‘Alarming’ findings of equine research at Hartpury


Horse riders are over-estimating how much they actually know about equine topics, according to the “alarming” results of new research by Hartpury University.

Dr Jane Williams – Head of the Animal and Agriculture Department at Hartpury – joined Dr David Marlin, Dr Hayley Randle from Charles Sturt University and Dr Lynn Pal in carrying out the first study of its kind into the Dunning-Kruger (DK) effect on equestrians.

The DK effect is when people who show low levels of competence in carrying out a particular task mistakenly believe they are performing better than they actually are.

The new study suggested equestrians don’t have a realistic insight into their own equine knowledge – potentially putting themselves and their horses at risk of injury.

Dr Williams said: “It is widely accepted that having an insight into one’s ability and performance is an essential part of being a professional. Self-evaluation, self-efficacy and confidence are key factors in any successful career.

“Many people will have experienced a situation where someone else’s performance is below average, but they are confident their performance is excellent.

“This is the first study to demonstrate horse riders over-estimate their knowledge, indicating an over-confidence – they think they know more than they actually know.

“For the equine industry, the findings from this preliminary study are very alarming and raise welfare, mental health and safety concerns.”

For the study, 123 non-equine participants were asked to answer 40 general knowledge questions and 128 equine participants were asked complete 40 equine-related questions.

All participants were subsequently asked to estimate whether they felt they had answered the questions correctly.

While non-equine participants were accurate about their ability to predict their general knowledge, equine participants demonstrated an over-estimation of their equine knowledge.

Dr Williams said: “This preliminary study found all equestrians had an inflated confidence in their equine-related knowledge, indicating that equine-related individuals have only moderate insight into their abilities.

Dr Marlin said: “Future research must address the role of contextual factors, such as whether the effect is limited to equine-related material only.

“Furthermore, research is required to investigate over-estimation of physical skills, such as riding or horse care management and performance.”

This study is among a number taking place within the Animal Welfare Arena at Hartpury.

The expertise and experience of lecturers at Hartpury spans all areas of animal and agricultural sciences, and all staff are actively involved in research and knowledge exchange, either as researchers or practitioners.

Research is fully integrated within teaching, with staff research active in the areas in which they teach and many dissertations embedded in larger scale research projects.

All research activity either directly or indirectly informs not only current industry practice but also the curriculum.

Picture: Dr Jane Williams

Share this article