Date on Honors Thesis

Fall 12-2016


Animal and Equine Science

Examining Committee Member

Dr. Shea Porr, Advisor

Examining Committee Member

Dr. Amanda Davis, Committee Member

Examining Committee Member

Dr. Anna Vaughn-Doom, Committee Member

Examining Committee Member

Dr. Warren Edminster, Committee Member


This pilot project reviewed existing literature to develop a more applicable and easy to use ethogram (behavior chart), which could become a standard for riding programs to assess the safety and stress loads of program horses. Behaviors within the rubric included various head movements, mouth gestures, ear gestures, tail gestures, locomotor behavior, and miscellaneous changes such as eye visibility. The model developed was modified from previously published behavior rubrics, and then used to analyze the efficiency of evaluating horse behavior from a live observation compared to reviewing video footage. Data was collected from a total of nine horses used in a University riding class. There were two days of data collection conducted within a four-week period. Audio recordings from four independent observers were used to analyze horses while tacking up, riding, and un-tacking. Additionally, a video was taken of each horse along with audio recordings, and used for subsequent evaluation regarding the accuracy of the audio recordings. When analyzing videos, pausing was permitted for note taking, however rewinding was not. The behavior rubric was determined to be an efficient and thorough guide for observing horse behavior. However, video assessment allowed for increased accuracy. Rubric accuracy could also be improved through increased familiarity of observers with the rubric. Finally, evaluating the accuracy of this rubric in different disciplines and riding programs will be important for validation.