||According to scientists human-horse relationship is influenced by management conditions (Hausberger et al.; 2007) including handling methods (Henry et al.; 2005). Furthermore, Henry et al. (2005) show that mares foals“ behaviour toward humans may be influenced even by the mares. Although the familiarity of the testperson is said to be an important variable measuring relationship (Waiblinger et al.; 2006), other studies show that horses generalize from the experimenter to unfamiliar humans (Henry et al.; 2005) or from the caretaker to other human beings (Hausberger et al.; 2002).
Methods: 51 horses were observed in a 20x20 sandy arena (familiar to the subjects) to evaluate their relationship with a testperson.
First an arena test was carried out for 5 minutes. The horse was put into the arena alone. After that the person test came in which the testperson interacted with the horse.
The person test consisted of 3 or 4 different phases according to the horse”s behaviour. The phases were: (1.) voluntary animal approach test in which the testperson stood still and the subject was allowed to move wherever it wanted (Appr-vol); (2.) the testperson calling the horse to himself (Appr-call); (3.) the testperson making the horse stay beside him (Stand-still); (4.) the testperson making the horse follow him (without any tools and food reward) (Follow).
First 51 horses were tested with testpersons who were familiar to the animals. After that 39 horses were retested with unfamiliar testpersons within more than one week.
To analyze the potential effects of different human-related factors on the horse behaviour in the person test, such as time spent with training the horse (grooming, riding, working etc.), training methods, number of trainers etc. a questionnare has been used.
Results: Arena test: Horse behaviour was affected neither by their age (2-24 years) nor by their gender (30 geldings and 1 stallion vs 20 mares), however, mares spent more time in the entrance of the arena.
In the test with unfamiliar testpersons (retest) horses stood longer and walked less, which could reflect some habituation to the situation.
Person test: Gender and age of horses or time (years) elapsing since the horse started to be trained did not have any effect on the reactions of horses.
There was a positive correlation between the time (hours) spent with the horse weekly and the time of Follow.
The number of trainers had a significant effect on the Appr-vol and Follow responses: the less the number of the trainers, the sooner the horse approached the familiar testperson and the longer the animal followed him.
In the person test, significant difference was observed only in Appr-vol, thus horses followed the familiar testpersons much longer than the unfamiliar ones. Horses trained to follow their trainers without a lead rope followed significantly longer than animals without this kind of trainings.
Conclusion: Followership seemed to be the most sensitive behavioural response to human familiarity and it may also indicate some other aspects of horse-human relationship, however, training has a clear effect on this human related reaction.