Researchers look for ways to measure “rideability”

German researchers assert there may be an objective way to determine how a horse will behave when ridden.

German researchers may have discovered a more objective way of determining how easy a horse is to ride.

A horse galloping up a hill with a rider in a western saddle.
German researchers are looking at using rein tension as a measure of a horse’s rideability.

For their study, University of Göttingen researchers used 46 horses—a mix of mares and stallions—undergoing breed performance testing. Before the trials, each horse was fitted with reins incorporating tension meters that would indicate how much pressure was being applied. The researchers also documented behaviors such as head tossing, snorting and tail swishing.

Comparing all the data, the researchers discovered that a horse’s ridability score, assigned by judges and riders, dropped as the average rein tension increased or when it varied significantly. This suggests, they say, a correlation between rein tension and a horse’s “ridability” as scored by riders and judges.

The researchers say more work is needed to determine the influence of different riders and techniques, but they are encouraged by the potential of having objective measurements incorporated into breeding horse performance evaluations.

Reference: Alternatives to conventional evaluation of rideability in horse performance tests: Suitability of rein tension and behavioural parameters,” PLoS One, January 2014

This article first appeared in EQUUS issue #440.

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