Tack and equipment in horse sale advertisements
Horse sale advertisements are expected to present horses at their best to entice buyers. In such adverts, the prevalence of harsh bits, restrictive nosebands, spurs and whips merits scrutiny because such devices reflect need for strong physical cues and their prevalence may serve as a proxy inverse metric of the uptake of ethical approaches to riding. To examine the occurrence of various types of tack (equestrian gear) 6580 horse sale advertisements from Australia and North America were inspected for horse demographics, discipline, level, price, any tack and equipment apparent on the horse, rider age and whether the rider was wearing spurs or carrying a whip. Chi-squared analysis and a GLIMMIX procedure determined differences between countries, main factors and their relevant interactions (with significance at a p-value < 0.05). North American advertisements more often featured horses ridden with a shank bit, no noseband, extra equipment such as martingales, and riders wearing spurs. Australian advertisements more often featured horses ridden with double bridles, flash nosebands, a dressage saddle, and riders carrying a whip. Hot-blooded breeds and performance horses at advanced levels were more likely to be wearing harsher bits, restrictive nosebands, head control equipment and ridden with whips and spurs. Examining trends regarding the type and severity of equipment may point to patterns within riding practices. This would allow targeted research and education to promote equitation with optimal equine welfare.