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Animals 2017, 7(8), 63; doi:10.3390/ani7080063

Veterinary and Equine Science Students’ Interpretation of Horse Behaviour

Massey Equine, Institute of Veterinary, Animal and Biomedical Sciences, Massey University, Private Bag 11-222, Palmerston North 4442, New Zealand
École Nationale Vétérinaire de Toulouse 23 Chemin des Capelles, BP 87614, 31076 Toulouse CEDEX 3, France
Author to whom correspondence should be addressed.
Academic Editor: Clive J. C. Phillips
Received: 1 July 2017 / Revised: 7 August 2017 / Accepted: 12 August 2017 / Published: 15 August 2017
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Simple Summary

We assessed first-year veterinary science and veterinary technology and undergraduate equine science students interpretation of expressive horse behaviours. Previous experience with horses appeared to influence the students’ perception of the horses’ behaviour. Qualitative assessments of horse behaviour may be a useful tool for assessing students’ knowledge of horse behaviour.


Many veterinary and undergraduate equine science students have little previous horse handling experience and a poor understanding of horse behaviour; yet horses are one of the most unsafe animals with which veterinary students must work. It is essential for veterinary and equine students to learn how to interpret horse behaviour in order to understand demeanour and levels of arousal, and to optimise their own safety and the horses’ welfare. The study utilised a qualitative research approach to investigate veterinary science and veterinary technology and undergraduate equine science students’ interpretation of expressive behaviours shown by horses. The students (N = 127) were shown six short video clips and asked to select the most applicable terms, from a pre-determined list, to describe the behavioural expression of each individual horse. A wide variation of terms were selected by students and in some situations of distress, or situations that may be dangerous or lead to compromised welfare, apparently contradictory terms were also selected (happy or playful) by students with less experience with horses. Future studies should consider the use of Qualitative Behavioural Analysis (QBA) and free-choice profiling to investigate the range of terms used by students to describe the expressive demeanour and arousal levels of horses. View Full-Text
Keywords: horse behaviour; horse welfare; qualitative analysis; expressive behaviour horse behaviour; horse welfare; qualitative analysis; expressive behaviour

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This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited. (CC BY 4.0).

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MDPI and ACS Style

Gronqvist, G.; Rogers, C.; Gee, E.; Martinez, A.; Bolwell, C. Veterinary and Equine Science Students’ Interpretation of Horse Behaviour. Animals 2017, 7, 63.

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