Behavioral and Physiological Reactivity of Mares and Stallions Evaluated in Performance Tests/Procena Fizioloških Parametara I Reaktivnosti Kobila I Pastuva Na Osnovu Performans Testa

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Abstract

In many countries completing the performance test requirements is obligatory only for stallions, but some breeders also decide for the assessment of their mares’ performance under standardized conditions. This study is aimed the evaluation of sex related effects on behavioral and physiological reactivity in fearfulness test and performance test scores in Polish warmblood horses of Małopolska breed (22 mares and 34 stallions) assessed at the training station. Equine reactivity to potentially frightening stimuli was assessed in the fearfulness test by behavior scoring and heart rate monitoring. Horses of both sexes were assessed in standardized performance tests accordingly to the rules of performance tests given in the Breeding Program for the Małopolski Horse Breed by the Polish Horse Breeders Association. The mares showed a significantly more quiet response in the fearfulness test in comparison to stallions. A relation among some reactivity and performance traits in both sexes was found. The behavior scores of the fearfulness test were positively correlated with character and temperament only in mares. However, the better the scores for temperament and character the stallions received, the lower the heart rate before testing. The present study demonstrates that temperament and character assessment, as a part of the standardized performance test, should involve not only a subjective trainer’s evaluation, but also a horse reactivity assessment based on objective behavioral tests and heart rate monitoring. The results showed that sex has an effect on behavioral reactivity of horses. Thus, it is important to consider the horses’ sex during selection for a particular type of riding, and performance assessment should be obligatory for both sexes. The assessment of the same performance traits in both, stallions and mares, significantly improves good breeding practice.

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Acta Veterinaria

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