Perceptions of dropping in male horses - survey

Published: 6 December 2022| Version 1 | DOI: 10.17632/x4kmv2mk62.1
Katrina Merkies


Horse trainers, in particular those using positive reinforcement (PR), have noted dropping (penile tumescence) occurring during training sessions. Dropping has variably been interpreted as a sign of relaxation or frustration which can lead to misinterpretation and inappropriate use of management strategies. The objective of this study was to understand the incidence and perception of dropping by horse trainers. Trainers (n=218) completed an online survey reporting trainer and horse demographics, training methods, dropping characteristics and perceptions. Dropping during a session was highly variable in duration (0-100% of the time) and frequency (0 to multiple times). Dropping occurred more often (p=.002) and for longer duration (p=.030) with PR and combination trainers than natural horsemanship or traditional trainers. Dropping occurred more often when food rewards were involved (p<.001). Most respondents ignored dropping (61.7%) and did not believe it was a problem (59.4%). Qualitative analysis of open-ended comments categorized dropping as either a positive (indicating relaxation and enjoyment), negative (indicating frustration and overstimulation), food-related (response to too high value or too slow a provision of treat rewards) or situation-specific (learning new tasks or taking a break) event. These results suggest that dropping is related to the provision of food rewards but is highly variable.



University of Guelph Ontario Agricultural College


Equine Behavior, Survey


International Society for Equitation Science