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Horse Personality Profiles and Performance


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Horse Personality Profiles and Performance

  1. 1. HORSE PERSONALITY PROFILES AND PERFORMANCE   Dasha Grajfoner 1 , Elizabeth J Austin 1 , Françoise Wemelsfelder 3   1 The University of Edinburgh, Psychology Department, 7 George Square, Edinburgh, EH8 9JZ, Scotland 3 Scottish Agricultural College, Bush Estate, Penicuik EH26 0PH, United Kingdom 2. METHODS A) Horses and Observers 38 horses from three different stables were rated by 24 observers, who had known and worked with them over a long period of time. The observers were asked to rate the horses on their overall performance in most situations (for example, how efficient the çhorse is for riding, how cooperative it is etc.). The horses were rated on a nine point single item performance scale ( “ 1 = poor performer – 9 = excellent performer ” ) . B) Repertory Grid Technique RGT has two stages: the elicitation of bipolar constructs (e.g. “ b o ld-shy ” ) and the scoring of horses. In stage one the observers individually generated their own descriptors and provided the opposites. From these constructs the experimenter composed a uniform scoring list of approximately 30 items per observer group. In stage two this list was used by the observers to rate the horses on a 5-point scale. Scoring form example 1. INTRODUCTION Horses play a significant role in animal assisted therapy. They are trained and employed by the police and military, and used in sports (Potter et al., 1994; Anderson et al., 1999). In all these situations horses ’ suitability and performance are fundamental, and behavioural or personality traits may determine their success (Visser et al., 2001; Visser et al., 2002). Horses in therapy are required to be placid and calm, friendly and approachable, which may not be desirable for horses in sports (Worth-Estes, 1952; Hutson and Haskell, 1997; Visser et al, 2003; Buckley et al., 2004). We will report on the personality profiles of individual horses, rated as high and low performers by their trainers. Our Investigation Novel application of Repertory Grid Technique (RGT) (Kelly, 1955; Fransella and Bannister, 1977) was used to assess horse personality. RGT gives the observers freedom to generate their own descriptors or constructs and to score individual animals on them. The constructs represent the integration of all levels of observer experience with individual animals (Wemelsfelder et al., 2000). Construing is therefore a total personal discriminative act. The method had been previously used for personality assessment in chimpanzees (Dutton et al., 1997) and for styles of interaction assessment in pigs (Grajfoner et al., 1999). 3. RESULTS   A) Degrees of Agreement and Performance Significant inter-observer agreement on the personality of 95% of horses indicates the reliability of the method. Inter-rater agreement on horse performance was significant for all horses (Stable 1: mean W=0.242, p<0.05, Stables 2 and 3: mean W≥0.375, p<0.001). Personality profiles of the highest and lowest performers indicate that most high performers were rated as “n ice” , “ g entle ” , “ easy to work with ” , “ e asy to handle ” and “ p atient ” , and most low performers as “ d ifficult to handle ” , “ i nexperienced ” , “ immature ” , “ tense”, “n e rvous”, “ s c ared”, “ h e sitant”, “ i m patient” and “ u n sociable”. C) Case Study 1: Lil - Personality Profile of a Low Performer The lowest performance scores were received for Lil. She received high scores on constructs three ( “c onfident-timid ” ), 16 ( “ a ggressive-gentle ” ), 19 ( “ e xperienced-inexperienced ” ), 25 ( “ b rave-scared ” ), 26 ( “ f orward-hesitant ” ) and 30 ( “ r elaxed-tense ” ). She received low scores on constructs one ( “ f riendly-unfriendly ” ), 12 ( “ a ffectionate-aggressive ” ), 14 ( “ n ervous-bold ” ) and 18 ( “ g entle-rough ” ) (Figure 8.28). Therefore she was perceived as timid, friendly, affectionate and gentle, but at the same time as a horse who is very inexperienced, tense, nervous, scared and hesitant. B) Case Study 1: Rocky - Personality Profile of a High Performer Rocky was rated low on constructs five ( “e asy to handle-difficult ” ), 21 ( “ e asy to work with-difficult ” ) and 25 ( “ b rave-scared ” ). He also received high scores for constructs 16 ( “ a ggressive-gentle ” ) and 24 ( “ n asty-nice ” ). Therefore he was perceived as a nice and gentle horse that is easy to handle and to work with. 4. CONCLUSIONS AND WELFARE IMPLICATIONS To sum up, horses with high and low performance varied in their personality profiles. All high performers were rated as nice, most of them also as easy to handle and to work with, gentle and patient, but at the same time cheeky and interested. Low performers on the other hand were rated as tense, nervous, scared and hesitant; some also as unsociable, boring, highly strung, excitable and impatient. Individual personality profiles and performance scores show that it is not only one construct or personality trait that contributes to a horse being rated as a good or bad performer. It is rather a combination of personality traits that is responsible for horses’ performance. However, all horses that were easy to lead and to work with scored high on the performance scale. Most previous studies (e.g. Anderson et al., 1999; Visser et al., 2003) found no consistent relationship between the results from personality ratings and performance. However, our exploration indicates that there may be a relationship between horses’ performance and their agreeableness traits. On a practical level horses’ personality is important in choosing individual animals for a specific purpose or environment. This has implications for both horse performance and welfare. In our studies we have shown that there is a relationship between performance and personality and that more agreeable horses are also rated as better performers. One of the applications of further investigation could be the development of an instrument that would help to place the right animal in the right environment, which would improve their performance and their welfare. <ul><li>5. REFERENCES </li></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>1. Anderson, M. K., Friend, T. H., Evans, J. W., & Bushong, D. M. (1999). Behavioral assessment of horses in therapeutic riding programs. Applied Animal Behaviour Science, 63, 11-24. </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>2. Buckley P., Dunn T. & More S. J. (2004). Owners’ perceptions of the health and performance of Pony Club horses in Australia. Preventive Veterinary Medicine, 63, 121-133 </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>3. Dutton D M et al 1997, Personality in captive chimpanzees: use of a novel rating procedure. International Journal of Primatology 18, 539-552. </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>4. Fransella, F. and Bannister, D. (1977). A manual for repertory grid technique. Academic Press, London, New York. </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>5. Grajfoner, D. 1999. Subjective experience of emotion in pigs: Inter-observer reliability in assessing pigs’styles of interaction using repertory grid technique. Thesis, MSc in Applied Animal Behaviour and Animal Welfare, University of Edinburgh, Scotland. </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>6. Hutson G. D. & Haskell M. J. (1997). Pre-race behaviour of horses as a predictor of race finishing order. Applied Animal Behaviour Science, 53, 231-248. </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>7. Kelly G A (1955). The psychology of personal constructs: A theory of personality, Volume One. W. W. Norton & Company, Inc., New York: London </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>8. Potter, J. T., Evans, J. W. & Nolt, B. H. (1994). Therapeutic horseback riding. Journal of American Veterinary Medicine Association, 204, 131-133. </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>9. Visser, E. K., van Reenen, C. G., Hopster, H., Schilder, M. B. H., Knaap, J. H., Barneveld, A. & Blokhuis, H.J. (2001). Quantifying aspects of young horses’ temperament: consistency of behavioural traits. Applied Animal Behaviour Science, 74, 241–258. </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>10. Visser, E. K., van Reenen, C. G., van der Werf, J.T.N., Schilder, M. B. H., Knaap, J. H., Barneveld A., & Blokhuis, H. J. (2002). Heart rate and heart rate variability during a novel object test and a handling test in young horses, Physiol. Behav., 76, 289–296. </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>11. Visser, E. K., van Reenen, C. G., Engel, B., Schilder, M. B. H., Barneveld, A. & Blokhuis, H. J. (2003). The association between performance in show-jumping and personality traits earlier in life. Applied Animal Behaviour Science, 82, 279–295. </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>12. Wemelsfelder, F., Hunter, E. A., Mendl, M. T. and Lawrence, A. B. (2000). The spontaneous qualitative assessment of behavioural expressions in pigs: first explorations of a novel methodology for integrative animal welfare measurement. Applied Animal Behaviour Science 67: 193-215. </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>13. Worth-Estes, B. (1952). A study of the relationship between temperament of thoroughbred broodmares and performance of offspring. The Journal of Genetic Psychology, 81, 273-288. </li></ul></ul></ul>