Science News

Horses Have Handedness

Sun, 13th Feb 2005

Part of the show Science of Sex, Smell and Pheromones...

Knowing whether a horse is right or left handed might help you to beat the bookies in future, according to Irish researchers from the University of Limerick. Riders and trainers often report that their mounts respond better when turning or jumping in a particular direction, but whether this was just down to training, or an underlying innate cause, was unknown. To find out, Jack Murphy and his team studied 40 untrained horses destined to become show jumpers or dressage competitors. They watched which leg the animals preferred to use when stepping forward, and which direction they chose when detouring around obstacles or rolling over on the floor. The researchers found that females preferred the right sides, whilst male horses preferred their left. About 10% of the horses showed no preference. As a well-balanced mount is the most desirable, these results could help trainers and jockeys to develop their mounts’ weak sides, and they could help punters better predict a horse’s competition performance because the direction and bends in a race will suit some runners better than others. Bad news for the bookies !

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