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Human/horse relationship quality : a same perception of humans for horses reflected in different situations

Abstract : Human-horse relationship (HHR) is of major importance in both competition as well as recreational horseback riding. A negative perception of humans by horses can decrease performances, welfare of both horse and rider and safety for both parties. Several behavioural tests have been used to evaluate HHR but no study compare horses’ reactions between these tests. This study aimed to investigate if horses generalize their reactions to humans from one to another context or if HHR quality depends on context assessment. Four tests were performed on 60 horses in riding centres including (a) ‘passive presence test’ (the experimenter entered the box and remained motionless during 5 minutes), (b) ‘slow approach test’ (the experimenter approached slowly and tried to touch the horse in the box), (c) ‘saddle-approach test’ (experimenter showing a saddle to the horse) and (d) ‘bridge test’ (the experimenter led the horse and tried to make it cross a mattress). The behaviour of the horse, and the time required by the horse to accept being touched and the time required for the horse to cross the bridge were recorded. Non-parametric analyses were performed to compare the horses’ reactions between all tests. The horses that were the most difficult to touch in their box also stayed the furthest away from the motionless human (Spearman, ρ = -0.41, p = 0.002), were the most aggressive when approached with a saddle (Fisher, p = 0.01) and were the most reluctant to cross the bridge (MannWhitney, U = 74, p = 0.002). Similarly, the most agressive horses when approached with a saddle were also the most reluctant to cross the bridge (Fisher, p = 0.04) and the most threatening towards the motionless human (MannWhitney, U = 169, p = 0.007). The findings suggest that an altered HHR may be reflected in different contexts and daily perception of humans may present as stressful for these horses, potentially leading to poor welfare, performances and safety in some instances.
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Submitted on : Tuesday, August 30, 2016 - 10:26:59 AM
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  • HAL Id : hal-01357608, version 1


Carole Fureix, Patrick Jégo, Martine Hausberger. Human/horse relationship quality : a same perception of humans for horses reflected in different situations. 4th International Conference "Welfare Assessment at Farm and Group Level", Sep 2008, Ghent, Belgium. ⟨hal-01357608⟩



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