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Schwarz, S., Marr, I., Farmer, K., Graf, K., Stefanski, V., & Krueger, K. (2022). Does Carrying a Rider Change Motor and Sensory Laterality in Horses? Animals, 12(8), 992.
Abstract: Laterality in horses has been studied in recent decades. Although most horses are kept for riding purposes, there has been almost no research on how laterality may be affected by carrying a rider. In this study, 23 horses were tested for lateral preferences, both with and without a rider, in three different experiments. The rider gave minimal aids and rode on a long rein to allow the horse free choice. Firstly, motor laterality was assessed by observing forelimb preference when stepping over a pole. Secondly, sensory laterality was assessed by observing perceptual side preferences when the horse was confronted with (a) an unfamiliar person or (b) a novel object. After applying a generalised linear model, this preliminary study found that a rider increased the strength of motor laterality (p = 0.01) but did not affect sensory laterality (p = 0.8). This suggests that carrying a rider who is as passive as possible does not have an adverse effect on a horse�s stress levels and mental state.