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Normando, S., Meers, L., Samuels, W. E., Faustini, M., & Ödberg, F. O. (2011). Variables affecting the prevalence of behavioural problems in horses. Can riding style and other management factors be significant? Appl. Anim. Behav. Sci., 133(3-4), 186–198.
Abstract: The effects of riding style and various management factors on the prevalence of stereotypies and other behavioural problems among 346 mixed-breed saddle horses (phase 1) and 101 Arabian horses (phase 2) were analysed through a questionnaire answered by owners. In phase 1, the questionnaire data were partially validated through 20-min observations of 81 (23.3%) of the cases. Results indicate that horses primarily ridden in the English style were reported to be significantly more likely to display stereotypies (p < 0.001), problems when transported (p = 0.001), multiple behavioural problems (p < 0.001), and to have more restrictive stabling (p < 0.001) than horses ridden with other styles. When only Arabian horses were assessed in phase 2, however, there was no significant difference in behavioural problems between the Arabian horses ridden English style versus other riding styles. However Arabian horses were housed less restrictively than horses in phase 1 and English riding style and restrictive stabling tended to exacerbate each other's association with stereotypies. Management-related effects were found when, e.g., horses housed in restrictive stabling were more frequently reported to show locomotion stereotypies (p = 0.02) and those denied ad libitum hay displayed stereotypic wood-chewing behaviour (p = 0.02). To aid diagnosing and prioritizing interventions and care, the most predictive subsets of factors were computed for the various problem behaviours. E.g., among saddle horses, a statistical model comprised of the main riding style, duration of access to a paddock, and horse's age predicted whether a horse was reported to display any behavioural problem 62% of the time. This study supports the effects of management and handling on the prevalence of behavioural problems, and helps prioritize the relative importance of broad management categories on equine welfare. In particular, it underscores the importance of riding style on the well-being of saddle horses.