Practical considerations regarding the implementation of a temperament test into horse performance tests: Results of a large-scale test run
Koenig von Borstel U
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Considering the ever-growing demand of various breeding organizations for an objective, inexpensive, reliable, and easily conducted assessment of the behavior of horses, the aim of our study was to implement a novel-object test and a startling test into any kind of breeding performance testing to assess horses' temperament. Additionally, the influence of testing areas (familiar or unfamiliar), riders, and horse factors such as levels of training, breed, and age were of interest. Furthermore, recommendations for the practical implementation concerning the parameters should be given. Therefore, 1,028 horses over a period of 3 years participated in a temperament test consisting of 5 different stimuli. The horses were either ridden (61.8 %) or led by hand (38.2 %) by an unfamiliar professional rider (N = 43) or a familiar rider (N = 20). Live behavioral observations were taken by a trained observer. Overall, horses' scores for reactivity in the present temperament test were distributed over the whole scale, with lower means and higher standard deviations (6.7 ± 2.2-7.6 ± 2.1) than corresponding scores from the conventional personality evaluation in performance tests (7.7 ± 0.8-8.2 ± 0.5; P < 0.01). High correlations (r = 0.3-0.9; P < 0.001) between the scores for reactivity and the other behavioral parameters (emotional expression, activity, time to calm down, rider's aids) show a large influence of these parameters in assessing the horses' temperament. Factors like breed type, sex, and age had significant influences (P < 0.001) on different scores of the temperament test. In most cases, the rider or handler had no influence on the different scores assessed during the temperament test. The training level and the testing modus never had a significant influence on different scores. Only the testing station or location had a small influence on the scores for the stimulus “bridge” in some horses. Based on the results, it could be concluded that an implementation of a temperament tests into performance testing is possible during various types of testing procedure. Especially the assessment of reactivity, emotional expression, interest in the stimulus and rider's aids during and after passing the stimulus, as well as the time to calm down are important parameters for analyzing the horses' personality.
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