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