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Horses not affected by rider's sex

Posted on Aug 09 2014 | IANS

London, Aug 9 : Horses do not have a preference for male riders and are not bothered too much about who is riding them. So get on to that saddle now.

According to a study, male and female riders do not elicit different types of response from their horses.

During the study, scientists at Vetmeduni Vienna's Graf Lehndorff Institute analysed how horses are affected by the sex of their riders.

They found that the level of stress on a horse is independent of whether a man or a woman is on the saddle.

Furthermore, the stress responses of male and female riders are essentially the same.

"Our results make it extremely unlikely that horses have a preference for riders of one sex over the other. And when male and female riders compete against one another in equestrian sports, all of them have similar chances of doing well," said Natascha Ille from Vetmeduni Vienna.

Ille, Christine Aurich and colleagues examined eight horses and 16 riders, including eight men and eight women.

Each horse had to jump a standard course of obstacles twice, ridden once by a male and once by a female of similar equestrian experience.

The scientists monitored the levels of stress in the horses and their riders.

The results were unexpected.

"The level of cortisol in horses' saliva increased during the test but the increase was not affected by the sex of the rider," researchers said.

The horses' heart rates also increased as a result of taking the course but the increase was irrespective of the human partner on the saddle.

The tests on the riders gave similar conclusions.

"Assuming that there is no difference in riding ability, from the horse's point of view, it does not seem to matter whether the human partner is male or female," Ille added.

The results were published in the Journal of Comparative Exercise Physiology.

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