Fearfulness in horses: A temperament trait stable across time and situations
Reactions to the first three tests showed consistency between them and over time. Among all the behavioural parameters measured during these tests, some presented high stability over time and were well correlated with behaviours expressed during other tests, indicating they are the best indicators of a fearfulness trait: the frequency of licking/nibbling the novel object, the time to put one foot on the novel area and to eat from a bucket placed just behind it, and the flight distance and the time to eat under the opened umbrella. The stability across responses expressed in various fear-eliciting events and over time from 8 months to 2.5 years of age suggests the existence of a ‘fearfulness’ trait in horses.
The different indexes of heart rate measured or calculated during the surprise effect present limited stability over time and almost no correlation with the behavioural parameters measured during the other three tests. We conclude that, in contrast to the previously mentioned behaviours, these are not reliable measures of a temperament trait.
From a practical point of view, this study shows that it is possible to identify a horse's level of fearfulness as early as 8 months of age using the first three tests.
Title: Fearfulness in horses: A temperament trait stable across time and situations
Authors: Léa Lansade, Marie-France Bouissou and Hans W. Erhard