Research could help breed for less "spooky" horses

In the wild, horses must be alert for predators that might attack them. This means that even domesticated horses are hardwired to be aware of danger and can scare easily.

Unfortunately, this so-called “startle response” or “spooking” is reflexive, and horses often cannot distinguish between the danger a Florida panther might present versus a plastic bag floating by a riding arena. Some horses react to these perceived threats by rearing, bolting, or bucking, which can create dangerous situations for owners and riders. University of Florida researchers are working to identify genes that influence horses’ tendency to react to these “spooky” plastic bags. Identifying these genetic traits would be a first step toward one day selecting or breeding horses for the temperament types we prefer.

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Tory Moore May 11, 2023