Importance of personality traits in horses to breeders and riders
von Borstel, UK
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Especially in horses, personality traits play an important role because horses' behavior influences their quality as a riding partner. In contrast to that, no objective assessment of horses' personality traits is available at present. Although initial efforts are made in this field, a successful implementation of behavior tests into horse performance tests depends on the acceptance of the riders and breeders. Therefore, the aim of the present study was to assess the importance of personality traits to breeders and riders as well as the degree of riders' acceptance of a temperament test as a more objective means of assessing equine personality traits. Using a web-based survey consisting of a 41-item questionnaire, a total of 1087 competition riders (49.3%), breeders (39.0%), leisure riders (37.9%), and professional riders (8.6%) of 13 countries were recruited to participate in the survey. When asked to split 1000 Euro among the different traits listed in the breeding goal, respondents clearly assigned more weight to the personality-related character and temperament traits (least squares mean +/- standard error; P < 0.005: (sic)228.7 +/- 17.6) and willingness to work ((sic)123.0 +/- 9.6) compared with performance traits, such as the quality of trot ((sic)77.7 +/- 6.9) or show jumping ((sic)68.0 +/- 12.3). Nevertheless, expected differences in relative weighting of traits between the different groups of riders were confirmed (e.g., character and temperament: (sic)209.3 +/- 6.1 [leisure riders] vs. (sic)149.7 +/- 5.4 [competition riders], P < 0.0001). When asking why personality traits are so important, the simplification of daily work with the horses (47.9%) and relationship between horse and human (44.9%) as well as a more comfortable and safer handling (31.5%) were most commonly listed. As much as 45.6% of all participants see quality problems with the current assessment and suggested the evaluation of all breeding animals (30.1%), followed by a better standardization of assessment procedures (25.5%) and a move to more objective criteria such as the introduction of a temperament test (20.3%) for solving the problems. The present survey revealed that behavior traits are very important to all groups of riders and breeders, although there are diverse opinions about it. According to the participants, there is a need for and a high potential in the move toward more objective assessment methods of horses' personality traits, and participants would support a restructuring of the current assessment. (C) 2013 Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.