Are You and Your Horse a Good Match?

Temperament testing by a Brazilian research team found horses were more reactive with poorly matched riders, and a long-term riding relationship between horse and human didn’t guarantee a better outcome.
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Are You and Your Horse a Good Match?
Horses with more reactive temperaments have a greater likelihood of mismatching with their riders, said Ariboni Brandi. But when the horse and rider have good mutual communication and appropriate use of aids, frightening situations could become less dangerous. | Photo: iStock
Sometimes, you match well with a horse. Sometimes, you don’t.

Getting the right fit isn’t just a matter of having an enjoyable ride, however. A good match can also lead to improved safety and performance, said researcher Roberta Ariboni Brandi, PhD, of the College of Animal Science and Food Engineering (FZEA) at the University of Sao Paulo, Brazil. She and her colleagues recently studied the relationship between horses’ reactivity levels and how well they match with their riders.

Reactivity and Horse-Rider Match

Ariboni Brandi and her team at FZEA ran temperament testing on 37 police horses in Brazil, some piloted by familiar riders, some not. They evaluated their reactivity in five situations: crossing a bridge (in hand and under saddle), being exposed to suddenly appearing objects, and confronting active or passive humans. They scored each horse’s reactivity level on a scale of one to five, ranging from “calm” to “very aggressive.”

The scientists also observed the ridden relationship between the horses and their riders during a bridge-crossing test. Specifically, said Ariboni Brandi, they noted signs of “harmonious communication between rider and horse,” consistent rider signals, and the invasiveness of those signals—representative of a horse/rider “match

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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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