EQUUS - - Medicalfro­nt -

You may not want your av­er­age riding horse to be par­tic­u­larly pas­sive, stub­born or con­fi­dent, but these traits help po­lice horses do their jobs, ac­cord­ing to new re­search from Brazil.

For their study, re­searchers at Pon­tif­i­cal Catholic Univer­sity of Mi­nas Gerais ob­served 46 po­lice horses who had been used for pa­trols in the city of Belo Hor­i­zonte for at least a year. Typ­i­cally, each horse’s work­load was an eight-hour shift ev­ery other day, in cy­cles of 45 min­utes of pa­trolling fol­lowed by 15 min­utes of rest. When not on duty, the horses were kept in stalls with no other ac­tiv­i­ties.

The horses’ per­son­al­i­ties were as­sessed in sev­eral ways. First, each horse’s reg­u­lar rider and ve­teri­nar­ian filled out a ques­tion­naire de­signed to rank 18 per­son­al­ity traits. Re­searchers also gauged each horse’s pa­tience with a “frus­tra­tion test,” dur­ing which a prof­fered treat was tem­po­rar­ily with­held, and as­sessed con­fi­dence with a “novel ob­ject” test, which in­volved the in­tro­duc­tion of un­usual stim­uli.

In ad­di­tion, re­searchers doc­u­mented any ab­nor­mal be­hav­iors, such as crib­bing, weav­ing or paw­ing, that may be as­so­ci­ated with the stress of the job and/or re­stric­tive liv­ing con­di­tions. Fi­nally, they re­viewed each horse’s vet­eri­nary records to eval­u­ate his over­all health.

A re­view of the data led re­searchers to con­clude that horses clas­si­fied as pas­sive, stub­born or con­fi­dent were less likely to ex­hibit ab­nor­mal be­hav­iors or health prob­lems, which in­di­cated that they were “bet­ter able to cope with the de­mands of be­ing a po­lice horse.”

Ref­er­ence: “Per­son­al­ity, ab­nor­mal be­hav­ior and health: An eval­u­a­tion of the wel­fare of po­lice horses,” PLoS One, Septem­ber 2018

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