Comparison of the Head and Neck Positions in Ridden Horses Advertised in an Australian Horse Sales Magazine: 2005 Versus 2018

Tanja Bornmann, Jane Williams, Karen Richardson

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal Articlepeer-review

1 Citation (Scopus)
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The impact of head and neck position (HNP) on horse welfare has received much attention in the scientific literature within the last two decades. Studies have identified physiological and behavioral signs of distress in horses ridden for prolonged time in an HNP with their noseline behind the vertical (BTV), which may compromise their welfare. The objective of this study was to compare potential differences of HNPs shown in horse sales photographs advertised in an Australian horse sales magazine (Horse Deals) from the years 2005 and 2018. In addition, factors potentially impacting HNPs, such as type of tack presented in (e.g., noseband type), riding discipline, and competition experience of the horse, were investigated. The sample population (n = 570) comprised horses ridden with headgear and bit in walk, trot, or canter/gallop, advertised in an Australian horse sales magazine. Issues from April 2005 and October/November 2018 were selected. Head and neck position was categorized as BTV, on the vertical (OV), slightly in front of the vertical (IFV), or extremely in front of the vertical (EIFV; any HNP >30° IFV). Data were analyzed using the chi-squared test and post hoc testing via a multiple regression approach through SPSS and test of proportions via the Z-score calculator for two independent population proportions. Analysis of combined data from years 2005 and 2018 showed 47.0% (n = 570) of the horse sample population were advertised with HNPs BTV. Behind-the-vertical HNP was observed as the predominant HNP (57.8%; n = 268) in the warmblood/eventers/show/performance (WESP) category (P <.0005). In 2005, 53.4% (n = 303) of the sample population were ridden BTV compared with 39.7% (n = 267) in 2018 (P <.001), 12.9% (n = 303) were OV in 2005 compared with 15.0% (n = 267) in 2018 (P >. 05), and 10.9% (n = 303) were IFV in 2005 compared with 27.3% (n = 267) in 2018 (P <.0004). These results suggest a positive development with fewer vendors/riders selecting images where the horse's nose was BTV. However, this may be explained by the larger proportion of horses advertised in the WESP category in 2005 (63.0%; n = 303) versus 2018 (28.5%; n = 267), and the WESP category predominantly comprised of dressage, jumper, and eventing horses. In addition, the reduction of HNPs BTV from 53.4% (n = 303) in 2005 to 39.7% (n = 267) in 2018 could be attributed to the observation that in 2018, a larger proportion of horses were listed in categories that do not require the horses to be worked with a flexed HNP referred to as “on-the-bit” (e.g., western, endurance, Australian sStock horses). The HNP BTV remains preferential by a substantial proportion of the horse-owning public when advertising horses for sale, particularly in disciplines where the horse is worked in a flexed HNP or “on-the-bit.”
Original languageEnglish
JournalJournal of Equine Veterinary Science
Early online date7 Oct 2020
Publication statusPublished - 1 Dec 2020


  • Dressage
  • Equine welfare
  • Equitation science
  • Head and neck position
  • Horse training


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