Magnetoreception in horses: Less faults in a North-South direction in show jumping competitors

MIKULÁŠKOVÁ, Klára, KOVÁŘOVÁ, Jana a BARTOŠOVÁ, Jitka., 2022 Magnetoreception in horses: Less faults in a North-South direction in show jumping competitors. In 49. Konference ČSEtS Brno. Praha: Česká a slovenská etologická společnost, s. 14. ISSN
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It has been found in many species that Earth’s magnetic field helps to control spatial behaviour and orientation. In horses, the knowledge is still limited. Therefore, we investigated the possible effects of magnetic sense in sports horses during the first rounds of the show jumping competition. We hypothesized that horses made faults more often on obstacles located out of the North-South magnetic axis of the Earth (NSMAE) compared to the jumps in the direction of this axis. Data of 95 riders and 155 horses within 8 competitions of the Longines Global Champions Tour 2018 held worldwide (Doha, Hamburg, Madrid, Mexico, Miami, London, Paris, and Prague) were gathered from video records. Each obstacle was determined according to the angle of its position according to the NSMAE (analysed as belonging to one of 12 sectors by 30 degrees). The total fault rate was 8.53 % from 3 905 jumps and was not randomly distributed over the show jumping course. Data were analysed by Generalized Linear Mixed Models (PROC GLIMMIX, SAS). The probability of a fault varied according to the direction of approach (F (11, 3737) = 4.01, P < 0.001). In general, in the angles of the North-South magnetic axis of the Earth (i.e. 345° - 15 ° and 165° - 195 °), horses failed less often (0.047 ± 0.012 and 0.044 ± 0.013; LSMEAN ± SE) compared to the obstacles located out of the axis (0.107 ± 0.021, 0.099 ± 0.016, 0.082 ± 0.024 and 0.056 ± 0.013 in angles 45° - 75°, 195° - 225°, 75° - 105 ° and 255° - 285 °, respectively). The rank of obstacle within the course affected the probability of a fault as well; the later the obstacle within the show-jumping course, the higher the probability of a fault (F (1, 3734) = 40.26, P < 0.0001). As expected, there was large variability in the fault rate on individual obstacles. In conclusion, the results supported our hypothesis that the probability of a fault on the obstacle located at an angle in accordance with the North-South magnetic axis was lower than in other directions. This information can be used by trainers to set adequate training process (e.g. jumping the obstacles in the NSMAE direction in the beginning of training), or course designers to adjust the difficulty of particular competition courses. More research is needed to fully understand the role of magnetoreception in horse behaviour and decision making. Supported by project MZE-RO0718.

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