Like their riders, horses have changing moods and attitudes to work. Sometimes they seem keen and happy to oblige; other times they just can’t be bothered.
In a recent report, veterinary behaviourists investigated the willingness to work of 16 Anglo Arab geldings kept for pleasure riding. The horses were all worked between 9am and 10am in the summer.
The riders knew the horses well and were asked to score how willing they were to work and to assess how happy the geldings seemed with what they were being asked to do. At the same time, the researchers measured the horses’ heart rates, breathing rates and temperatures.
They also recorded the ambient temperature, humidity, air pressure and wind speed.
Results revealed a good correlation between the willingness of the horses, in the opinion of their riders, and their heart rates, breathing rates and temperatures — more challenging conditions resulted in higher readings and increased reluctance to work.
When environmental factors were studied it was clear that atmospheric pressure and humidity were not linked to willingness to work; while wind speed and air temperature appeared to have significant effects.
A wind speed greater than 5.5 metres/second (roughly 12mph), made the horses less keen to work than calm conditions. Temperatures above 26°C definitely made them grumpier.
There are other factors that can affect how well a pleasure horse co-operates in ridden work, but this research seems to show that — all other things being equal — Anglo Arabs at least prefer a cool, still day to a hot, breezy one.
Ref: Horse & Hound; 12 February 2015