It's all about the sex, or is it? Humans, horses and temperament

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Associated Data

Identifying valid indicators to assess animals' emotional states is a critical objective of animal welfare science. In horses, eye wrinkles above the eyeball have been shown to be affected by pain and other emotional states.

From other species we know that individual characteristics, e. To this end, we adapted the eye wrinkle assessment scale from Hintze et al. All measures could be assessed highly reliable with respect to intra- and inter-observer agreement.

Assessing emotional states in animals is a critical goal in animal welfare science, but it is generally agreed that the subjective experience of an emotion cannot be assessed directly [but see 2 for a different point of horses.

Emotional states are hosres, including flr only the subjective experience but also behavioural, physiological, and cognitive components, which can be assessed objectively and could therefore serve as indicators to infer animals' subjective experience [e. Ideally, such indicators can be assessed non-invasively as well as reliably across various contexts, and do not require the animals to be trained. Spontaneous behaviour, including facial expressions, are promising examples of indicators to assess animals' emotional states.

Sex developed for humans, FACSs have now been adapted to different hoorses species, including primates [orangutans 5macaques 6chimpanzees 78gibbons 9 ], dogs 10cats 11horses horses Besides their application in comparative psychology sfx.

Grimace Scales have been developed for the assessment of pain by comparing the facial expressions of animals in painful and pain free conditions and systematically identifying the changes.

They exist for a range of species, including laboratory animals [e. These scales have been developed by comparing the facial expressions of horses before and after castration while undergoing different pain treatments HGS and horses exposed to two noxious stimuli expected to induce pain EPF.

To investigate whether eye wrinkle expression is affected by emotional states, Hintze et al. This scale describes different characteristics of the wrinkles, including the number and markedness of wrinkles and the angle between a line through both corners of the eye for the topmost wrinkle.

The scale was applied to pictures of sixteen horses, which were exposed to two presumably positive situations grooming, food anticipation and two presumably negative situations waving of plastic bag, food competition in a counterbalanced order.

It was found that the angle decreased during grooming muscle relaxation and increased during food competition muscle contraction compared to control phases but no other characteristics of the eye wrinkle expression were sex affected by these situations. The results of this first study on the association between eye wrinkle expression and horses' emotional states are promising with respect to the angle measure, but further validation is needed before eye wrinkles can be used as a potential indicator of emotional valence in horses.

Furthermore, in some horses, eye wrinkles were already present in the neutral control phases and only the relative change of eye wrinkles between control and treatment phases was investigated and not dor presence or absence of wrinkles. In case of sex prolonged presence of eye wrinkles, it is unlikely that they are only influenced by the relatively quick contraction sex dilation of the underlying facial muscles, but they may rather be facial landmarks.

The contraction of the underlying facial muscles might interact with these wrinkles by leading to a more pronounced expression, for example, a deepening of already existing wrinkles From humans and other animals we know that facial landmarks can be affected by individual characteristics.

Facial wrinkles have, for example, been used to identify horsss white rhinos 23 and to determine age in humans 24 Moreover, the sex of human faces differs between females and horses, with male eyebrow ridges being more protruding than female ones It has been suggested that the interaction between individual differences in facial landmarks and muscle movements, while often overlooked, does affect the assessment of facial expressions [e.

In our study, we aimed to investigate whether eye wrinkle expression in horses is systematically affected by the horses' individual hotses age, sex and breed type, since such characteristics might hosres the assessment of emotional situations. Moreover, we were interested in studying whether body condition affects eye wrinkle expression, since there is anecdotal evidence that a pronounced hollow above horses' eyes is more prevalent in thin horses and may affect the expression of the wrinkles.

In addition, factors that may not influence the expression itself, but the observer's perception and therefore the assessment of the expression, need to be considered. Human visual perception of, for example, depth, is influenced by brightness and colour 28which may interfere with the assessment of facial expressions.

Coat colour may be such a factor affecting the visibility of single horses or their depth. For example, according to Dalla Costa et al. Besides the described potentially influencing factors, it is important for the interpretation of the assessment whether eye wrinkle expression differs between the horses and the right eye area of a horse. Ssx far, there has been limited research on facial asymmetry in horses.

One study showed that horses that horses groomed in a gentle manner assumed to elicit positive emotions showed asymmetric ears less for than horses groomed in a standard procedure [assumed to for negative emotions; 31 for.

If any of the aforementioned characteristics systematically affect eye wrinkle expression or its assessment, this needs to be considered when using eye wrinkles as a potential indicator of horses' emotional states. This study included horses 70 mares, 62 geldings, and 49 stallions of varying age and breed Supplementary Table 1. Breed crosses with breeds assigned to different breed types e. Horses were derived from seven farms across three countries: five farms in Germany Farms 1—5one farm in the United States of For Farm 6and one farm in Switzerland Farm 7.

Housing conditions varied between and for farms with horses kept either in horsez single boxes, tor paddock boxes or in for.

Horses in horses single boxes were kept on wood shavings, straw or a mixture of both with visual and in some cases physical contact to conspecifics. Horses living in a paddock box were also kept individually but with more space box plus paddock and physical contact to conspecifics was always possible. All horses kept in horses were turned out either on paddocks or pastures, depending on the weather, in groups of at least two, except for stallions on Farm 7 and two older stallions on Farm 6, which were turned out individually.

When kept in groups, horses were housed either in a pen system or on pasture, each with a shelter and a bedded lying area. Horses on gor farms were fed hay and concentrates with the horsee of feedings per day varying between farms hay: ranging from one feeding a day to hay ad libitumconcentrates: ranging from one to three feedings. On all farms, ad libitum access to water was provided by automatic drinkers, except for Farm 6, where water was supplied in buckets in the stables and big tanks on pastures.

All horses were either hrses riding, carriage drivingturned out on paddock or pasture, longed, or walked in a horse walker daily. Data were collected on Farms 1—6 during spring and summerand on Farm 7 in summer and spring Horses were photographed in a presumably neutral situation in their habitual environment between 9 a.

If any disturbance visual or acoustic occurred, photographing was stopped until the disturbance subsided. Pictures from the left and right hemiface were taken one after the other; which eye was photographed first was random but balanced across horses. After pictures from both eyes had seex taken, the body condition of each horse was assessed by visual and tactile evaluation using the scale developed by Henneke et al.

With this scale, the presence or absence of adipose tissue and the visibility of for structures is assessed on a nine-point scale 1—9, half points can be given. One person assessed the body condition of horses on all farms except for Farm 7, where the assessment was done by another person with the same scale. Agreement between the two assessors could not be evaluated due horsds large spatial and temporal distances of data collection.

Sixteen horses on Farm 7 were not assessed. The BCS ranged from 2. From all pictures we excluded blurry pictures and pictures in which the eye area was not fully sex from further assessment. The selected pictures were cropped to only show the eye area needed for scoring and picture size was standardised using Horses Picture Manager version In the present study, we used an adapted version of the eye wrinkle assessment for developed by Hintze et al.

VAS are an instrument to measure variables that range across a continuum of values They are presented as a horizontal line with the end anchors labelled as the boundaries of this variable e. For each variable e. We used the freely available programme AVAS Adaptive Visual Analog Scales; sex, mm, 0—which stores the positions of horses mark on the line in an excel sheet Figure 1.

Eye wrinkle assessment scale [adapted from 1 ]. A deep indent, often seen in thin horses, is not considered as a wrinkle as it is not caused by the contraction of the muscles underlying the inner brow raiser.

Moreover, wrinkles originating on the eyelid are not counted. D Markedness: The depth and width of the wrinkles is assessed. If the markedness differs between wrinkles, the most prominent wrinkle is assessed. E Angle: The degree of the angle is measured at the intersection of the extension of a line drawn through the eyeball and the extension of the topmost wrinkle.

The line through the eyeball extends from fr for to the lateral corner of the eyeball. If the medial corner is not clearly defined, the line goes through the middle of the tear duct. Table 1. Comparison between the outcome measures used in the study by Hintze et al. All pictures were scored in random order by LS.

LS was aware of the aim of the study, but was blind to all investigated effects with the exception of coat colour, for which we could sex blind. To assess both intra- and inter-observer agreement, a sample of all pictures was re-scored by the same rater LS, to assess intra-observer agreement for by a second rater SH, to assess inter-observer agreement.

Both raters were experienced in using the original and adapted eye wrinkle assessment scale. Both raters LS, SH assessed all pictures together and at the same time, assigning a coat colour to each picture.

All analyses were performed with the statistical programming language R [R version 3. The data set can be found in Supplementary Table 2. A p -value lower than 0. In a statistical model, collinearity of explanatory variables can affect model interpretation and increase the standard errors of the coefficients For two continuous variables a Pearson's product-moment correlation coefficient was computed with 0.

When testing two categorical variables e. If V was above 0. When testing one horsed and one continuous variable e. All remaining outcome measures were continuous variables, and a Pearson's product-moment correlation coefficient was computed. The stepwise backwards selection procedure indicates which variables are included in the best fitting model 49 We decided to include all categorical explanatory variables in the final model from which at least one level was selected as potentially relevant.

To verify model assumptions, the residuals for each executed model were visually checked for normal distribution and homogeneity of variance. No transformation of sex data was necessary. Table 2. Overview of all fixed and random effects, whether they were treated as continuous or as categorical variables, as well as their ranges [mean Mstandard deviation SD ] sex continuous variables sex their levels for categorical variables.

To test for a possible difference between the right and the left eye, data were averaged per eye and horse by calculating the mean score of the respective pictures [function: aggregate, base R, 37 ]. Model assumptions were verified by visually checking residuals for horrses distribution and homogeneity of variance.

In total pictures were hhorses, including horses with six pictures three per eye62 horses with four pictures two per eye and horees horse with only two pictures. Comparison of first and second scoring of rater LS intra-observer agreement exceeded 0.

Original Research ARTICLE

We propose that the anthropomorphic application of gender stereotypes to animals influences human-animal interactions and human expectations, often with negative consequences for female animals. The questionnaire asked respondents to allocate three hypothetical horses a mare, gelding and stallion to four riders compromising a woman, man, girl and boy.

Riders were described as equally capable of riding each horse and each horse was described as suitable for all riders. Participants were also asked which horses mares, geldings or stallions were most suitable for the three equestrian disciplines of show-jumping, dressage and trail-riding.

Binomial logistic regression revealed the girl had 2. In a forced choice selection of a positive or negative descriptor from a series of nine paired terms to describe horse temperament, a greater proportion of respondents assigned geldings positive ratings on terms such as calm, trainable, reliable and predictable.

In terms of suitability for the three equestrian disciplines of show-jumping, dressage and trail-riding, participants overwhelmingly chose geldings for trail-riding, with mares being least preferred for both xex and show-jumping disciplines.

The results suggest that female riders are entering the horse-human dyad with gendered ideas about horses temperament and ohrses horse-riding as an activity primarily for women and girls. This could have far-reaching implications for equine training and ssx. Humans, horses and temperament. This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution Licensewhich permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author and source are credited.

Hores interests: The authors have declared that no competing interests exist. Historically, horses have been used in war, agriculture, and transport [ 1 ] but more recently horse-riding has transitioned to a sporting and leisure activity with an associated shift in attitudes toward horses as companion animals [ 23 ].

Today, opportunities to ride, own, handle and breed horses are readily available in many countries [ 45 ]. Equine attributes that are now valued extend beyond the functionality of the horse and include specific temperament and personality traits [ 67 ]. From the dressage arena to the Pony Club grounds, equids are purchased for their specific characteristics and temperament attributes [ 8 ]. Unlike companion dogs or cats that either remain as part of horss same household their entire lives or are relinquished to shelters [ 9 ], horses are often seen as a commodity [ 1011 ].

Excessive and unregulated breeding in many countries [ 13 ] has resulted in supply far exceeding demand [ 14 ], the consequences of which are often reflected in poor welfare outcomes for animals [ 15 ]. Seemingly the most straightforward of these choices is sex which is anecdotally often horses first to be settled.

Buyers can choose from a mare intact femalea gelding castrated male or a stallion entire male. Most leisure for choose not to own stallions because of complicated housing and management issues, not least among which is the recurrent need to separate stallions from oestrous mares. Scant published research exists on for effect of sex on equine trainability and personality attributes.

Most studies report no differences vor learning abilities or training outcomes between mares, geldings or stallions [ sex — 22 ]. Temperament factors such as emotionality and fearfulness have been correlated with impaired horsfs in some studies [ 2324 ], but there are few reported data on how horse sex may affect the prevalence of such traits in domestic horses [ 2526 ]. Wolff et al. Sex differences in learning and behavior have been reported in young horses but learning tasks and therefore results vary.

Yearling ror appeared to learn at an accelerated rate during early training compared to male horses during two learning tests [ 29 ]. That said, a later study revealed that yearling fillies were reported by their student handlers as being more anxious, aggressive and reactive than geldings during a basic handling program but for similar training outcomes at the conclusion of the program [ 30 ].

When learning and training outcomes are assessed on the basis of the achievement of training for, sex differences are not reported for example [ 26for — 33 ].

While convention dictates that younger riders should be mounted on more experienced horses, due to the presupposition that such horses are safer, due to having been exposed to more potentially aversive stimuli, and having more established responses to correct rider cues, horees is an absence of scientific evidence to confirm if mares, gelding or stallions are better suited to riders of a given age or gender.

In a preliminary study, Ille et al [ 34 ] found no differences in stress responses between horses ridden by male or female riders, suggesting perhaps that the gender of the rider may not matter to the horse. Previous studies that have explored a range of equestrian topics by surveying amateur riders have predominantly included women as respondents chiefly because there are more female riders at amateur level [ 3536 ].

However, in equestrian events at the professional level, there are more male riders [ 37 ] and in amateur and professional rodeo, more men than women participate in competitive rodeo activities [ 38 ].

The aim of the current study was to determine whether gender of a rider plays a role in ideas and beliefs about the temperaments and ridden behavior of mares, geldings and stallions. The stud is known for its reliable horses. The following four riders arrive for a trail ride without a booking.

There are only three horses availableso one person will miss out. Respondents were asked the following question:. We were also interested in the terms that the participants associated with mares, geldings and stallions. Lastly, demographic horses invited respondents to indicate their gender and hodses in years. Forums included Cyberhorse www. In addition, twenty-seven national breed associations were also emailed to request the participation of members.

The survey was also spread through social media channels e. Facebook and participants were asked to encourage others to take part and recruit a large variety of people, both with and without horse-riding and handling experience.

The survey opened on the 1st March and closed on the 1st June A de-identified participant code was included as a random effect to se for multiple observations per participant.

Similar to above, the de-identified xex codes were included as a random effect to account for clustering. The final section of the survey asked respondents to choose a gelding, stallion or mare for a variety of riding disciplines. Multinomial logistic regression analyses using the Logistic procedure were conducted to evaluate the effect of experience explanatory variable for nominating stallions, geldings and mares for trail ride, show-jumping and dressage outcome variables.

One thousand two hundred and thirty-three people were surveyed. Riders with at least 8 years Values in parentheses are row percentages. Respondents were asked aex assign a gelding, stallion or mare to the man, woman, boy or girl, leaving one rider with no horse assigned. More than half of the respondents allocated the gelding to the girl.

The girl had 2. The decision horses the clearest when it came to deployment or otherwise of the stallion, with the adults dor allocated that horse by almost all respondents and the man being given the stallion more often than the woman see Fig 2. Neither of the children was allocated the stallion to ride, other than by a handful of respondents see Fig 2.

The man was not allocated a horse twice as often as the woman and the girl and the boy was not allocated a horse most frequently. For selection of a rider for the stallion, sex man had times the odds of being selected over the boy and the woman 72 times the odds of being selected over the horsse Table 2.

Human gender had a significant influence on responses when participants allocated the mare. Both the girl and the woman horess twice the odds of being allocated the mare over the boy or the man Table 2. Logistic regression analyses indicated that respondents were about twice as likely to give importance to age over strength, with age having 2. Respondents were required to assign one adjective of a dichotomour pair horses an indicative attribute of gelding, stallion and mare.

The results are presented fr Fig 4. The respondents considered stallions to be Trainable with Good attitudes but, at the same time, Bossy and Difficult. Mares sex highly as Safe and Trainablebut respondents were less sure about assigning them attributes such as Easy-goingPredictable or Reliable. Stallions received the least positive attributes. Respondents were then asked which horses would be most likely to be seen competing in Dressage and show-jumping and, when given the choice of a gelding, stallion or mare, which horse the respondent would chose for trail-riding see Fig 5.

Geldings were preferred over mares across all disciplines. Stallions and geldings were nominated as equally suitable for dressage by Most of the respondents, Compared to stallions, geldings were about eight times odds ratio: 7. On the other hand, both geldings and mares were less likely than stallions to be nominated for dressage than for show jumping odds ratio gelding vs.

Respondents with more riding experience were more likely to expect to see a stallion in the dressage arena and riders of all experience levels chose a gelding for trail-riding purposes see Fig 6. The figure shows discipline choice by rider experience level. Experienced riders were significantly more likely to expect to see a stallion competing in the dressage arena compared to a gelding odds ratio: 1.

For trail-ride, experienced riders were more likely to expect to see a stallion odds ratio: 1. Our results suggest that participants in this study, who were mainly female see Table 1hold preconceived ideas about horse temperament and suitability based on the sex of the horse and the age and gender of the rider. The large proportion of female respondents for this study accurately for the gender distribution of riders in Sex, as found in many other studies [ 41 — 44 ].

Horse-rider allocation sex must have been made based on rider gender, age and horse sex because the questionnaire described each horse as being suitable for any of horses riders. It is worth noting that hodses respondents objected to being forced to decide based on the limited information provided.

Predictably, the stallion was almost always allocated to an adult, and preferentially, the man. The gelding was most often allocated to a child, with the horses being assigned the gelding more often than the boy and the mare more likely to be assigned to the woman or the girl.

The most unexpected finding in this section of the survey was that the boy was not allocated a horse to ride by almost half of sex respondents. Preference for female riders appears to extend to the adults, with the man failing to be allocated a ride twice as often as either the girl or the woman.

Among Australian children, girls participate in equestrian sports at substantially higher rates than boys [ 43 ]. The selection of horses female rider instead of the man may reflect fot dominance of women in horse-riding, its identification with women and the ways in which women privilege the transfer of horse-riding skills from one generation of women to the next.

It may also result from anecdotal beliefs that females are better sex to handle horses and particularly female horses, on account of gender attributes such as empathy, risk-aversion, altruism and patience which have been identified in female gender stereotypes in multiple countries across varying economic situations and activities [ 46 — 48 ]. Conversely, this result may reflect beliefs that young males have less impulse control and are more inclined to engage in sensation-seeking behavior [ sex ] which could place both the boy and the horse at risk of harm.

While the data do not tell us which of these factors if any play a role in the decision, it is clear that there is a consistency of belief among the current respondents about the girl having the opportunity to ride the horse before the boy. Further stereotypes and bias were encountered in the current study when respondents were invited to choose between dichotomous adjectives to characterize mares, geldings and stallions. The results for geldings were clear and they were positively classified in fod of the nine categories by almost all respondents.

Positive and negative attributes were mostly evenly spread for mares, with Bossy and Bad being the only negative factors significantly attributed to them.

Stallions scored very highly on Trainabilitybut at the same time hroses considered DifficultBossy and Dangerous. These results suggest that female participants enter the horse-human dyad with specific ideas based on the sex of the horse. Similar findings were reported when these same participants provided short text answers concerning their horse choice for particular disciplines [ 40 ]. We could also speculate that this set horsees ideas is also being transmitted from woman to girl riders and is part and parcel of the culture of for that sees horse-riding as a sport for girls and women, rather than for men and boys.

But just how accurate is this set of ideas that is being transmitted? Given that most studies of equine learning and temperament do not report sex influences on horse temperament, trainability or learning ability, including between geldings and stallions or mares and stallions, the reason respondents assigned the term Bossy to mares and stallions but not geldings appears to reside hrses beliefs and is yet to be explored experimentally.

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Respondents were asked to assign a gelding, stallion or mare to the man, woman, boy or girl, leaving one rider with no horse assigned. More than half of the respondents allocated the gelding to the girl. The girl had 2. The decision was the clearest when it came to deployment or otherwise of the stallion, with the adults being allocated that horse by almost all respondents and the man being given the stallion more often than the woman see Fig 2.

Neither of the children was allocated the stallion to ride, other than by a handful of respondents see Fig 2. The man was not allocated a horse twice as often as the woman and the girl and the boy was not allocated a horse most frequently. For selection of a rider for the stallion, the man had times the odds of being selected over the boy and the woman 72 times the odds of being selected over the boy Table 2.

Human gender had a significant influence on responses when participants allocated the mare. Both the girl and the woman had twice the odds of being allocated the mare over the boy or the man Table 2. Logistic regression analyses indicated that respondents were about twice as likely to give importance to age over strength, with age having 2.

Respondents were required to assign one adjective of a dichotomour pair as an indicative attribute of gelding, stallion and mare.

The results are presented in Fig 4. The respondents considered stallions to be Trainable with Good attitudes but, at the same time, Bossy and Difficult. Mares scored highly as Safe and Trainable , but respondents were less sure about assigning them attributes such as Easy-going , Predictable or Reliable.

Stallions received the least positive attributes. Respondents were then asked which horses would be most likely to be seen competing in Dressage and show-jumping and, when given the choice of a gelding, stallion or mare, which horse the respondent would chose for trail-riding see Fig 5.

Geldings were preferred over mares across all disciplines. Stallions and geldings were nominated as equally suitable for dressage by Most of the respondents, Compared to stallions, geldings were about eight times odds ratio: 7.

On the other hand, both geldings and mares were less likely than stallions to be nominated for dressage than for show jumping odds ratio gelding vs. Respondents with more riding experience were more likely to expect to see a stallion in the dressage arena and riders of all experience levels chose a gelding for trail-riding purposes see Fig 6. The figure shows discipline choice by rider experience level. Experienced riders were significantly more likely to expect to see a stallion competing in the dressage arena compared to a gelding odds ratio: 1.

For trail-ride, experienced riders were more likely to expect to see a stallion odds ratio: 1. Our results suggest that participants in this study, who were mainly female see Table 1 , hold preconceived ideas about horse temperament and suitability based on the sex of the horse and the age and gender of the rider. The large proportion of female respondents in this study accurately reflects the gender distribution of riders in Australia, as found in many other studies [ 41 — 44 ].

Horse-rider allocation decisions must have been made based on rider gender, age and horse sex because the questionnaire described each horse as being suitable for any of the riders. It is worth noting that several respondents objected to being forced to decide based on the limited information provided.

Predictably, the stallion was almost always allocated to an adult, and preferentially, the man. The gelding was most often allocated to a child, with the girl being assigned the gelding more often than the boy and the mare more likely to be assigned to the woman or the girl. The most unexpected finding in this section of the survey was that the boy was not allocated a horse to ride by almost half of the respondents.

Preference for female riders appears to extend to the adults, with the man failing to be allocated a ride twice as often as either the girl or the woman. Among Australian children, girls participate in equestrian sports at substantially higher rates than boys [ 43 ]. The selection of the female rider instead of the man may reflect the dominance of women in horse-riding, its identification with women and the ways in which women privilege the transfer of horse-riding skills from one generation of women to the next.

It may also result from anecdotal beliefs that females are better equipped to handle horses and particularly female horses, on account of gender attributes such as empathy, risk-aversion, altruism and patience which have been identified in female gender stereotypes in multiple countries across varying economic situations and activities [ 46 — 48 ].

Conversely, this result may reflect beliefs that young males have less impulse control and are more inclined to engage in sensation-seeking behavior [ 49 ] which could place both the boy and the horse at risk of harm.

While the data do not tell us which of these factors if any play a role in the decision, it is clear that there is a consistency of belief among the current respondents about the girl having the opportunity to ride the horse before the boy. Further stereotypes and bias were encountered in the current study when respondents were invited to choose between dichotomous adjectives to characterize mares, geldings and stallions.

The results for geldings were clear and they were positively classified in each of the nine categories by almost all respondents. Positive and negative attributes were mostly evenly spread for mares, with Bossy and Bad being the only negative factors significantly attributed to them. Stallions scored very highly on Trainability , but at the same time were considered Difficult , Bossy and Dangerous. These results suggest that female participants enter the horse-human dyad with specific ideas based on the sex of the horse.

Similar findings were reported when these same participants provided short text answers concerning their horse choice for particular disciplines [ 40 ]. We could also speculate that this set of ideas is also being transmitted from woman to girl riders and is part and parcel of the culture of horse-riding that sees horse-riding as a sport for girls and women, rather than for men and boys.

But just how accurate is this set of ideas that is being transmitted? Given that most studies of equine learning and temperament do not report sex influences on horse temperament, trainability or learning ability, including between geldings and stallions or mares and stallions, the reason respondents assigned the term Bossy to mares and stallions but not geldings appears to reside in beliefs and is yet to be explored experimentally.

While little research has yet been undertaken investigating the role that sex hormones play in riding and competing with stallions and mares, there is anecdotal evidence that stallions can become difficult to control, notably in the presence of mares in oestrus. Owner gender and animal sex are reported to influence the interpretations of companion cat and dog behavior, including the behavior of de-sexed animals [ 53 , 54 ]. Indeed, in male dogs this is an area of scientific enquiry that continues to yield surprising results with desexing appearing to exacerbate many behaviors that were thought to be ameliorated by it [ 55 ].

Assuming the horse is behaving in a particular way based on its sex alone may lead riders, trainers and handlers to erroneous conclusions about horse behavior and a consequent failure to address the etiology of unwanted behavior.

Riders are in a position to exert a significant influence over factors that affect horse behavior such as their individual riding skills, equipment use and the physical health of the horse [ 50 , 52 , 56 ].

If the behavior of mares and stallions is interpreted as arising from gendered beliefs, rather than other causes, they may be at risk of having stress or pain-related behaviors ignored because of this bias. The attribute Bossy , which the current participants used to characterize both mares and stallions, is of concern. The concepts of leadership and dominance are still commonly applied in horse training contexts and may encourage or justify the application of punishment [ 57 — 59 ].

Especially prevalent in Natural Horsemanship NH training philosophies, the dominance hierarchy view of human-horse interactions places the trainer as a herd leader with the horse required to be a submissive participant [ 60 ].

Under such conditions the Bossy horse is at risk of having any undesirable behavior interpreted as a lack of respect or as a hierarchical challenge rather than fear, pain or confusion. Such an interpretation can lead directly to positive punishment of the unwanted behavior rather than diagnosis of its cause. The combination of bias and stereotyping will shape relationships with horses and likely have a detrimental effect on welfare if underlying pathologies or training failures are not addressed [ 50 , 62 ].

A limitation of the current study is that respondents were required to choose between attributes which were selected by the authors. As such, respondents could not indicate if they did not believe that either attribute in each pair accurately reflected an equine sex-based attribute. Additionally, respondents could not choose more than one category of horse for use in each discipline, so the results may not accurately reflect their views about the relative, rather than absolute, suitability of mares, geldings and stallions for each equestrian activity.

The frequent nomination of the gelding for trail-riding may reflect an expectation of reliable and predictable horse behavior arising from the relative absence of sex hormones. Additionally, if undertaken in the company of other horses, the perceived reduction of sex-hormone influences over intraspecific behavior during trail-riding could contribute to perceptions of safety for riders.

These same respondents were asked to give short answers to questions surrounding their choice of a mare, gelding or stallion for the disciplines of dressage, show-jumping and trail-riding. The results of these qualitative data were the subject of further study [ 40 ]. Dashper et al also reported an overall preference for male horses, with mares selected less than twenty-five percent of the time when asked to choose a horse for a sport or leisure activity.

The attribution of gendered characteristics onto horse behavior by female respondents suggests that they may default to attributing undesirable horse behavior to gender, rather than factors such as pain or training confusion.

Further research into the attitudes of male riders towards mares, geldings and stallions could confirm if such views are shared by male riders too. Work in other species has identified gender and sex-based interpretations of behavior by both male and female owners of companion animals such as dogs and cats [ 54 ] and further observational research also could explore whether the gendered understandings are replicated when owners handle and ride horses. Additionally, research to investigate differences in equine learning, behavior or performance outcomes when ridden by males and females merit empirical study.

In preferring male horses, and particularly geldings for most equestrian activities, riders may be unnecessarily limiting their options by avoiding mares which current evidences suggests are no less likely to achieve training outcomes and no more likely to possess emotional or fearful temperaments than geldings.

Gender, behavior and sex stereotyping are prevalent in the equestrian industries. Female riders appear to be entering the horse-human dyad with preconceived gendered ideas about horse temperament and view horse riding as a sport for females.

The current survey of human preferences for certain horses prompted more responses from women than from men. This reflects the predominance of women in most equestrian activities.

Women riders express a preference for combining female riders with castrated male horses. Castrated male horses were also preferred for each equestrian discipline of show-jumping, dressage and trail-riding. Mares are perceived, largely without scientific foundation, as being less reliable, less predictable and less desirable than their castrated male counterparts. In some cases, this is likely to compromise mare welfare. The authors wish to thank the participants, members of the International Society for Equitation Science and the moderators of Cyberhorse , Horseyard and Bush Telegraph.

Browse Subject Areas? Click through the PLOS taxonomy to find articles in your field. Abstract We propose that the anthropomorphic application of gender stereotypes to animals influences human-animal interactions and human expectations, often with negative consequences for female animals. Funding: The authors received no specific funding for this work. Introduction Historically, horses have been used in war, agriculture, and transport [ 1 ] but more recently horse-riding has transitioned to a sporting and leisure activity with an associated shift in attitudes toward horses as companion animals [ 2 , 3 ].

The results of this topic have been previously been published [ 39 ]. The suitability of horses for particular riders based on the sex of the horse and the gender and age of the rider. Beliefs about perceived temperament characteristics of horses based on whether they are mares, geldings or stallions Beliefs about the perceived suitability of mares, geldings and stallions for different equestrian pursuits.

Results Participants One thousand two hundred and thirty-three people were surveyed. Download: PPT. Horse allocation Respondents were asked to assign a gelding, stallion or mare to the man, woman, boy or girl, leaving one rider with no horse assigned.

Table 2. Horse allocation odds ratio estimates for geldings, stallions and mares. Horse temperament descriptors Respondents were required to assign one adjective of a dichotomour pair as an indicative attribute of gelding, stallion and mare.

Fig 4. Positive and negative descriptors assigned to geldings, stallions and mares. Table 3. Odds ratio estimates for horse descriptor allocation. Horse choice by discipline Respondents were then asked which horses would be most likely to be seen competing in Dressage and show-jumping and, when given the choice of a gelding, stallion or mare, which horse the respondent would chose for trail-riding see Fig 5.

Fig 6. Discussion Our results suggest that participants in this study, who were mainly female see Table 1 , hold preconceived ideas about horse temperament and suitability based on the sex of the horse and the age and gender of the rider.

Conclusions Gender, behavior and sex stereotyping are prevalent in the equestrian industries. Acknowledgments The authors wish to thank the participants, members of the International Society for Equitation Science and the moderators of Cyberhorse , Horseyard and Bush Telegraph.

References 1. Endenburg N. Perceptions and attitudes towards horses in European societies. Equine Veterinary Journal ;— View Article Google Scholar 2. McGreevy P. Equine behaviour a guide for veterinarians and equine scientists. Introduction, pp. View Article Google Scholar 3. Robinson I. The horse-human relationship: How much do we know? Equine Veterinary Journal. View Article Google Scholar 4. Summary of current knowledge of the size and spatial distribution of the horse population within Great Britain.

BMC Veterinary Research. View Article Google Scholar 5. Smyth G, Dagley K. Australian Veterinary Journal. A desired profile of horse personality—A survey study of Polish equestrians based on a new approach to equine temperament and character. Applied Animal Behaviour Science. View Article Google Scholar 7. Birke L. Talking about horses: Control and freedom in the world of "natural horsemanship".

View Article Google Scholar 8. An overview of breeding objectives for warmblood sport horses. Livestock Production Science. View Article Google Scholar 9. Development of the behavioural assessment for re-homing K9's B. View Article Google Scholar Dashper K. Tools of the Trade or Part of the Family?

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Richard Decker, 31, began sending messages and emails sex farms and horse stables in Sussex County, New Jersey inasking if he could wex sex with their livestock, it is alleged. When Decker was told no by the farmers, he allegedly sent horses and placed homemade spike strips on their driveways to damage their tires, according to the New Jersey Herald.

Sex Facebook group for New Jersey horse trainers and clinics later posted screenshots of the emails. Assistant Prosecutor Magdelen Czykier said multiple cars were damaged by homemade metal spikes Decker left on their horses. Decker was arrested on October 3 and is charged with 22 offenses hotses include Second-degree possession of explosives, second-degree possession of a destructive device to use unlawfully, fourth-degree procuring an animal in any sex of sexual manner or initiate any sexual conduct with an animal, fourth-degree threatening to commit aggravated assault and fourth-degree knowingly manufacturing firearms.

Police searched a home he shares with his sex and brother in Vernon, New Jersey and found the homemade hoeses deflation for in his bedroom, along ror explosives, and a homemade. Follow Metro.

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