Misbehaviour in pony club horses: incidence and risk factors

Fatter Pony Club horses are more likely to misbehave

Source: P. Buckley, J.M. Morton, D.J. Buckley, and G.T. Coleman
Equine Veterinary Journal vol 45 no 1, January 2013, pp 9-14

 When Pony Club horses misbehave, this can affect their performance, as well as causing injuries, which are more likely to be serious when children are riding. Misbehaviour may also be linked to musculoskeletal pain. This study aimed to investigate how often misbehaviour happens, what it consists of, and what the risk factors might be. The study involved 84 Pony Club horses belonging to 41 families who were members of seven Pony Clubs in a region of inland Australia. The families kept records of when horses misbehaved, and a daily diary with details of the horse‚Äôs housing, exercise, nutrition, illnesses, and healthcare. The horses were also examined every month by a vet.

Fifty horses of the 84 misbehaved at least once during the study, which lasted 14 months. There was misbehavior while horses were being ridden on 3% of the days they were ridden. The misbehaviour was rated dangerous on 52% of days when misbehavior happened. Risk of misbehaviour was higher when the horse was competing, and on exercise days. It was also higher when the horse was fat, fed a daily supplementary feed, grazed on lusher pasture, exercised only 5 days a month or less. Misbehaviour did not appear to be related to back pain.

Equine body condition, exercise and nutrition appear to be important factors to take into account when investigating misbehaviour. Vets could use these results to make recommendations to prevent equine misbehavior.