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Doctoral thesis, 2015

The match between horse and rider

Axel-Nilsson, Malin


A successful relationship between horse and rider is a partnership based on compatibility and is often referred to as a good match. In the present thesis, ‘match’ includes the good interaction, interplay and cooperation between horse and rider as well as the related positive experience. A good horse-rider match is important for horse welfare, rider safety and good performance. The aim of this thesis was to investigate which parameters riders consider important for a good match, if horse temperament and rider personality affect the horse-rider match, and how this can be measured. Using a survey, the first study showed that riders consider behavioural traits as relevant to a good horse-rider match. It was shown that both age, preferred equitation discipline and to some extent level of experience had an influence on the riders’ opinion of which behavioural traits in horses were most relevant. The second study included a battery of behavioural tests designed to measure individual differences in response to challenges including human approach, isolation, handling and a novel object. The horses showed consistent responses between repetitions of the tests and could be divided in four temperamental categories. The third and final study investigated how quality in horse-rider match is affected by the combination of rider personality and horse temperament, and how this can be measured. Horses-rider dyads with different combinations of rider personality and horse temperament underwent tests including both handling and riding. Three types of indicators to measure and evaluate match were identified and applied: A) rider perception B) horse behaviour and C) the horse-rider combination’s effectiveness in accomplishing a task together. It was shown that rider personality and horse temperament have an effect on match quality, as measured with change in riders’ level of positive affect. This thesis provides a stepping stone to obtain a deeper insight into how good horse-rider match is defined, measured and realised. Harmonisation in the descriptions of match and horse behaviour and further development of appropriate measures is needed.


Häst; Ryttare; Match; Temperament; Personlighet; Beteendetest; Enkät

Published in

Acta Universitatis Agriculturae Sueciae
2015, number: 2015:98
ISBN: 978-91-576-8394-6, eISBN: 978-91-576-8395-3
Publisher: Department of Animal Environment and Health, Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences

Authors' information

Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences, Department of Animal Environment and Health

Associated SLU-program

Centre of Excellence in Animal Welfare Science

UKÄ Subject classification

Behavioral Sciences Biology

URI (permanent link to this page)