Mahurin Honors College Capstone Experience/Thesis Projects



Document Type



Many accidents in the horse sector presumably happen due to a misinterpretation of horse behavior, and it is difficult to objectively determine the suitability of horses for therapeutic riding programs in regard to their temperament and reactivity. The animals in therapeutic riding programs come from tremendously varied backgrounds and are not always donated with honorable intentions. The horses undergo a training period during which they are evaluated for suitability before they begin working with disabled humans, but there is no requirement that additional desensitizing training be administered past this point. Our study aimed to assess, objectively, a horse’s suitability for use in a therapeutic riding program to prevent injuries to participants and to promote animal welfare. Behavioral signs of fear, pain, and mental state were assessed through video footage as well as analysis of salivary cortisol concentration and heart rate variability measurements.

Results indicated that heart rate parameters and behavior tests are accurate, practical, and objective methods of determining horse emotionality and suitability for therapeutic horseback riding, while cortisol analysis, due to time and finances, is not.

Advisor(s) or Committee Chair

Dr. Petra Collyer



Included in

Agriculture Commons