Horse agitation rating scale (HARS)

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The HARS is a method for objectively scoring the agitation level of a horse. Like agitation scales in other species, the score directly reflects the quantity and intensity of physical movement and vocalization. This scale does not score the emotional status of the horse; passive coping animals may be very stressed but show little, to no, obvious agitation. 


A horse's level of agitation directly correlates to the handler skill level required to manage the horse. For example, a horse that can be taken to a new environment and exhibit low levels of agitation may be suited to a relatively inexperienced horse owner, whereas a horse that shows moderate to high levels of agitation could potentially be dangerous in the hands of an inexperienced owner.  


The chart is useful for veterinarians to offer a standardised and objective assessment of agitation as part of a pre-purchase exam or to monitor the effect of some medications. It is useful for communication between owners, behaviour consultants and veterinarians. Buyers are also able to independently conduct the HARS assessment on potential purchases; the test is quick (2-minutes) and non-invasive. Owners, veterinarians and researchers can use the HARS to assess the efficacy of a behaviour modification program or behaviour modifying medications over time. 


Benefits of the HARS:

  • simple to administer
  • does not require extensive specialised training to assess
  • objective/standardised results (not an opinion-based assessment of temperament)
  • offers information as to the potential handler skill level required for the horse
  • does not assess the horse against tasks or environments that may be unexpected for the horse (unlike temperament testing with novel equipment and/or in novel scenarios). 


How to complete the HARS:

  • The horse needs to be removed from other horses (at least 15 metres).
  • Ideally in a new to semi-new environment (i.e. different section of the property if being tested at the horse's usual home).
  • Horse is tied to a single point with a halter and lead and has room to move its quarters through at least 180 degrees (i.e. tied to a point on a fence, on the side of a truck, or in a breezeway).
  • No other equipment is to be on the horse (with the exception of bandages or boots if desired.)
  • All humans are to maintain a distance of approximately 10 metres or more from the horse (except for the videographer).
  • No human is to interact with the horse during the recording. This includes no clapping, clicking or talking (either to calm the horse or to reprimand for pawing, etc).
  • The horse is filmed for 2 consecutive minutes. The filming should start quickly after the horse is tied in the new location.
  • The first 2-minutes of footage recorded are scored using the HARS scoring chart (available as a PDF link below).

 

At this stage the chart is in the validation phase as part of a PhD project. If you would like to participate in the validation process please contact Sharon Carroll 0412 826725 s.carroll@uqconnect.edu.au


Here is link to the guidelines video to be watched prior to completing the chart. https://youtu.be/gdsVVBjrPgU