Increased Rider Weight Did Not Induce Changes in Behavior and Physiological Parameters in Horses
Department of Animal Science, Aarhus University, Blichers Allé 20, 8830 Tjele, Denmark
Agrocampus Ouest, 65 Rue de Saint-Brieuc, 35042 Rennes, France
Department of Anatomy, Physiology and Biochemistry, Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences, Box 7011, 75007 Uppsala, Sweden
Department of Biomedical Sciences, University of Veterinary Medicine, Veterinärplatz 1, A-1210 Vienna, Austria
Vejle Hestepraksis, Fasanvej 12, 7120 Vejle Oest, Denmark
Author to whom correspondence should be addressed.
Animals 2020, 10(1), 95; https://doi.org/10.3390/ani10010095 (registering DOI)
Received: 2 December 2019 / Revised: 29 December 2019 / Accepted: 1 January 2020 / Published: 6 January 2020
The influence of rider weight on horse welfare, health and performance is often debated. We measured the effects of increasing the weight of the regular rider by 15% and 25% on horse behavior, gait symmetry and physiological responses in a standard dressage test. Cortisol levels increased in response to exercise, but we found no effect of the weight treatment, i.e., cortisol levels did not increase when the rider became heavier. Behavior, heart rate and gait symmetry also did not differ between treatments. We conclude that increasing the weight of the regular rider by 15% and 25% did not result in significant short-term alterations in cortisol, heart rate, behavior and gait symmetry in horses during low-intensity exercise. Further studies are required to develop appropriate guidelines for rider weight.