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Open AccessArticle

Reported Behavioural Differences between Geldings and Mares Challenge Sex-Driven Stereotypes in Ridden Equine Behaviour

Sydney School of Veterinary Science, Faculty of Science, University of Sydney, Sydney, NSW 2006, Australia
College of Science, University of Canterbury, Christchurch 8140, New Zealand
Equitation Science International, 3, Wonderland Ave, Tuerong, VIC 3915, Australia
Author to whom correspondence should be addressed.
Animals 2020, 10(3), 414;
Received: 9 January 2020 / Revised: 24 February 2020 / Accepted: 26 February 2020 / Published: 2 March 2020
(This article belongs to the Section Human-Animals Interactions, Animal Behaviour and Emotion)
It has been shown that people within the horse industry have preconceived ideas about horse behaviour, temperament and rideability, based solely on the sex of the horse. Such ideas can have welfare implications, if personnel allow bias to affect their interactions with particular horses. Such welfare implications include employment of harsher training methods, and increased horse wastage. The current study explored data on riders’ and trainers’ reports of ridden horse behaviour. Reported sex-related behavioural differences were evaluated based on 1233 responses from the pilot study of the Equine Behaviour and Research Questionnaire (E-BARQ) survey. Results from the study suggest there are some sex-related differences in behaviour between male and female horses; geldings are more likely to chew on rugs and lead ropes when tied, and mares are more likely to move away when being caught in paddock. However, there was no evidence of sex-related differences associated with behaviour when ridden which may warrant further investigation. Findings from this study may be used to educate riders and trainers about the need to regard behaviour and motivation in ridden horses as sex-neutral.
Horse trainers and riders may have preconceived ideas of horse temperament based solely on the sex of the horse. A study (n = 1233) of horse enthusiasts (75% of whom had more than 8 years of riding experience) revealed that riders prefer geldings over mares and stallions. While these data may reflect different sex preferences in horses used for sport, they may also reduce the chances of some horses reaching their performance potential. Further, an unfounded sex prejudice is likely to contribute to unconscious bias when perceiving unwanted behaviours, simplistically attributing them to demographic characteristics rather than more complex legacies of training and prior learning. The current study analysed reported sex-related behavioural differences in ridden and non-ridden horses using data from responses to the pilot study of the Equine Behaviour Assessment and Research Questionnaire (E-BARQ) survey. Respondents (n = 1233) reported on the behaviour of their horse using a 151-item questionnaire. Data were searched for responses relating to mares and geldings, and 110 traits with the greatest percentage difference scores between mares and geldings were selected were tested for univariate significance at p < 0.2. Multivariable modelling of the effect of sex (mare or gelding) on remaining traits was assessed by ordinal logistic regression, using a cumulative proportional log odds model. Results revealed mares were significantly more likely to move away when being caught compared to geldings (p = 0.003). Geldings were significantly more likely to chew on lead ropes when tied (p = 0.003) and to chew on rugs (p = 0.024). However, despite sex-related differences in these non-ridden behaviours, there was no evidence of any significant sex-related differences in the behaviours of the horses when ridden. This finding suggests that ridden horse behaviour is not sexually dimorphic or that particular horse sports variously favour one sex over another. View Full-Text
Keywords: equine; behaviour; sex; welfare; anthropomorphism equine; behaviour; sex; welfare; anthropomorphism
MDPI and ACS Style

Aune, A.; Fenner, K.; Wilson, B.; Cameron, E.; McLean, A.; McGreevy, P. Reported Behavioural Differences between Geldings and Mares Challenge Sex-Driven Stereotypes in Ridden Equine Behaviour. Animals 2020, 10, 414.

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