Friday, 29 June 2012


This post is another one of the behaviour posts and is about equine temperament.

When looking at temperament it can be referred to as a horse's personality, individualist and emotionality. It is consistent over time so what you see in early life you will see later on (Manteca and Deag, 1993).

When looking at temperament in horses it may be predictive of psychological and physical performance traits. Therefore temperament testing may be used when selecting horses for competition.

Lansade et al (2008) looked at temperament in the horse. Behavioural tests have been developed to measure certain aspects of a horse's temperament. They wanted to measure temperament more precisely. They measured the horses' responses to different stimuli. They also repeated the tests 5 months later to make sure the reactions were consistent over time. The stimuli were designed to cause reactions from the horses' different senses, for example, their reaction to the smell of cinnamon. Correlations were seen between how horses reacted to similar stimuli using the same sense but differences were seen when looking at different senses. Except for the response to odour, the responses to the other sensory stimuli remained stable over the 5 month period. Therefore some of these methods may be used in a temperament test.

Selecting for optimal temperament. 
Temperament is determined by an interaction of the environment with the genes of the horse. They can choose to breed horses that are of a good temperament, this selection can be predictive from a young age or may be chosen at an older age. Genetic and behavioural tests can be used for this.

Factors such as flightiness may be advantageous when selecting for a racehorse but may cause problems in a dressage horse.

Temperament testing
The rate of habituation (see last weeks post on learning and training) between breeds may be a useful predictor of temperament. Arabs have been found to habituate faster for example.

Looking at one factor to explain the temperament such as vocalisation may not be reliable as temperament is a multidimensional construct. You need to look at a range of traits and combine the score. There are problems with how the data from these results are dealt with however.

Studies have found at least two consistent personality dimensions. These are sensitivity to aversion, this is the flightiness of the horse and is often assessed with their reaction to a novel object, social isolation or handling. The second is sensitivity to reward, this may be looked at with regards to exploratory behaviour in behavioural tests.

Mood and emotional state have also been suggested to affect how the horse performs. Studies using heart rate variability suggests mood/emotional state may be measurable in the horse (Rietmann et al., 2004) 

Temperament traits need to be defined in a standardised way. Some studies are starting to find predictors of performance. Mood and Emotional state is an area for future investigation.

Love Laura


Emmi said...

Oh my, I just found your blog, it is wonderful!

Laura said...

Aww, thank you very much! :-)

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