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Vet J. 2009 Jul;181(1):70-1. doi: 10.1016/j.tvjl.2009.03.013. Epub 2009 Apr 25.

Investigating horse-human interactions: the effect of a nervous human.

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Department of Animal Environment and Health, Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences, Uppsala, Sweden.


The heart rates (HR) of horses and the people leading them (10 horses, 20 people), and riding them (17 horses, 17 people), were recorded in an indoor arena. The horses were Swedish leisure horses of mixed ages, sex and breed. All except two of the people were female and all were of mixed age and riding experience. Each horse-human pair walked or rode between points A and B (30m) four times on each test occasion. However, just before the fourth pass, participants were told that an umbrella would be opened as they rode, or led, the horse past the assistant. The umbrella was not opened, so this pass was no different to the previous control occasions, but nevertheless there was an increase in HR for both the person (leading, P=0.06; riding, P<0.05) and the horse (being led, P<0.05; being ridden, P<0.05). The findings indicate that analysis of HR recorded simultaneously from people and horses under different experimental handling or riding conditions presents a useful tool to investigate horse-human interactions.

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