The use of the technology in equitation science: A panacea or abductive science?

Hayley Randle, Menke Steenbergen, Kirsty Roberts, Andrew Hemmings

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

16 Citations (Scopus)


Equitation encompasses a range of activities in which horses interact closely with humans. The need to ensure both horse management and equitation practice is ethical and sustainable is becoming emphasized globally. Robust and rigorous measurement is critical to objective assessment of practice. This review describes the outcomes of technology application within generic equine science and specific equitation science studies including heart rate monitoring, electromyography, infrared thermography, pressure algometry and remote recording of behaviour and cognitive functioning. The impact of pressure and tension applied by saddles, girths, head gear and gadgets is considered along with subtle behavioural measurements such as eye blink rate, behavioural switching and laterality, some of which reveal aspects brain functioning that have direct relevance to training. Well designed, reliable technology certainly has the potential to provide researchers with a panacea to problems relating to accuracy, precision and experimenter bias, ushering in a 'golden age of equitation'. However, to reach this stage careful consideration must be given to experimental logistics such as sample selection, device calibration and data processing. A series of potential drawbacks with the use of Technology are identified including managing noise and increasing signal strength, dealing with practical implementation issues and managing the volume of data in order to conduct appropriate analysis to reach meaningful conclusions. Technology users are warned against the temptation to engage in Abductive Science when discussing the output of equitation science methodologies. Putting good research into practice, and vice versa, is crucial to future-proofing equitation and horse welfare.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)57-73
Number of pages17
JournalApplied Animal Behaviour Science
Publication statusPublished - 2017


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