Conflict behaviour in elite sport horses
A total of 150 horses were analysed by archived footage from the FEI during international show jumping and dressage competitions. The occurrence of conflict behaviour exhibited during the test including head shaking, pulling the reins out of rider’s hands, tail swishing and gaping per second was noted for each horse. Furthermore, the total time a horse was presented with a low head position and with the nose behind the vertical were also recorded.
In show jumping competitions, the occurrence of conflict behaviour for each type of obstacle (fence) was recorded and divided by the total number of obstacles of the same type within the specific trial. In dressage competitions the occurrence of conflict behaviour associated with each particular dressage movement phase was recorded and divided by the duration of the particular dressage movement.
The results showed that in show jumping pulling the reins out of the rider’s hand was most frequent and vertical and combination fences were the most problematic obstacles. In dressage tail swishing was most frequent and this occurred during the complicated dressage movements most often. In addition, dressage horses were ridden with a low head position and with the nose behind the vertical more often when compared to show jumping horses.
Concluded was that the high incidence of conflict behaviour in both show jumping and dressage competitions suggests that many horses may not be sufficiently prepared for competition and this could lead to welfare concerns.
> From: Górecka-Bruzda et al., J. Vet. Behav. 10 (2017) 137-146. All rights reserved to Elsevier Inc.. Click here for the online summary.