Stranger Danger? An investigation into the influence of human-horse bond on stress and behaviour

Carrie Ijichi, Kym Griffin, Keith Squibb, Rebecca Favier

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal Article

1 Citation (Scopus)
9 Downloads (Pure)

Abstract

Human-animal bond is receiving increasing attention and is thought to confer benefits on well-being and performance in working animals. One important benefit of bonding is the “safe base” an attachment figure provides, which manifests in better coping and increased exploration during potential threat. However, there is limited research exploring the existence or benefits of human-horse bonds, though bonding is sought after by both pleasure and elite riders. The purpose of the current study was to determine whether the presence of horses’ owners confers a safe-base, improving horse behaviour and physiological stress responses during novel handling tests. Horses completed two different handling tests, one with their owner and the other with an unfamiliar experimental handler (n = 46). Test and handler order was randomised and handlers were double blind to the performance of the horse with the alternate handler. Time taken to complete the tests and proactive behaviour were measured as indicators of performance and compliance. Core temperature, discrepancy in eye temperature, heart rate and heart rate variability were recorded to assess stress responses. If horses experience a “safe base” effect in the vicinity of their owner, they would be expected to show lower stress responses and greater behavioural compliance, compared to being handled by a stranger. However, there was no difference in behaviour or any physiological stress response between the handlers. This indicates that a calm, competent, but unknown handler is equally effective to an owner during stressful procedures as neither equine performance nor affective state supported a safe-base effect. This supports previous research suggesting that the level of bond between human and horse is not the most salient factor in equine well-being or compliance during training and handling. These findings have implications for veterinary and clinical behaviour counselling, where novel human handlers must modify behaviour under potentially stressful circumstances.
Original languageEnglish
JournalApplied Animal Behaviour Science
Volume206
Issue numberSeptember
Early online date20 Jun 2018
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Sep 2018

Fingerprint

Horses
horses
stress response
attachment behavior
compliance
Compliance
Physiological Stress
heart rate
working animals
Heart Rate
testing
human-animal relations
Temperature
Pleasure
research support
counseling
Research
Counseling
temperature
eyes

Cite this

Ijichi, Carrie ; Griffin, Kym ; Squibb, Keith ; Favier, Rebecca. / Stranger Danger? An investigation into the influence of human-horse bond on stress and behaviour. In: Applied Animal Behaviour Science. 2018 ; Vol. 206, No. September.
@article{5756b5a038ea4385b45b70a7495f9c1b,
title = "Stranger Danger? An investigation into the influence of human-horse bond on stress and behaviour",
abstract = "Human-animal bond is receiving increasing attention and is thought to confer benefits on well-being and performance in working animals. One important benefit of bonding is the “safe base” an attachment figure provides, which manifests in better coping and increased exploration during potential threat. However, there is limited research exploring the existence or benefits of human-horse bonds, though bonding is sought after by both pleasure and elite riders. The purpose of the current study was to determine whether the presence of horses’ owners confers a safe-base, improving horse behaviour and physiological stress responses during novel handling tests. Horses completed two different handling tests, one with their owner and the other with an unfamiliar experimental handler (n = 46). Test and handler order was randomised and handlers were double blind to the performance of the horse with the alternate handler. Time taken to complete the tests and proactive behaviour were measured as indicators of performance and compliance. Core temperature, discrepancy in eye temperature, heart rate and heart rate variability were recorded to assess stress responses. If horses experience a “safe base” effect in the vicinity of their owner, they would be expected to show lower stress responses and greater behavioural compliance, compared to being handled by a stranger. However, there was no difference in behaviour or any physiological stress response between the handlers. This indicates that a calm, competent, but unknown handler is equally effective to an owner during stressful procedures as neither equine performance nor affective state supported a safe-base effect. This supports previous research suggesting that the level of bond between human and horse is not the most salient factor in equine well-being or compliance during training and handling. These findings have implications for veterinary and clinical behaviour counselling, where novel human handlers must modify behaviour under potentially stressful circumstances.",
author = "Carrie Ijichi and Kym Griffin and Keith Squibb and Rebecca Favier",
year = "2018",
month = "9",
doi = "10.1016/j.applanim.2018.05.034",
language = "English",
volume = "206",
journal = "Applied Animal Behaviour Science",
issn = "0168-1591",
publisher = "Elsevier",
number = "September",

}

Stranger Danger? An investigation into the influence of human-horse bond on stress and behaviour. / Ijichi, Carrie; Griffin, Kym; Squibb, Keith; Favier, Rebecca.

In: Applied Animal Behaviour Science, Vol. 206, No. September, 09.2018.

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal Article

TY - JOUR

T1 - Stranger Danger? An investigation into the influence of human-horse bond on stress and behaviour

AU - Ijichi, Carrie

AU - Griffin, Kym

AU - Squibb, Keith

AU - Favier, Rebecca

PY - 2018/9

Y1 - 2018/9

N2 - Human-animal bond is receiving increasing attention and is thought to confer benefits on well-being and performance in working animals. One important benefit of bonding is the “safe base” an attachment figure provides, which manifests in better coping and increased exploration during potential threat. However, there is limited research exploring the existence or benefits of human-horse bonds, though bonding is sought after by both pleasure and elite riders. The purpose of the current study was to determine whether the presence of horses’ owners confers a safe-base, improving horse behaviour and physiological stress responses during novel handling tests. Horses completed two different handling tests, one with their owner and the other with an unfamiliar experimental handler (n = 46). Test and handler order was randomised and handlers were double blind to the performance of the horse with the alternate handler. Time taken to complete the tests and proactive behaviour were measured as indicators of performance and compliance. Core temperature, discrepancy in eye temperature, heart rate and heart rate variability were recorded to assess stress responses. If horses experience a “safe base” effect in the vicinity of their owner, they would be expected to show lower stress responses and greater behavioural compliance, compared to being handled by a stranger. However, there was no difference in behaviour or any physiological stress response between the handlers. This indicates that a calm, competent, but unknown handler is equally effective to an owner during stressful procedures as neither equine performance nor affective state supported a safe-base effect. This supports previous research suggesting that the level of bond between human and horse is not the most salient factor in equine well-being or compliance during training and handling. These findings have implications for veterinary and clinical behaviour counselling, where novel human handlers must modify behaviour under potentially stressful circumstances.

AB - Human-animal bond is receiving increasing attention and is thought to confer benefits on well-being and performance in working animals. One important benefit of bonding is the “safe base” an attachment figure provides, which manifests in better coping and increased exploration during potential threat. However, there is limited research exploring the existence or benefits of human-horse bonds, though bonding is sought after by both pleasure and elite riders. The purpose of the current study was to determine whether the presence of horses’ owners confers a safe-base, improving horse behaviour and physiological stress responses during novel handling tests. Horses completed two different handling tests, one with their owner and the other with an unfamiliar experimental handler (n = 46). Test and handler order was randomised and handlers were double blind to the performance of the horse with the alternate handler. Time taken to complete the tests and proactive behaviour were measured as indicators of performance and compliance. Core temperature, discrepancy in eye temperature, heart rate and heart rate variability were recorded to assess stress responses. If horses experience a “safe base” effect in the vicinity of their owner, they would be expected to show lower stress responses and greater behavioural compliance, compared to being handled by a stranger. However, there was no difference in behaviour or any physiological stress response between the handlers. This indicates that a calm, competent, but unknown handler is equally effective to an owner during stressful procedures as neither equine performance nor affective state supported a safe-base effect. This supports previous research suggesting that the level of bond between human and horse is not the most salient factor in equine well-being or compliance during training and handling. These findings have implications for veterinary and clinical behaviour counselling, where novel human handlers must modify behaviour under potentially stressful circumstances.

U2 - 10.1016/j.applanim.2018.05.034

DO - 10.1016/j.applanim.2018.05.034

M3 - Journal Article

VL - 206

JO - Applied Animal Behaviour Science

JF - Applied Animal Behaviour Science

SN - 0168-1591

IS - September

ER -