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Open AccessArticle

Equine Responses to Acceleration and Deceleration Cues May Reflect Their Exposure to Multiple Riders

1
School of Life and Environmental Sciences, Faculty of Science, University of Sydney, Sydney, NSW 2006, Australia
2
Sydney School of Veterinary Science, Faculty of Science, University of Sydney, Sydney, NSW 2006, Australia
*
Author to whom correspondence should be addressed.
Animals 2021, 11(1), 66; https://doi.org/10.3390/ani11010066
Received: 4 December 2020 / Revised: 22 December 2020 / Accepted: 25 December 2020 / Published: 31 December 2020
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Horse-Human Interactions and Their Implication for Equine Welfare)
Successful horse training depends on riders giving clear and consistent cues. When cues are inconsistent, the horse may become confused, frustrated, or unresponsive. It is likely that each rider or horse trainer differs in the way they deliver training cues because humans vary in their weight, height, riding style, handedness, experience, and skill level. This study explored relationships between the number of people to ride or handle a horse and the horse’s response to training cues. Data describing 1819 horses and ponies were obtained from the Equine Behavior Assessment and Research Questionnaire (E-BARQ), an online global survey of horse owners and caregivers. The number of riders or handlers showed a significant relationship with two behavioural indices. Specifically, as the number of riders or handlers increased, horses were more difficult to accelerate and less difficult to decelerate compared to horses with fewer riders or handlers. This could indicate that an increase in rider or handler numbers is associated with those horses becoming relatively more unresponsive to leg and whip cues than to rein cues.
It is logical to assume that horses with multiple riders encounter variation in application of training cues. When training cues are inconsistent, we expect to see a decrease in trained responses or an increase in conflict behaviours. This study investigated the relationship between the number of people that regularly ride or handle a horse and the horse’s response to operant cues. Data on 1819 equids were obtained from the Equine Behavior Assessment and Research Questionnaire (E-BARQ), an online global survey of horse owners and caregivers. Three mutually independent indices (acceleration, deceleration, and responsiveness) were derived from a parallel analysis of E-BARQ items related to acceleration and deceleration cues. These indices were then subjected to multivariable modelling against a range of dependent variables including horse and human demographics, horse management, and the number of riders or handlers. The number of riders or handlers was a significant predictor for two out of three indices. As the number of riders or handlers increased, horses were more difficult to accelerate (regression coefficient = 0.0148 ± 0.0071; p = 0.0366) and less difficult to decelerate (regression coefficient = −0.017 ± 0.008; p = 0.030) than those with fewer riders or handlers. These findings suggest that horses’ responses to rein tension cues are more persistent than their responses to leg pressure or whip cues. Alternatively, horses with these responses may be actively selected for multiple rider roles. Longitudinal studies of this sort should reveal how the number of riders or handlers affects horse behaviour and could lead to safer and more humane equestrian practices. View Full-Text
Keywords: behaviour; equitation science; negative reinforcement; operant conditioning; rider skill; welfare behaviour; equitation science; negative reinforcement; operant conditioning; rider skill; welfare
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MDPI and ACS Style

McKenzie, J.; Fenner, K.; Hyde, M.; Anzulewicz, A.; Burattini, B.; Romness, N.; Wilson, B.; McGreevy, P. Equine Responses to Acceleration and Deceleration Cues May Reflect Their Exposure to Multiple Riders. Animals 2021, 11, 66. https://doi.org/10.3390/ani11010066

AMA Style

McKenzie J, Fenner K, Hyde M, Anzulewicz A, Burattini B, Romness N, Wilson B, McGreevy P. Equine Responses to Acceleration and Deceleration Cues May Reflect Their Exposure to Multiple Riders. Animals. 2021; 11(1):66. https://doi.org/10.3390/ani11010066

Chicago/Turabian Style

McKenzie, Jessica; Fenner, Kate; Hyde, Michelle; Anzulewicz, Ashley; Burattini, Bibiana; Romness, Nicole; Wilson, Bethany; McGreevy, Paul. 2021. "Equine Responses to Acceleration and Deceleration Cues May Reflect Their Exposure to Multiple Riders" Animals 11, no. 1: 66. https://doi.org/10.3390/ani11010066

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