Effect of human attachment style on horse behaviour and physiology during equine-assisted activities

Published: 4 May 2020| Version 1 | DOI: 10.17632/4yhc64z9n2.1
Katrina Merkies


H0: human attachment style (AS) will affect horse behaviour and heart rate during a 10-week equine-facilitated learning program. AS of at-risk youth was scored on anxiety and avoidance to determine category (low anxiety and avoidance = secure; low anxiety high avoidance = dismissing; high anxiety low avoidance = preoccupied; high anxiety and avoidance = fearful). Youth were paired for grooming sessions (G) and rode individually during arena sessions (A). Horse behaviours (oral, avoidance, affiliative) were captured by 0/1 interval sampling every 5sec for 2min windows during G and A. Horse heart rate (HR) was averaged in 5sec intervals. horse gait (halt (H), walk (W), back up (B)) was noted every 5sec during arena sessions. Adolescents’ AS affected horse affiliative behaviour during grooming, and horse heart rate and avoidance behaviour during riding. Over the 10-week program, therapy horses showed overall more affiliative behaviour and less variability in their stress response (heart rate and avoidance behaviours) toward fearful and preoccupied AS adolescents during grooming and riding.



University of Guelph


Animal Physiology, Animal Welfare, Horse, Attachment Style, Human-Animal Interaction, Equine Heart Rate