INVESTIGATING EVALUATOR BIAS WHEN ASSESSING POTENTIAL PERFORMANCE HORSES WITH RESPECT TO HORSE COAT COLOUR
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Colour bias in judging has been suggested in a variety of subjectively judged sports, but has not previously been examined in equine performance evaluations. Potential performance evaluations, such as the British Breeding Futurity (BBF), can increase the momentary value of a horse, as status is given to horses with a premium evaluation record. The existence of bias in scoring could have economic implications particularly because the numbers of low value equids have increased in Britain, leading to worrying numbers of equine welfare cases. The potential occurrence of horse coat colour bias was investigated by 1) comparison of differences in BBF component and premium scores according to differently grouped horse colours (n=4001) using One-way ANOVA and Tukey HSD post hoc analysis, 2) analysis of the effect of different disciplines (dressage, eventing, show jumping and endurance), years (2008-2014) and regions on BBF scores according to horse colour, using permutation based analysis in PRIMER-E, 3) evaluation of the breed registrations of BBF horses and their genetic potential using the WBFSH top 100 stallion lists and 4) examination of British equestrians perception of horse colour bias using a questionnaire and subsequent analysis in SPSS (n=65). A significant difference in mean BBF scores was found between block coloured and spotted horses (and grey horses in dressage and eventing) compared to all other horse coat colours (p<0.05). The difference in scores between horse colours (R=0.094) was greater than the difference over time (R=0.082) and between regions (R=0.027). Grey/block coloured dressage evaluated horses (2014) had significantly lower scores than bay horses with a similar genetic potential (p=0.012). Spotted horses was the least favourite horse coat colour amongst survey participants (p=0.001) and also the colour thought to be least favoured by BBF evaluators. However, the majority of survey participants (55%) did not believe horse coat colour bias exists in the BBF. In conclusion, horse coat colour bias is suggested, proposed by the significantly lower scores of block coloured, spotted and, in part, grey horses in the BBF. This is attributed to the high visibility and possible motion camouflaging nature of these colours in addition to a historic negative bias amongst British equestrians.
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