Video observations of dropping in male horses

Published: 6 December 2022| Version 1 | DOI: 10.17632/9nvfyv2ftb.1
Katrina Merkies


Dropping (penile tumescence) in male horses has been related to the provision of food rewards but it is unclear why horses display this behaviour. The objective of this observational study was to characterize dropping in relation to other behavioural indicators. Trainers submitted videos of their training session with their horse (n=24). Frequency of behaviours (oral, head position, tail swish), rewards (treats) and duration of penile characteristics (partial or full drop, flaccid or erect) were noted for multiple 2min segments of the training session. Chi-squared analyses compared penile characteristics to rewards. A mixed model analyzed the effects of horse age and training segment on behaviours and penile characteristics. Dropping occurred 69% of the time. In the first 2min horses spent less time with a fully dropped and erect penis than later in the training session (p<0.02). Horses 11-15yrs were fully dropped (82% of the time) and erect (65% of the time) longer than older and younger horses (p<.0001). Horses spent less time fully dropped (15%) when trainers did not use treats compared to when they did (42%; p<.03). No stress-related behaviours were related to dropping (p>.05). These observations provide preliminary results suggesting dropping is not a sign of stress.



University of Guelph Ontario Agricultural College


Equine Behavior


International Society for Equitation Science