Not exactly sure why we needed a study to confirm that, but there you go.
Social media and the internet in general have brought more information than ever before to riders’ fingertips. That’s great when you’re not sure if a particular plant in your field is poisonous, or if a particular brand of breeches runs long or short. But all that information floating around out there also leads “armchair riders” to pass judgement on everything and anything, whether they know what they’re talking about or not. Anyone who has ever posted a video to Facebook riding critique groups can attest to the maelstrom of misinformation, confusion and rudeness this can lead to.
But according to the results of a recent study from Nottingham Trent University, published in the Journal of Veterinary Medicine, even the pros can’t accurately assess a horse’s stress level from video.
The researchers got four riding instructors, four professional riders, and four veterinary surgeons to watch videos of 10 horses under saddle and rank them based on FEI dressage standards for relaxation, energy, compliance, suppleness, confidence, motivation and happiness. And surprisingly, their judgements did not match up with the horses’ actual stress level as measured by cortisol (stress hormone) levels and eye temperature.
The biggest disconnect was in relation to head carriage. Though a low head carriage is normally considered a sign of relaxation, physically the horses with a lower head carriage showed more stress. Also, riding instructors tended to rate noses on the vertical more positively than the other professionals despite FEI guidelines specifying that the nose should be slightly in front of the vertical.
Granted, the study had some fairly subjective elements (how does one judge a horse’s happiness from a 2- or 3-minute video?) and more research needs to be done to make any real conclusions. One thing is clear, though–don’t feed the trolls if the experts can’t even get it right!
Find more information on the study here.