Compatibility of riders’ personality traits and the perceived personality of their horse

Bente Træen & Espen Røysamb

Department of Psychology, University of Oslo

This study addresses the relationship between competition riders’ personality traits and the perception of their horse’s personality, and it assesses whether a match in personality is associated with aspects of the riders’ self-esteem, general self-efficacy, satisfaction with life, anxiety and depression. An invitation to participate in the study and a link to an online questionnaire were distributed via e-mail to members of the Norwegian Equestrian Federation (NEF). In total, 662 riders (95.5% female) accessed the survey site and completed the questionnaire. Most riders perceived of themselves as planned and systematic, extraverted and sociable, open to new experiences and non-neurotic. They tended to perceive of their favourite horse in a similar manner. Based on the riders’ perceptions, three dimensions of personality in the horses were identified: ‘neuroticism’, ‘agreeableness’ and ‘extraversion’. To study the match and discrepancy in human and horse personality, new variables were constructed to measure the differences between human personality and horse personality. Positive self-esteem and higher subjective well-being in the rider correlated with a match in both agreeableness and extraversion. On the other hand, riders who had a discrepancy with their horse in agreeableness and extraversion reported more depression. Riders who experienced a match in extraversion with their horse had higher self-efficacy. Lastly, riders who had a discrepancy with their horse in neuroticism and extraversion reported more anxiety.
Keywords: Competition riders, human–horse interaction, Big Five personality traits, horse’s personality
Correspondence concerning this article should be addressed to Bente Træen, Department of Psychology, University of Oslo, Postbox 1094, Blindern, N-0317 Oslo; Norway.

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