Personality Profiling Could Help Improve Police Horse Welfare

Horses described by their handlers as passive, stubborn, and confident rather than intelligent, curious, and playful appeared to cope better with the demands of police horse life, researchers learned.
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police horse welfare
Horses described by their handlers as passive, stubborn, and confident rather than intelligent, curious, and playful appeared to cope better with the demands of police horse life, researchers learned. | Photo: iStock
A police horse’s job and training often go against his instincts as a flight animal. But personality profiling and offering these horses management “choices” could give them better health and welfare, researchers have learned.

“The main difference between police horses and other horses is that these animals are trained to handle different type of conflicts, which can sometimes include violent interactions,” said Ivana Gabriela Schork, a biologist and PhD candidate at the University of Salford Manchester, in Salford, U.K.

Under natural conditions, horses have evolved to “avoid conflicts,” said Schork. “They will flee under a threat, not fight.

“In a working situation, this may not be possible, which ends up causing what is known as a behavioral conflict,” she continued. “So even if the horse may be able to physically endure the task, it does not necessarily mean that he can cope with it mentally

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Passionate about horses and science from the time she was riding her first Shetland Pony in Texas, Christa Lesté-Lasserre writes about scientific research that contributes to a better understanding of all equids. After undergrad studies in science, journalism, and literature, she received a master’s degree in creative writing. Now based in France, she aims to present the most fascinating aspect of equine science: the story it creates. Follow Lesté-Lasserre on Twitter @christalestelas.

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