Discover the most talked about and latest scientific content & concepts.

Concept: Equestrianism


Head injuries are responsible for the majority of serious equestrian sports injuries and deaths. Because of significant health risks to equestrians, education regarding the prevention of head and brain injuries is essential.

Concepts: Concussion, Equestrianism


Equitation science is an evidence-based approach to horse training and riding that focuses on a thorough understanding of both equine ethology and learning theory. This combination leads to more effective horse training, but also plays a role in keeping horse riders and trainers safe around horses. Equitation science underpins ethical equitation, and recognises the limits of the horse’s cognitive and physical abilities. Equitation is an ancient practice that has benefited from a rich tradition that sees it flourishing in contemporary sporting pursuits. Despite its history, horse-riding is an activity for which neither horses nor humans evolved, and it brings with it significant risks to the safety of both species. This review outlines the reasons horses may behave in ways that endanger humans and how training choices can exacerbate this. It then discusses the recently introduced 10 Principles of Equitation Science and explains how following these principles can minimise horse-related risk to humans and enhance horse welfare.

Concepts: Horse, Theory, Driving, Equus, Equestrianism, Arabian horse, Horse training, Horse show


For female horse riders, breast pain, bra issues and breast size may be important concerns which have yet to be considered. This study aimed to establish the prevalence of breast pain and bra issues in female horse riders and explores the impact of breast size on breast pain and bra issues. A 6-part, 32 question online survey was completed by 1324 females who participated in horse riding activities. Descriptive and chi-squared (χ(2)) analyses were utilised; data for 1265 participants were included in the final analysis. Breast pain was experienced by 40% of all participants and this was significantly related to self-reported cup size (χ(2) = 54.825, P < 0.001), increasing linearly. Breast pain was experienced most frequently during sitting trot and 21% of symptomatic participants reported that breast pain affected their horse riding performance. At least one bra issue was reported by 59% of participants; larger-breasted participants reported experiencing all bra issues more frequently than smaller-breasted participants (P < 0.001). These results demonstrate that educational initiatives are needed to ensure female horse riders are informed about appropriate bra fit and breast support during horse riding to increase comfort and help reduce the potential negative associations with performance.

Concepts: Female, Lactation, Experience, Breast, Horse, The Final, Brassiere, Equestrianism


Thoroughbred jump racing sits in the spotlight of contemporary welfare and ethical debates about horse racing. In Australia, jump racing comprises hurdle and steeplechase races and has ceased in all but two states, Victoria and South Australia. This paper documents the size, geography, composition, and dynamics of Australian jump racing for the 2012, 2013, and 2014 seasons with a focus on debate about risks to horses. We found that the majority of Australian jump racing is regional, based in Victoria, and involves a small group of experienced trainers and jockeys. Australian jump horses are on average 6.4 years of age. The jump career of the majority of horses involves participating in three or less hurdle races and over one season. Almost one quarter of Australian jump horses race only once. There were ten horse fatalities in races over the study period, with an overall fatality rate of 5.1 fatalities per 1000 horses starting in a jump race (0.51%). There was significant disparity between the fatality rate for hurdles, 0.75 fatalities per 1000 starts (0.075%) and steeplechases, 14 fatalities per 1000 starts (1.4%). Safety initiatives introduced by regulators in 2010 appear to have significantly decreased risks to horses in hurdles but have had little or no effect in steeplechases. Our discussion considers these Animals 2015, 5 1073 data in light of public controversy, political debate, and industry regulation related to jump horse safety.

Concepts: Debate, Horse, Race, Hurdling, Debates, Horse racing, Equestrianism, Arabian horse


Natural Horsemanship is popular among many amateur and professional trainers and as such, has been the subject of recent scientific enquiry. One method commonly adopted by Natural Horsemanship (NH) trainers is that of round pen training (RPT). RPT sessions are usually split into a series of bouts; each including two phases: chasing/flight and chasing offset/flight offset. However, NH training styles are heterogeneous. This study investigated online videos of RPT to explore the characteristics of RPT sessions and test for differences in techniques and outcomes between amateurs and professionals (the latter being defined as those with accompanying online materials that promote clinics, merchandise or a service to the public). From more than 300 candidate videos, we selected sample files for individual amateur (n = 24) and professional (n = 21) trainers. Inclusion criteria were: training at liberty in a Round Pen; more than one bout and good quality video. Sessions or portions of sessions were excluded if the trainer attached equipment, such as a lunge line, directly to the horse or the horse was saddled, mounted or ridden. The number of bouts and duration of each chasing and non-chasing phase were recorded, and the duration of each RPT session was calculated. General weighted regression analysis revealed that, when compared with amateurs, professionals showed fewer arm movements per bout (p<0.05). Poisson regression analysis showed that professionals spent more time looking up at their horses, when transitioning between gaits, than amateurs did (p<0.05). The probability of horses following the trainer was not significantly associated with amount of chasing, regardless of category. Given that, according to some practitioners, the following response is a goal of RPT, this result may prompt caution in those inclined to give chase. The horses handled by professionals showed fewer conflict behaviours (e.g. kicking, biting, stomping, head-tossing, defecating, bucking and attempting to escape), and fewer oral and head movements (e.g. head-lowering, licking and chewing) than those horses handled by amateurs Overall, these findings highlight the need for selectivity when using the internet as an educational source and the importance of trainer skill and excellent timing when using negative reinforcement in horse training.

Concepts: Regression analysis, Professional, Horse, Poisson regression, Amateur, Equestrianism, Horse training, Natural horsemanship


Noseband tightness is difficult to assess in horses participating in equestrian sports such as dressage, show jumping and three-day-eventing. There is growing concern that nosebands are commonly tightened to such an extent as to restrict normal equine behaviour and possibly cause injury. In the absence of a clear agreed definition of noseband tightness, a simple model of the equine nose-noseband interface environment was developed in order to guide further studies in this area. The normal force component of the noseband tensile force was identified as the key contributor to sub-noseband tissue compression. The model was used to inform the design of a digital tightness gauge which could reliably measure the normal force component of the noseband tensile force. A digital tightness gauge was developed to measure this parameter under nosebands fitted to bridled horses. Results are presented for field tests using two prototype designs. Prototype version three was used in field trial 1 (n = 15, frontal nasal plane sub-noseband site). Results of this trial were used to develop an ergonomically designed prototype, version 4, which was tested in a second field trial (n = 12, frontal nasal plane and lateral sub-noseband site). Nosebands were set to three tightness settings in each trial as judged by a single rater using an International Society for Equitation Science (ISES) taper gauge. Normal forces in the range 7-95 N were recorded at the frontal nasal plane while a lower range 1-28 N was found at the lateral site for the taper gauge range used in the trials. The digital tightness gauge was found to be simple to use, reliable, and safe and its use did not agitate the animals in any discernable way. A simple six point tightness scale is suggested to aid regulation implementation and the control of noseband tightness using normal force measurement as the objective tightness discriminant.

Concepts: Measurement, Force, Horse, Normal force, Equestrianism, Bridle, Show jumping, Noseband


Rodeos are public events at which stockpeople face tests of their ability to manage cattle and horses, some of which relate directly to rangeland cattle husbandry. One of these is calf roping, in which a calf released from a chute is pursued by a horse and rider, who lassoes, lifts and drops the calf to the ground and finally ties it around the legs. Measurements were made of behavior and stress responses of ten rodeo-naïve calves marshalled by a horse and rider, and ten rodeo-experienced calves that were roped. Naïve calves marshalled by a horse and rider traversed the arena slowly, whereas rodeo-experienced calves ran rapidly until roped. Each activity was repeated once after two hours. Blood samples taken before and after each activity demonstrated increased cortisol, epinephrine and nor-epinephrine in both groups. However, there was no evidence of a continued increase in stress hormones in either group by the start of the repeated activity, suggesting that the elevated stress hormones were not a response to a prolonged effect of the initial blood sampling. It is concluded that both the marshalling of calves naïve to the roping chute by stockpeople and the roping and dropping of experienced calves are stressful in a simulated rodeo calf roping event.

Concepts: Cortisol, Cattle, Epinephrine, Calf, Equestrianism, Rodeo, Cowboy, Calf roping


The present study aims to confirm the influence of a horse-riding lesson program (HRLP) on the stress level of horses and riders by respectively analyzing their salivary cortisol concentration. Twenty-four healthy horses and 23 riders participated in this study. The horses were randomly classified into two groups for the horse riding lesson program: Class 1 (for the beginner lesson) and Class 2 (for the intermediate lesson). The Class 1 group consisted of 12 horses and 12 riders, while the Class 2 group consisted of 12 horses and 11 riders. Salivettes® cotton wool swabs were used for saliva collection and the saliva analyses were conducted using a two-way analysis of variance (ANOVA) for repeated measures with SAS version 8. As for the results, the average salivary cortisol concentration of all horses before HRLP significantly increased compared to the baseline (p<0.001) while it decreased after the horse riding lesson program rather than before. The results of the salivary cortisol concentration of the riders were similar to the horses' results. However, there was no difference during the HRLP between Class 1 and Class 2 in the horse or rider groups . The results suggest that the HRLP did not influence the stress level of the horses or riders. Thus, this study provides the necessary information and guidelines for future studies on stress in horses during riding and gives insight into better horse welfare and management options. (Key words: Animal Welfare, Horse Riding, Salivary Cortisol, Stress, Rider).

Concepts: Horse, Analysis of variance, Driving, Horse racing, Equestrianism, Arabian horse, Horse training, Horse show


Although some information exists on the stress response of horses in equestrian sports, the horse-rider team is much less well understood. In this study, salivary cortisol concentrations, heart rate (HR) and heart rate variability (HRV), SDRR (standard deviation of beat-to-beat interval) and RMSSD (root mean square of successive beat-to-beat intervals) were analysed in horses and their riders (n=6 each) at a public performance and an identical rehearsal that was not open to the public. Cortisol concentrations increased in both horses and riders (P<0.001) but did not differ between performance and rehearsal. HR in horses and riders increased during the rehearsal and the public performance (P<0.001) but the increase in HR was more pronounced (P<0.01) in riders than in their horses during the public performance (from 91±10 to 150±15beats/min) compared to the rehearsal (from 94±10 to 118±12beats/min). The SDRR decreased significantly during the equestrian tasks in riders (P<0.001), but not in their horses. The RMSSD decreased in horses and riders (P<0.001) during rehearsal and performance, indicating a decrease in parasympathetic tone. The decrease in RMSSD in the riders was more pronounced (P<0.05) during the performance (from 32.6±6.6 to 3.8±0.3ms) than during the rehearsal (from 27.5±4.2 to 6.6±0.6ms). The study has shown that the presence of spectators caused more pronounced changes in cardiac activity in the riders than it did in their horses.

Concepts: Cardiology, Mean, Horse, Standard deviation, Sympathetic nervous system, Root mean square, Mean squared error, Equestrianism


To the Editor: Contrary to the argument presented by Bachynski in her Perspective article (Feb. 4 issue),(1) the American Academy of Pediatrics statement arguing for the continued play of youth contact sports is reasonable and evidence-based. Tackle football, with 10 deaths per million participants, is less risky than skiing, snowboarding, skateboarding, or bicycling (approximately 15 deaths per million participants) and equestrian sports (20 per million participants). It is less risky, by a factor of 14, than being in a moving car. Although male players of contact sports were found to be at higher risk for chronic traumatic encephalopathy than players . . .

Concepts: Medicine, United States, Logic, American football, Equestrianism, Tackle, Contact sport