Temperament traits in horses, especially reactivity, are an important trait in relation to human–horse accidents and the welfare of the horses. However, so far, temperament is often not included in many horse breeding programs. Most of the behavioral genetic studies in horses have been based on indirect indications of a sire effect and not on estimations of the heritability of temperament traits. Therefore, the aim of this study was to estimate the heritability of behavior reactions related to reactivity observed in a practical situation, that is, during the evaluation of the conformation of the horse at field tests. The study included 323 3-year-old Warmblood horses. Data were analyzed according to an animal model, and the estimation was based on restricted maximum likelihood. Results showed a low (0.17) heritability of reactivity. Probably because of the limited number of horses in the study, a high standard error was untainted. Nevertheless, results suggested a genetic variation of reactivity when assessed at field tests, but further research is needed before reactivity can be incorporated as a selection criteria into a breeding program.
Journal of Equine Veterinary Science, 2014, Vol 34, Issue 2, p. 341-343