative aective states, would still permit their horses to be treated as in the
video. Dark grey indicates a middle category for those who would “partially” permit the handling
and light grey indicates those who would not. Of the sample of 185, just 6 participants were in
the light grey category—i.e. considered the horse to be experiencing negative aective states and
that it was unacceptable—for all 6 videos and 30 for videos 1–5. Of the 30, 11 were clicker trainers,
compared with 6 claiming no particular activity, 4 dressage, 4 “happy hackers”, 2 eventers, 2 Western
Animals 2019,9, 1124 10 of 13
riders and 1 natural horsemanship trainer. Of the 30 who considered that the horses in videos 1–5
were experiencing negative aect and that it was unacceptable, 21 classified themselves as current
or former experienced owners and 10 were professionals. Note that the complete sample included
40 professionals, 30 of whom, therefore, failed to recognise negative aective states or condoned
the handling.
Animals 2019, 9, 1124 10 of 13
with 6 claiming no particular activity, 4 dressage, 4 “happy hackers”, 2 eventers, 2 Western riders
and 1 natural horsemanship trainer. Of the 30 who considered that the horses in videos 1–5 were
experiencing negative affect and that it was unacceptable, 21 classified themselves as current or
former experienced owners and 10 were professionals. Note that the complete sample included 40
professionals, 30 of whom, therefore, failed to recognise negative affective states or condoned the
handling.
Figure 5. Participants who perceived only negative affective states in each video—(1) ridden dressage,
(2) natural horsemanship, (3) in-hand dressage, (4) bridle-less riding, (5) Western reining and (6)
behavioural rehabilitation. Black represents those who would, nevertheless, permit their horses to be
handled as shown in the video. Dark grey represents those who would do so “partially”. Light grey
represents those who would not permit it.
4. Discussion
The panel of experts who formed the comparison group gave responses indicating that they
believed the horses in all six videos to be demonstrating behavioural signs of stress. Their answers
were not identical with one another, but were largely in agreement for the majority of the
observations. Any inconsistency was subtle, such as interpreting affective state as “anxious” rather
than “stressed”, rather than a fundamentally different qualitative understanding of the affective state.
They were unanimous, however, in stating that all horses were experiencing a negative affective state
and selected one or more of angry, anxious, conflicted, fearful, frustrated, relaxed, stressed,
submissive and switched-off for each horse. They did not consider any of the horses to be
experiencing any positive affect, with the exception of just one stating that the horse in video 6
(behavioural rehabilitation) appeared relaxed. None thought any horse showed stubbornness at any
point. None of the experts would have been happy for their own horse to be interacted with in the
manner shown in videos 1–5; 5 of the 6 experts selected “partially” for video 6 (behavioural
rehabilitation), the 6th selected “No”.
The experts’ responses contrast with the participants’ responses and the results of this study
support previous findings [1], that equine caregivers do not always recognise the behavioural
indicators of stress that are exhibited by horses. While man y of the r espon dents were abl e to re cogni se
negative affect in at least some of the videos, some simultaneously made contradictory claims for
simultaneous positive affect. Videos 2 and 4, featuring natural horsemanship and bridle-less riding
Figure 5.
Participants who perceived only negative aective states in each video—(
1
) ridden dressage,
(
2
) natural horsemanship, (
3
) in-hand dressage, (
4
) bridle-less riding, (
5
) Western reining and (
6
)
behavioural rehabilitation. Black represents those who would, nevertheless, permit their horses to be
handled as shown in the video. Dark grey represents those who would do so “partially”. Light grey
represents those who would not permit it.
4. Discussion
The panel of experts who formed the comparison group gave responses indicating that they
believed the horses in all six videos to be demonstrating behavioural signs of stress. Their answers
were not identical with one another, but were largely in agreement for the majority of the observations.
Any inconsistency
was subtle, such as interpreting aective state as “anxious” rather than “stressed”,
rather than a fundamentally dierent qualitative understanding of the aective state. They were
unanimous, however, in stating that all horses were experiencing a negative aective state and
selected one or more of angry, anxious, conflicted, fearful, frustrated, relaxed, stressed, submissive and
switched-ofor each horse. They did not consider any of the horses to be experiencing any positive
aect, with the exception of just one stating that the horse in video 6 (behavioural rehabilitation)
appeared relaxed. None thought any horse showed stubbornness at any point. None of the experts
would have been happy for their own horse to be interacted with in the manner shown in videos 1–5;
5 of the 6 experts selected “partially” for video 6 (behavioural rehabilitation), the 6th selected “No”.
The experts’ responses contrast with the participants’ responses and the results of this study
support previous findings [
1
], that equine caregivers do not always recognise the behavioural indicators
of stress that are exhibited by horses. While many of the respondents were able to recognise negative
aect in at least some of the videos, some simultaneously made contradictory claims for simultaneous
positive aect. Videos 2 and 4, featuring natural horsemanship and bridle-less riding were particularly
at risk of receiving incorrect responses, suggesting that while participants might be able to detect
negative aective states in conventional forms of riding, they are more likely to misinterpret behaviour
Animals 2019,9, 1124 11 of 13
when part of less traditional (in the U.K.) styles of horsemanship. There is a possibility that some
styles of horsemanship foster increased education regarding behaviour; dressage riders, eventers
and “happy hackers” obtained more correct responses for video 1, dressage, and clicker trainers
were more successful in assessing videos 2 and 6, featuring natural horsemanship and behavioural
rehabilitation. Experience appeared to help, but did no guarantee the obtainment of correct answers,
and self-reported perception of one’s ability to recognise signs of fear, stress and anxiety had no bearing
at all on the likelihood of obtaining correct answers. An interesting note, of the total of 21 respondents
who perceived stubbornness in at least one video, 19 were experienced owners (current or former)
or professionals, again suggesting that equestrian experience did not guarantee accurate reading of
behaviour. Such inconsistency is not unprecedented [
24
] and adds weight to the call for further formal
identification of behavioural indicators of aective states; as well as dissemination of these indicators,
and their underlying causes and welfare implications, to the horse-owning public.
Figure 5represents the respondents who perceived negative aective states in the horses and
stated whether or not they would condone such training for their own horse. While it is reassuring
from an ethical and welfare perspective that the majority would decline, the statistical minority still
represents horse owners (including some professionals) who think it acceptable to train a horse in a
manner that is potentially causing distress. This is a mindset that needs to be addressed along with an
improved education about behavioural indicators of stress.
Given both the dierences in individual horse responses to stressors and the subjectivity of
observers, it is perhaps not sucient to list ethograms of behaviours that might be signs of distress.
Good welfare depends on understanding and meeting the physical and emotional needs of the
individual horse, as detailed in e.g. [
22
,
25
]. The context of the behaviour is also important, in particular
whether or not the handler is working eectively to improve the horse’s aective state or merely
attempting to complete the human-directed activity. Such a distinction was recognised here in the
analysis of video 6 as compared to the others. The horse exhibited similar behaviours yet the session
appeared to be focused on improving the horse’s aective state and not attempting to achieve any
other goals.
Under the rules of the F
é
d
é
ration Equestre Internationale, dressage judges are expected to
recognise and reward “the happy athlete” as a key objective [
26
]. Of course, the notion of “happy
athlete” is meaningless if people fail to recognise the absence of happiness, misinterpret negative
welfare states as positive and would sometimes go ahead with training even if they do recognise it
to be having a negative impact on the horse. Further research in this area is a key welfare priority,
in order
to improve recognition of negative aect and incorporate the alleviation of negative aective
states into training and education programmes.
4.1. Limitations
There were limitations to the design of this study. The survey was more likely to be completed
by people interested in behaviour and promotion of the survey on social media groups that were
not particularly behaviourally-focused was attempted in order to obtain a sample representative of
the equestrian community. However, the survey was shared by friends and supporters of EBTA,
increasing the chances of it becoming biased. Future studies could be improved through restricting
the survey to (for example) riding clubs or college students rather than relying on the power of social
media. In addition, in defining Criteria 1 and 2 it was possible that some responses could be rejected as
“incorrect” when they were still possibly correct at a subjective level. For example, anyone labelling the
horses in videos 1–5 as “anxious” alone would have been marked as incorrect, arguably erroneously;
similarly the distinction between frustrated and angry—the experts selected frustrated but not angry.
This eect was mitigated since most respondents selected multiple options for aective states; future
studies might be improved if respondents were required to select a set number of aective states
instead of allowing this variable to float freely. However, since only one of the experts’ selections
was required for a “correct” answer, it was felt that it was already relatively easy for participants
Animals 2019,9, 1124 12 of 13
to succeed. A final limitation was that “conflicted” and “submissive” were insuciently defined
to be sure that participants were consistent in their use of the terms. “Conflicted” was defined as
“experiencing two emotions at the same moment in time” but in some responses the two emotions in
question did not seem to be conflicting. Similarly, “submissive” has dierent connotations to dierent
people; behaviourists commonly regard it negatively, that the horse is overly compliant, however,
some respondents clearly regarded it to mean a desirable obedience, again implying a distinction in
mindset with potential welfare implications.
4.2. Suggestions for Future Study
While this study clearly showed the need for improved recognition of early behavioural indications
of negative aective states, the means by which this could be implemented is not straightforward.
Clarity in definition of terminology is necessary, as well as caution regarding labels such as “stubborn”
or “submissive”, which perhaps reflect a need for a more empathic approach, and investigation into the
cause of the behaviour is needed. Furthermore, having clear definitions is of no help to horses unless
that information is disseminated more eectively into the horse-owning community; research into the
best channels of communication is also key. The expert group responses were almost unanimous and
it would be interesting to explore whether agreement could be increased still further, particularly in
distinguishing between closely-linked aective states such as fear, stress and anxiety. The study could
be improved further if a larger group of experts were consulted, adding weight to the definition of a
“correct” answer.
These results also oer the possibility of further associations to explore. What is it about natural
horsemanship and bridle-less riding that renders people more likely to misinterpret the horses’
behaviour, when those same people would be more successful if assessing a dressage horse? The
Chi square analysis suggested that clicker trainers might have a greater understanding of behaviour
than the wider equestrian public and this result remained inconclusive following the binary logistic
regression analysis. Further study would be interesting, both to confirm the eect and also with a view
to distinguishing whether behaviourally-minded people are attracted to clicker training, or whether
the need for detailed understanding of operant conditioning results in a more generalized ability and
desire to recognise more subtle behaviours.
Author Contributions:
Conceptualization, C.B. and S.R.; Data curation, C.B.; Formal analysis, C.B.; Investigation,
C.B., S.R. and D.B.; Methodology, C.B. and S.R.; Resources, J.T.; Visualization, C.B.; Writing—original draft, C.B.;
Writing—review & editing, S.R. and D.B.
Funding: This research took place on a voluntary basis and received no internal or external funding.
Acknowledgments:
The Article Processing Charge (APC) of this paper was sponsored by Boehringer Ingelheim
and Ceva Sante Animale. Thank you to the anonymous reviewers whose comments significantly improved the
manuscript. We are also grateful to Jo Hockenhull, Jayney Caspar and Susie and Mike Huxham for the invaluable
discussions regarding the data analysis.
Conflicts of Interest: The authors declare no conflict of interest.
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... Despite the reduced behavioural response, reactive coping styles are linked with a more pronounced physiological response to stress [49,50]. Hence, even when a horse appears calm and compliant, there may still be concerns for the horse's emotional well-being [14,49,51]. It should also be remembered that horses displaying behaviours associated with reactive coping strategies may remain immobile until they reach a threshold, and then may suddenly react in a large and volatile way [50]. ...
... In instances where the owner/trainer/caregiver/horse-care professional is motivated to provide a more positive experience for the horse during a HAI or HVP, it can be challenging, as behavioural signs of equine stress, pain, and negative emotional states are poorly recognized by many horse handlers [9,14,15,74]. Hence, even though the human may be attempting to consider the horse's emotional state more fully, they still may not be able to accurately recognise that the horse is fearful or stressed. ...
... During the training process, the goal is for the fearevoking stimulus to be incrementally presented but reduced/removed while the horse is calm and prior to the horse feeling the need to undertake substantial behaviours associated with avoidance, escape, or defence [47]. These larger unwanted behaviours typically occur when subtle pre-cursor behaviours fail to be detected by the human [14,50], resulting in the handler continuing to increase the intensity of the stimulus at a time when reducing or removing the stimulus is more appropriate. ...
Article
Full-text available
Husbandry and veterinary procedures have the potential to generate fear and stress in animals. In horses, the associated responses can pose a significant safety risk to the human personnel involved in the procedure, as well as to the animal itself. Traditionally, physical restraint, punishment, and/or threat of an aversive, have been the most common strategies used to achieve compliance from the horse. However, from a welfare perspective, this is less than ideal. This approach also has the potential for creating a more dangerous response from the horse in future similar situations. When caring for companion animals, and captive animals within zoological facilities, there has been a steady transition away from this approach, and toward strategies aimed at reducing fear and stress during veterinary visits and when undertaking routine husbandry procedures. This review discusses the current approaches to horse care and training, the strategies being used in other animal sectors, and potential strategies for improving human safety, as well as the horse’s experience, during husbandry and veterinary procedures.
... In the authors' original study [17], we asked survey participants to identify equine body language associated with fear and/or stress in a series of videos. Although most respondents correctly identified some of the featured body language, it was common for behaviour associated with negative affective states to be misinterpreted; this was particularly the case for the videos featuring 'natural horsemanship' and bridle-less riding and it seemed that the experience and self-identification as 'equine professional' of the respondent did not affect the likelihood of correctly identifying the behaviour. ...
... Although most respondents correctly identified some of the featured body language, it was common for behaviour associated with negative affective states to be misinterpreted; this was particularly the case for the videos featuring 'natural horsemanship' and bridle-less riding and it seemed that the experience and self-identification as 'equine professional' of the respondent did not affect the likelihood of correctly identifying the behaviour. There was also a small minority who recognised that the horse was feeling stressed but considered that it was reasonable to continue in that situation [17]. ...
... The sample of experts comprised equine veterinarians, equitation scientists, and animal behavioural and welfare scientists and showed poor conformity on both whether the horses were showing signs of stress and how to describe the relevant behavioural indicators. This contrasts with the findings of Bell et al. [17], where the responses of the expert control group of professional equine behaviourists were consistent with each other. ...
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One of the key welfare concerns for horses in the United Kingdom is lack of recognition of fear in horses. This study aimed to gain an understanding of how well horse care givers recognise fear and/or anxiety in horses by interviewing equine behaviourists (who interact with large numbers of horse care givers and talk to them about this topic routinely). The experiences of Animal Behaviour and Training Council (ABTC)-registered equine behaviourists working with horse caregivers were examined, including the ability of clients to recognise fear and/or anxiety in horses, how clients respond when discussing fear as the reason for their horse’s behaviour, and what explanations the participants use to explain fear and anxiety. Semi-structured interviews were conducted with nine participants and analysed using thematic analysis before being written up to reflect the discussion points. When asked how well horse caregivers recognise fear and/or anxiety in horses, three key response themes emerged: caregivers are extremely poor at recognizing fear and anxiety in horses; some clients do recognise behavioural signs indicating fear and/or anxiety but only the overt signs (e.g., rearing, running away) rather than the more subtle signs (e.g., tension in face, subtle avoidance behaviours such as a hesitant gait); and fear and/or anxiety behaviour is often misinterpreted or mislabelled. These key themes recurred throughout several other interview questions. This study has provided initial insights into the lack of recognition of fear and anxiety of horses by their caregivers in the United Kingdom as well as tried and tested approaches to conversations to change this. Such synthesis of experience and techniques across the equine behaviour sector, together with the information gained regarding perception of equine caregivers, could be a valuable approach to improve the effectiveness of behaviour consultations and welfare initiatives.
... It was hypothesized that owners were reluctant to euthanise due to reasons such as financial cost, emotional attachment, peer pressure and negative attitudes towards killing. Another welfare concern highlighted was the poor recognition of pain and stress by caregivers; the inability of many horse owners to recognise behavioural indicators of fear and stress was explored further, using video footage featuring a variety of horse training styles [2]. It follows that poor understanding and recognition of some welfare factors could be an additional causal factor in prolonging end-of-life suffering. ...
... While the variety of tools cited is available to veterinarians and experts in welfare, the majority of these tests are unlikely to be applied by horse owners, perhaps due to lack of awareness or lack of veterinary expertise. For example, lameness analysis and heart-rate variability require expert input [3], there is evidence to suggest that owners do not always recognise disease or health issues [11] and management practices such as longterm stabling-and the horses' abnormal behavioural responses to such practices-have become normalized in the equine industry and owners commonly fail to recognise the early signs of pain, fear and stress [1,2]. Therefore, although there is useful reassurance that the Five Freedoms framework is a suitable means of assessing equine welfare [3], it is not sufficient to assume that horse owners will necessarily apply it. ...
... The two items not relating to ethology are more open to interpretation, seemingly at odds with the otherwise welfare-centered items, but appear to reflect the perception amongst the participants that they too are desirable, on account of this factor containing the highest numbers of "strongly/slightly reduces" responses. Firstly, compliance is typically perceived to be a sign that the horse is well-trained and living in a low-stress environment but it can also be misinterpreted, with horses bordering on a state of learnt helplessness and given no opportunities to make their own decisions [2,24]. Secondly, perception of a "clean cosy stable" as a positive state is fairly anthropomorphic, with horses more ethologically suited to a life outside with freedom of movement in a social group. ...
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A key welfare concern for the equine population in the U.K. has been identified as delayed death, leading to prolonged suffering of horses. Reasons why some horse owners fail to have their horses euthanised include financial cost, emotional attachment, peer pressure, negative attitudes towards killing and poor recognition of behavioural indicators of equine pain and stress. The Five Freedoms framework of welfare was used to build a Likert-style survey to investigate the factors underlying attitudes of horse owners towards welfare measures in an end-of-life decision. Participants were asked to respond to hypothetical welfare scenarios and to give details of any horses they had had euthanised. The survey was conducted predominantly via equestrian Facebook groups and obtained 160 participant responses. Reliability of the scale was acceptable, with Cronbach’s α=0.89. Principal Component Analysis was used to load the hypothetical scenarios onto seven factors containing 62.2% of the variance. The first four factors could be categorized according to “Ethology-informed Management”, “Traditional Horse Management”, “Emotional Issues” and “Physical Issues”. Participants were more likely to consider euthanasia for physical issues, compared with issues relating to affective state and/or ethology, although it was not clear whether this was due to disregard for welfare issues relating to mental health or failure to recognise them as such. A large number of responses stated that the scenario had no bearing on whether a horse should be euthanised, again suggesting a lack of recognition of welfare issues and their implications. When asked to state their reasons for euthanising their horses, participants cited almost exclusively physical reasons, with the exception of those citing dangerous behaviour. Only a small number of responses also included consideration of affective and/or ethological factors, suggesting that welfare issues concerning affective state and/or behaviour are at risk of omission from end-of-life decisions.
... Figure 5 illustrates the vascularization of the eye, especially two large arteries-the arteria supraorbitalis and angularis occuli-that are ramifications of the facial artery which supplies circulation to this region. One aspect that must be emphasized is that the arteria angularis occuli is innervated by the facial nerve [54], so that zone responds sensitively to the predominant autonomous tone during diverse stimuli that is applied to species such as large ruminants [51], dogs (Canis lupus familiaris) [67], and equines [68]. ...
... Figure 5 illustrates the vascularization of the eye, especially two large arteries-the arteria supraorbitalis and angularis occuli-that are ramifications of the facial artery which supplies circulation to this region. One aspect that must be emphasized is that the arteria angularis occuli is innervated by the facial nerve [54], so that zone responds sensitively to the predominant autonomous tone during diverse stimuli that is applied to species such as large ruminants [51], dogs [67], and equines [68]. Gjendal et al. [69] evaluated the eye and tail temperatures during three potentially stressful events: a maze test, an intraperitoneal injection, and under anesthesia with isoflurane for one minute in 80 males C57BL/6 rats. ...
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Evaluating laboratory animals’ health and thermostability are fundamental components of all experimental designs. Alterations in either one of these parameters have been shown to trigger physiological changes that can compromise the welfare of the species and the replicability and robustness of the results obtained. Due to the nature and complexity of evaluating and managing the species involved in research protocols, non-invasive tools such as infrared thermography (IRT) have been adopted to quantify these parameters without altering them or inducing stress responses in the animals. IRT technology makes it possible to quantify changes in surface temperatures that are derived from alterations in blood flow that can result from inflammatory, stressful, or pathological processes; changes can be measured in diverse regions, called thermal windows, according to their specific characteristics. The principal body regions that were employed for this purpose in laboratory animals were the orbital zone (regio orbitalis), auricular pavilion (regio auricularis), tail (cauda), and the interscapular area (regio scapularis). However, depending on the species and certain external factors, the sensitivity and specificity of these windows are still subject to controversy due to contradictory results published in the available literature. For these reasons, the objectives of the present review are to discuss the neurophysiological mechanisms involved in vasomotor responses and thermogenesis via BAT in laboratory animals and to evaluate the scientific usefulness of IRT and the thermal windows that are currently used in research involving laboratory animals.
... If straw is not a viable option as a full bed, then gradual introduction of straw to allow free foraging opportunities could contribute to the environmental complexity of the stable environment with Caregiver identification and interpretation of behaviour is generally poor. (Dyson et al, 2018;Bell et al, 2019). Identifying caregivers' ability to recognise these indicators of stress can allow professionals to offer suitable resources to educate owners and motivate them to act on these signs. ...
Article
Restriction of equids to a stable for box rest is advisable for the management of acute physiological conditions. Confinement to a single stable is not an optimal environment for a horse and can create frustration and the expression of abnormal behaviours, which can indicate a reduced welfare state. Expression of aggression towards handlers or rebound behaviours when released from the stable can be a safety concern for handlers and gives the potential for reinjury. By reviewing the literature, we can consider what aspects of the environment can be adjusted to allow optimal expression of natural behaviour within the stable, subsequently reducing frustration and stress which will improve the welfare of the equine on box rest and potentially improve the safety of handlers.
... This has also been found in a previous study of stakeholders in equestrian sports [6], where there was a mismatch between the sporting bodies' promotion of the idea of the "happy equine athlete" and participants' expectations of horse wellbeing. Research has also found that horse owners are not always adept at identifying equine affective states [31], and our results clarify the need to take into account the spectrum of perspectives of wellbeing when creating resources aimed at broadening owners' knowledge. Given that the move in broader animal welfare science towards positive welfare (rather than an avoidance of negative) is relatively recent [3], this suggests that horse keepers could require additional support with identifying positive emotion in horses, and considering equine lifestyles which will promote positive experiences. ...
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Human assessment of equine wellbeing is fundamental to ensuring the optimal care of domestic horses. However, terminology associated with wellbeing is still not fully defined and there are currently no validated quality of life (QoL) assessment tools. Furthermore, little is known about what equine wellbeing or QoL means to horse owners, or how their beliefs impact on the management decisions they make for their horse. This study sought to establish how UK leisure horse owners use wellbeing-related terminology by exploring their accounts within a focus group setting. Four online focus group discussions (FGD) were held and qualitative data were collected. FGDs involved a semi-structured discussion, followed by a group activity to compare seven equine wellbeing-related terms of interest introduced by the facilitator. The collected data were analysed using a constructivist grounded theory approach, and also by content analysis, to examine the frequency and subjective meaning of the terms of interest. The results showed that horse owners did not clearly delineate between different terms, rather, they used the terms in the context of their own assessments of their horse. The meanings assigned to what owners experienced with their horse were individual and subjective, shaped by past experiences, relationships with their animal, and peers or social groups. This individualised construction of equine wellbeing impacted on the meaning conveyed when using wellbeing-related terminology. In this study, we extend the literature on equine wellbeing terminology usage, and highlight differences between the academic literature and the real-world experiences of horse owners.
... However, Kieson and Abrahams (2016) found no standards for understanding equine behavior in four large U.S. organizations that provide training to mental health therapists to include horses in psychotherapy. While no studies to date have evaluated the capacity of mental health therapists to correctly asses affective states in horses, misinterpretation of behaviors and lack of awareness for pain and stress is possible, based on outcomes of studies with horse-owning populations, equine professionals, and self-pronounced horse experts (Bell et al., 2019;Hockenhull & Creighton, 2012;Lesimple & Hausberger, 2014). When a therapist's equine knowledge is not based on scientific information, appropriate conceptualization of the horse's role in treatment may fail. ...
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While several systematic and mapping reviews have been published in the last decade on the psychological effects of interacting with horses in therapy services, little has been written about how licensed mental health therapists in the United States should best understand, describe, and conceptually position interactions with horses within their clinical practice. To this end, a healthcare-aligned conceptualization of equine interactions in psychotherapy and counseling is presented. Drawing from competencies and statements published by the American Counseling Association and the Human-Animal Interaction section of the American Psychological Association, the proposed conceptualization describes interactions with horses during psychotherapy as a technique and enhancement to existing treatment approaches, not as a standalone intervention or therapy. Additionally, the conceptualization aligns with legal and ethical responsibilities, and the professional identity of the licensed mental health therapist. The proposed conceptualization emphasizes the importance of using science-based information about horses so that their role and function in psychotherapy sessions can be more accurately understood. The conceptualization is proposed to have positive effects on the day-to-day practice of licensed mental health therapists in areas such as professional communication, treatment planning and provision, and engagement with healthcare processes such as service coding, reimbursement and insurance. The conceptualization could also be of use in research efforts as it clarifies how horse interactions should be understood in the context of treatment, which, in turn, affects research design. Use of the proposed conceptualization may help safeguard clients, other stakeholders, horses, and the licensed mental health therapists who incorporate interactions with horses in the provision of psychotherapy.
... Numerous member survey respondents indicated that they did not know what the noseband taper gauge was or how it was used, similar to another survey where less than a third of respondents were able to identify a device used to measure noseband tightness when shown a photo of it [2]. Equestrians regularly fail to recognize signs of distress in their horses or misinterpret behavioral cues [52] indicating a lack of understanding of horse behavior. However the introduction of noseband measurements may be a great opportunity to advance equestrian practice through educational outreach attached to the issue of noseband fit. ...
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Recent concerns regarding horse welfare during competition has highlighted the occurrence of overtightened nosebands on competition horses. Current rules are often vague—e.g., “nosebands may never be so tightly fixed as to harm the horse.” To investigate the need and acceptance prior to any rule changes Equestrian Canada (EC) launched a pilot noseband measuring project. Nineteen officiating stewards measured noseband fit using the ISES taper gauge (TG) at 32 equestrian events of various disciplines in 2021. Additionally, stakeholder surveys collected data from 1528 EC members and 27 stewards regarding opinions and perceptions on noseband use, fit, measurement and rules. Descriptive and qualitative statistics along with Pearson chi-squared examined relationships between specific variables. Of the 551 horses tested with the TG, 71% passed the 1.5 cm (two-fingers) measurement and an additional 19% passed the 1 cm (one-finger) measurement. Stewards unanimously agreed that overtightened nosebands present a welfare issue although 63% believed this to represent only a small subset of riders. While 60% of stewards believed the current rules were sufficient, 40% did not. Despite the fact that 84% of stewards believe there should be a standardized fit across disciplines, 52% felt the use of the TG should be at their discretion. The top three reasons riders indicated for using nosebands were discipline expectation (41%), requirement for competition (39%) or for control/safety (32%). Open comments referred to an option to not wear a noseband in competition. Professional riders believed overtightened nosebands were less of a welfare issue than amateur riders (76% vs. 88% respectively; p < 0.025) and correspondingly did not feel the TG was a fair method (44% vs. 68% respectively; p < 0.001). Slightly more than half of the respondents (51.5%) believed that measuring noseband fit on the frontal nasal plane was the appropriate location. To advance equestrian practice, more education is needed to inform stakeholders of the reasons for noseband measurements and appropriate fit.
... Pain or distress evaluation can be made in horses by observing facial expressions, abnormal behavior, or lack of normal behavior (Dalla Costa et al., 2014;Gleerup et al., 2015;Górecka-Bruzda et al., 2015;Dyson et al., 2018;Pehkonen et al., 2019). However, behavioral signs of equine distress and pain are poorly recognized (Lesimple and Hausberger, 2014;Bell et al., 2019;Pehkonen et al., 2019). If caretakers are surrounded by a large number of individuals expressing distress or pain, i.e. over-exposure, it may result in these behaviors going undetected and even being regarded as 'normal' (Prkachin et al., 2004;Lesimple and Hausberger, 2014). ...
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Bit-related oral lesions are a common and painful welfare issue in horses. Even though horses have been ridden and driven with a bit and bridle for 6000 years and bit sores have been described already in the 19th century in the veterinary literature, scientific reports on bit-related lesions and their risk factors in horses remain scarce. The aim of this thesis was to (i) determine the occurrence of oral lesions in the bit area in Finnish trotters and event horses after competitions, (ii) create a scoring system for oral lesions in the bit area and demonstrate different lesion types and locations with photographs, (iii) investigate risk factors for bit-related lesions in trotters and event horses, (iv) further investigate different stakeholders’ attitudes towards bit-related lesions in trotters. The rostral part of the mouth of 469 horses (261 trotters, 208 event horses) was examined systematically after a competition. Trotters were examined in 10 racing events in 2017 and event horses in 8 competition events in 2018–2019. Many horses had multiple lesions, and therefore, a lesion scoring system was created in which points were given to each lesion depending on its size, type (bruise or wound), and depth (superficial or deep). Points for each lesion were summed such that each horse received a total lesion score that reflected the overall lesion status. No acute lesions were found in 42 trotters (16%), and lesion status was mild in 55 trotters (21%), moderate in 113 trotters (43%), and severe in 51 trotters (20%). In event horses, no lesions were found in 99 horses (48%), and lesion status was mild in 45 (22%), moderate in 55 (26%), and severe in 9 horses (4%). The most common lesion location was the inner lip commissure. Lesions were also found in the bars of the mandible in front of the first lower cheek tooth, in the buccal area near the first upper cheek tooth, and in the outer lip commissures. Only a few horses had mild lesions involving the tongue and one horse in the hard palate. Although 109 event horses and 219 trotters had oral lesions in the bit area, none of the event horses and only six trotters showed external mouth bleeding. Additionally, one event horse and 26 trotters had blood inside the mouth or on the bit when it was removed from the mouth. Associations between a horse’s moderate-severe oral lesion status and potential risk factors were analyzed with multivariable logistic regression analysis. The association between bit type and lesion location was examined with Fisher’s exact test. Risk factors for moderate-severe oral lesion status in trotters were the use of a Crescendo bit, a mullen mouth regulator bit, or an unjointed plastic bit (model Happy Mouth) and female sex (mare). In event horses, the risk factors were thin (10–13 mm) and thick (18–22 mm) bits, female sex (mare), and other than pony breed. In both disciplines, unjointed bits were associated with lesions in the bars of the mandible. Single-jointed snaffle bits were the most common bit type in trotters and the least associated with moderate-severe lesions. In event horses, double-jointed 14–17 mm bits were most common. Bit thickness of 14–17 mm was the least associated with moderate-severe lesion status. However, these results may at least partly reflect driveability or rideability issues, and thus, rein tension differences because drivers/riders may change to distinctive bit designs if they have difficulty eliciting an appropriate response with rein cues. In the pilot questionnaire study, imaginary scenarios and photographs of lesions from horses’ mouths were presented to different stakeholders (veterinarians and race veterinary assistants, trainers, and others). They were asked in multiple choice questionnaires whether they allow the horse to start in the race, stipulate a health certificate before the next race, or remove the horse from the race. The association between stakeholder groups and their answers was examined with the Pearson Chi-square test. The results of this study indicated differences in attitudes towards bit-related lesions between stakeholder groups but also within a stakeholder group. This might reflect differences in conflicts of interests, moral values, empathy, or over-exposure to oral lesions. Not removing horses with severe oral lesions from the race may compromise horse welfare and society’s trust in the surveillance system. In this study, oral lesions in the bit area were common after a competition, although only few horses showed external bleeding. Oral examination and an oral lesion scoring system with an assistant recording the findings were suitable for field conditions and horses seemed to tolerate the examination well. Even though changing the bit to the bits least associated with lesions may be beneficial, horses with oral lesions might benefit from training modifications. Given the higher risk observed for mares in this study, mare oral health warrants special attention. Results of this thesis encourage adopting bit area monitoring as a new routine by horse handlers and as a welfare measure by competition organizers in order to minimize pain and negative experiences by early diagnosis and treatment of mouth lesions.
Article
Therapeutic riding (TR) provides benefits to participants with cognitive and physical disabilities. Horses participating in TR programs are typically selected because of their calm temperament and may not show obvious signs of stress. However, the welfare of horses in TR programs is an important aspect when evaluating the delivery of the program, to ensure sustainability. The aim of this study was to assess stress levels in therapeutic riding horses during scheduled sessions. The research was carried out during normal therapeutic horseback riding lessons designed for participants with intellectual and developmental disabilities within a certified program. There were four horses in the study who participated in multiple lessons each week over an 8-week period. Behavior scores, salivary cortisol, and heart rate variability measures were analyzed as measures of stress during baseline, mounting and dismounting. Results indicated that physiologic and behavioral measures of stress were increased during mounting and dismounting compared to baseline levels. Ethologically sound solutions to alleviate stress during TR activities is warranted to improve equine welfare.
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Physiological changes provide indices of stress responses, however, behavioural measures may be easier to determine. Spontaneous eye blink rate has potential as a non-invasive indicator of stress. Eyelid movements, along with heart rate (HR) and behaviour, from 33 horses were evaluated over four treatments: 1) control—horse in its normal paddock environment; 2) feed restriction—feed was withheld at regular feeding time; 3) separation—horse was removed from visual contact with their paddock mates; and 4) startle test—a ball was suddenly thrown on the ground in front of the horse. HR data was collected every five s throughout each three min test. Eyelid movements and behaviours were retrospectively determined from video recordings. A generalized linear mixed model (GLIMMIX) procedure with Sidak’s multiple comparisons of least squares means demonstrated that both full blinks (16 ± 12b vs. 15 ± 15b vs. 13 ± 11b vs. 26 ± 20a full blinks/3 min ± SEM; a,b differ p < 0.006) and half blinks (34 ± 15ab vs. 27 ± 14bc vs. 25 ± 13c vs. 42 ± 22a half blinks/3 min ± SEM; a,b,c differ p < 0.0001) decreased during feed restriction, separation and the startle test compared to the control, respectively. Eyelid twitches occurred more frequently in feed restriction (p < 0.0001) along with an increased HR (p < 0.0001). This study demonstrates that spontaneous blink rate decreases while eyelid twitches increase when the horse experiences a stressful situation.
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Correct assessment of stress in horses is important for both horse welfare and handler safety during necessary aversive procedures. Handlers depend on behaviour when judging how well an individual is tolerating stressful procedures such as loading or veterinary intervention. However, evidence suggests that behaviour may not accurately reflect affective states in horses. This may be explained by individual differences in coping styles, which have tentatively been identified in horses. The current study assessed whether behaviour during two novel handling procedures was associated with physiological indicators of stress. Core temperature, discrepancy in eye temperature and heart rate variability (HRV) were compared with compliance and proactivity shown by horses during two novel handling tests (n = 46). Test A required subjects to cross a large blue tarpaulin on the ground. Test B required subjects to walk through plastic streamers suspended overhead. Physiological indicators of stress did not correlate with time taken to complete the handling tests. This indicates some subjects crossed an object they found aversive. Crossing time may be influenced more by stimulus-control than the level of aversion experienced. The level of proactivity shown was not associated with HRV, HR, core temperature or the discrepancy in temperature between eyes. This suggests that proactive horses, which appear more stressed, show similar stress responses to more reactive individuals. These findings support previous research indicating that behaviour commonly used within the equestrian industry may not provide reliable indicators of a horse's ability to tolerate a stressful procedure. The influence of training and the extent to which a horse is under stimulus-control may overshadow inherent emotional responses, with implications for handler safety and horse welfare.
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Finding valid indicators of emotional states is one of the biggest challenges in animal welfare science. Here, we investigated in horses whether variation in the expression of eye wrinkles caused by contraction of the inner eyebrow raiser reflects emotional valence. By confronting horses with positive and negative conditions, we aimed to induce positive and negative emotional states, hypothesising that positive emotions would reduce whereas negative emotions would increase eye wrinkle expression. Sixteen horses were individually exposed in a balanced order to two positive (grooming, food anticipation) and two negative conditions (food competition, waving a plastic bag). Each condition lasted for 60 seconds and was preceded by a 60 second control phase. Throughout both phases, pictures of the eyes were taken, and for each horse four pictures per condition and phase were randomly selected. Pictures were scored in random order and by two experimenters blind to condition and phase for six outcome measures: qualitative impression, eyelid shape, markedness of the wrinkles, presence of eye white, number of wrinkles, and the angle between the line through the eyeball and the highest wrinkle. The angle decreased during grooming and increased during food competition compared to control phases, whereas the two phases did not differ during food anticipation and the plastic bag condition. No effects on the other outcome measures were detected. Taken together, we have defined a set of measures to assess eye wrinkle expression reliably, of which one measure was affected by the conditions the horses were exposed to. Variation in eye wrinkle expression might provide valuable information on horse welfare but further validation of specific measures across different conditions is needed.
Article
The scientific study of animal emotion has recently become an important focus for animal behaviour and welfare researchers. For horses used by humans for work, recreation or sport, the question of the significance of their life experiences in terms of their emotional response, is an important one if we are to provide for their welfare needs. Horses have received relatively less scientific attention than many livestock species when it comes to investigating emotional state or affective experience, although their behavioural responses during sporting or recreational performance are often described anecdotally using terminology indicating an underlying presumption of equine emotions. Indeed, the international governing body for equestrian sport, the Fédération Equestre Internationale (FEI), include the concept of ‘the Happy Equine Athlete’ into their rules, as a key objective during training and competition. This review presents available evidence to date of the physiological, behavioural and cognitive components of equine emotion and evaluates the extent to which the question concerning ‘how horses feel’ can be answered. The characterization of equine emotion in terms of level of arousal and valence, based on physiological, behavioural and cognitive indicators, offers a way forward to determine the impact of different situations and experiences on horses during their working lives. There is a need to develop robust validated methods for accessing equine emotions, to underpin a universally agreed method for/approach to providing an accurate assessment of equine welfare that can be utilized in a variety of contexts. This will provide a means of monitoring and improving the horse’s experience, ensuring that the horse enjoys a good life, rather than one that is just worth living.
Article
There is evidence that more than 47% of the sports horse population in normal work may be lame, but the lameness is not recognized by owners or trainers. An alternative means of detecting pain may be recognition of behavioral changes in ridden horses. It has been demonstrated that there are differences in facial expressions in nonlame and lame horses. The purpose of this study was to develop a whole horse ethogram for ridden horses and to determine whether it could be applied repeatedly by 1 observer (repeatability study, 9 horses) and if, by application of a related pain behavior score, lame horses (n = 24) and nonlame horses (n = 13) could be differentiated. It was hypothesized that there would be some overlap in pain behavior scores among nonlame and lame horses; and that overall, nonlame horses would have a lower pain behavior score than lame horses. The ethogram was developed with 117 behavioral markers, and the horses were graded twice in random order by a trained specialist using video footage. Overall, there was a good correlation between the 2 assessments (P < 0.001; R² = 0.91). Behavioral markers that were not consistent across the 2 assessments were omitted, reducing the ethogram to 70 markers. The modified ethogram was applied to video recordings of the nonlame horses and lame horses (ethogram evaluation). There was a strong correlation between 20 behavioral markers and the presence of lameness. The ethogram was subsequently simplified to 24 behavioral markers, by the amalgamation of similar behaviors which scored similarly and by omission of markers which showed unreliable results in relation to lameness. Following this, the maximum individual occurrence score for lame horses was 14 (out of 24 possible markers), with a median and mean score of 9 (±2 standard deviation) compared with a maximum score of 6 for nonlame horses, with a median and mean score of 2 (±1.4). For lame horses, the following behaviors occurred significantly more (P < 0.05, chi-square): ears back, mouth opening, tongue out, change in eye posture and expression, going above the bit, head tossing, tilting the head, unwillingness to go, crookedness, hurrying, changing gait spontaneously, poor quality canter, resisting, and stumbling and toe dragging. Recognition of these features as potential indicators of musculoskeletal pain may enable earlier recognition of lameness and avoidance of punishment-based training. Further research is necessary to verify this new ethogram for assessment of pain in ridden horses.
Article
Stress is a generic concept describing the body’s reaction to external stimuli, including both physiological and psychological factors. Therefore, by definition, the assessment of psychological stress in the exercising horse encompasses the problem of teasing apart the psychological and physiological factors both of which result in stress responses. The present study reviews the existing literature on various measures of stress taken specifically in the context of equitation science. Particular attention has been paid to short-term effects, and commonly used measurements of short-term stress include heart rate, a number of heart rate variability parameters, blood or saliva cortisol levels, eye temperature, and various behaviour parameters including in particular behaviour patterns presumably indicative of conflict with the rider’s/trainer’s aids. Inspection of the individual studies’ results revealed that disagreement between these different measures of stress is commonplace. For physiological parameters, the largest proportion of agreement (i.e. both parameters simultaneously indicated either higher, insignificant or lower stress compared to a control treatment) was found for heart rate and heart rate variability parameters, while generally limited agreement was found for cortisol and cardiovascular parameters. It appears that cortisol levels may not be particularly useful for assessing/assessment of the valence of a situation in the exercising horse as cortisol levels are predominantly linked to activation and exercise levels. Although heart rate variability parameters reflect in theory more closely sympathovagal balance compared to cortisol levels, great care has to be taken regarding the use of appropriate time-frames, appropriate raw data correction methods as well as the use of appropriate equipment. In spite of its wide-spread and apparently successful use, popular equipment may in fact not be accurate enough under field conditions. Eye temperature is another promising parameter for assessment of psychological stress, but the technique is likewise susceptible to application errors. Given the high susceptibility of physiological parameters to errors at various experimental stages, behavioural rather than physiological parameters may in fact provide more accurate measures of valence when conducting experiments in the exercising horse. Behavioural parameters that appear to be particularly practical in assessing stress in ridden horses’ behaviour are associated with? frequencies of behaviour indicative of conflict. However, while increased frequencies of aare a good indicator of stress, the absence of conflict behaviour does not provide proof of the absence of stress due to the possible occurrence of xxxx conditions such as Learned Helplessness. In future studies, the above issues should be taken into consideration when designing experiments to assess psychological stress in ridden horses.
Article
Ever since the phrase, 'the happy athlete' was introduced into the FEI rules for dressage (Article 401.1) there have been discussions about what this actually means and whether it is possible to recognize and reward positive emotions in working horses. For those interested in the study of equine behaviour, the use of such subjective terms for assessing horse emotion during training and performance, is interesting in that this suggests that horse trainers, riders and judges feel that there are meaningful behavioural expressions of emotional state that can be accurately assessed whilst the horse is at work and during competition. Although there has been much more research into the recognition of negative emotions such as pain, fear and stress in horses, recently there have been a number of studies attempting to look at what horses choose and how they may express pleasure or even happiness. 'Putting the welfare of the horse as a happy athlete at the heart of everything we do', is one of the main values quoted by equestrian bodies, however if we are to manage equine welfare we need to measure it and how successfully this can be done relies upon the development and validation of robust yet practical welfare indicators. Until recently, welfare assessment has traditionally focused on the absence of experiences that induce negative emotions. However, the notions of quality of life, a life worth living and the concept of the happy animal are starting to become more accepted within the animal welfare field with the assumption that if an animal is experiencing positive emotions, then its welfare needs can be said to be met, and if negative, then they are not and welfare is of concern. So the pertinent question is, what is welfare in the context of the horse used for equitation purposes? And what are the most useful welfare indicators for judging the emotional state of an individual horse within the context of the training and performance situation? In this review paper we will examine the results of recent work in this area, and the challenges such research poses both in relation to the science, but also to the use of horses for recreation and sport.
Book
Equine Behavior: A Guide for Veterinarians and Equine Scientists is the quintessential reference for all who really want to know what makes horses tick. Research in horse behavior has made great strides in recent years. This book examines the truth behind modern trends and ancient traditions. Full of insight, it rounds up the latest findings of practitioners and researchers from all over the world, drawing on both cutting-edge research and best practice. With more than 1,000 references, the book explores equine behavior from first principles, by considering the behavior of free-ranging horses and focusing on ways in which management and training influence the responses of their domestic counterparts. Equine physicians, trainers, handlers and owners all need to be students of equine behavior, because the first sign of a problem is often a change in behavior. So, whether you own, ride, lead, groom, feed or heal horses, what you observe is vital to your understanding. Behavioral problems in the stable and under saddle are a grave concern for equine veterinarians worldwide, because they can lead to poor performance, welfare issues, abuse and, ultimately, wastage. Traditionally, veterinarians gave priority to the physical health of their equine patients. This book is a unique attempt to demonstrate the way science can throw light on how and why problems and unwelcome behaviors arise. It also offers ways to bring about change for the better. Beautifully illustrated with photographs and line diagrams, Equine Behavior: A guide for veterinarians and equine scientists is an essential resource for practising veterinarians, students and enthusiasts with a specific interest in horses, ponies, and donkeys. Professional trainers and handlers, equine scientists and behavior therapists will also find its contents invaluable.