Reactivity to humans and fearfulness tests: Field validation in Polish Cold Blood Horses

Publication Type:
Journal Article
Year of Publication:
Aleksandra Górecka-Bruzda, Ewa Jastrzebska, Zofia Sosnowska, Zbigniew Jaworski, Tadeusz Jezierski, Michal H. Chruszczewski
Applied Animal Behaviour Science
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The aim of the present paper was to examine in field conditions the feasibility of the experimentally developed behavioural tests for assessment of two temperamental traits of cold blood horses: fearfulness and reactivity to humans. The predictive, convergent and discriminant validity of the tests was evaluated. Fifty-three Polish Cold Blood Horses (CBHs) were tested with the battery of behavioural tests involving passive and active contact with humans, handling, startling, novel object and surface tests. The behaviour of horses in real, on-farm conditions was evaluated with the caretaker’s questionnaire (CQ). The tests demonstrated that a non-startling object and unforced human manipulations were willingly accepted by horses. In contrast, the horses were more reluctant to interact spontaneously with humans and showed longer persistence of a withdrawal reaction when presented with a startling stimulus or when restrained. CQ confirmed the common opinion of calmness, patience and good manageability of the CBHs. The results of behavioural tests were correlated with the scores derived from factor analysis of the CQ. Moreover, the majority of tests measures were correlated within reactivity to humans (median rs = 0.56) and fear tests (median rs = 0.41). Thus, predictive and convergent validity of the employed tests has been confirmed. However, reactivity to humans and fear measures were also correlated (median rs = 0.36), therefore discriminant validity of the tests used has been not confirmed. Therefore, we suggest that the parameters of tests designed to measure two separate traits: reactivity to humans and fearfulness, measured in fact avoidance of potential harm and withdrawal behaviour. Although selection for the work-appropriate behaviour is almost nonexistent nowadays, we conclude that Polish Cold Blood Horses are still predisposed for disciplines of equitation and driving, which demand an easy to handle horse. Nonetheless, we recommend behavioural testing of horses when approving for breeding. For this purpose, we can confirm usefulness of the experimentally developed tests in field assessment of general behavioural reactivity of horses.


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