PERSONALITY MATTERS FOR POLICE HORSES
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