Date of Award

Fall 2016

Project Type


Program or Major


Degree Name

Master of Science

First Advisor

Elizabeth P. Boulton

Second Advisor

Leslie J. Curren

Third Advisor

Peter M. Comstock


Equine Assisted Activities and Therapies (EAA/T) rely on the behavior of horses (Equus caballus) interacting with humans in experiential learning settings. Most often, horses are unrestrained in an enclosure with people. Outcomes are tied to horse behaviors, but few industry-related studies specific to equine behavior exist. We chose to quantify five factors hypothesized to influence horse behavior: age, sex, breed type, turnout, and arena substrate. We designed mock-client sessions using common EAA/T objects and demonstrated methods of consistent behavior analysis. Behaviors were labeled according to an ethogram standard to the species. Behavioral output was categorized as affiliative, avoidance/maintenance, play, aberrant and agonistic. The presence/absence of grass substrate in the trial area significantly affected both affiliative (p = 0.020) and avoidance/maintenance behaviors (p = 0.017). These results are the first to quantify the effect of substrate on horse behavior during EAA/T sessions, and these methods can enhance future EAA/T program design & documentation.

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