Misbehaviour as a cause of poor performance in pleasure horses

Petra Buckley, John Morton, David J Buckley, Glen T Coleman

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The role of horse behaviour in horse performance not been described in the veterinary literature, despite the 60% rider injury risks attributable to horse misbehaviour published in the medical literature. Furthermore, the performance of pleasure horse has not been defined, despite the importance of this sector of the Australian horse industry. Therefore, little is known about the potential role of veterinarians in assisting owners to optimise the performance of these animals and minimise injury risk. The aim was to profile the performance of Pony Club horses. We conducted an exploratory owner survey which preceded and guided a subsequent epidemiological study. The survey revealed ' somewhat unexpectedly - horse misbehaviour as a cause of poor performance. Based on these results we included misbehaviour as a variable in the epidemiological study. Data was collected over 13 months using monthly visits to 84 Pony Club horses as well as owner-kept diaries recording exercise patterns and the occurrence of misbehaviour.Horses were generally exercised infrequently and for short periods, with a median of six exercise days and 10 hours, respectively each horse-month. The daily incidence risk of misbehaviour was 4.1 %. The incidence risk was highest during schooling and competition (both 5.4 %) and lowest during pleasure riding (2.5 %). More than half of all misbehaviour events were classified as dangerous (high risk of injury). Risk factors for misbehaviour included horse height (135-140cm), horse breed (Thoroughbreds least likely), and teenage riders. We were unable to demonstrate a link between back pain and misbehaviour. These results suggest an association between behaviour and performance, with a modifiable rider effect. We propose that horse performance be defined as a horse meeting rider expectation.Implications for the welfare of ridden horsesAn understanding of behaviour in ridden horses is essential for veterinarians in the bigger context of horse welhealth and performance. In addition to advising potential horse owners of misbehaviour risk factors, equine veterinarians could assist first-time horse owners by including a horse temperament check at the time of purchase.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationEthical Equitation
Subtitle of host publicationa sustainable approach
EditorsPaul McGreevy
Place of PublicationSydney
PublisherSydney University
Number of pages1
Publication statusPublished - 2009
Event5th International Symposium on Equitation Science - Sydney University, Australia
Duration: 12 Jul 200914 Jul 2009


Conference5th International Symposium on Equitation Science


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