Since ancient times, horse behaviour, and the bond between horses and humans, has been a source of intrigue and fascination.
The horse-lore that has accumulated over the centuries is a rich mix of both useful practice (approaching horses from their left side, making them slightly less reactive) and unsubstantiated myth, such as the one that chestnut horses are especially difficult to deal with.
That’s why my colleagues and I at the University of Sydney are launching a global database of horse behaviour. Both vets and owners can log a horse’s physical, mental and social development, creating an evidence base on what constitutes normal and abnormal equine behaviour, and what defines good, effective and humane training.
This project builds on a similar project for dogs, which has collected information on over 85,000 dogs and been used in more than 70 research studies that have revealed behavioural differences that relate to head and body shape and the astonishing effect of desexing on behaviour.
Now it is the horses’ turn
We have created an online behavioural assessment package for horses and ponies, called the Equine Behaviour Assessment and Research Questionnaire (E-BARQ) that collects anonymous data for horse behaviour researchers, veterinarians and coaches. It’s a not-for-profit project that allows the global horse-folk community to donate their observational data to the University of Sydney and gain useful benefits in return.