HORSES DON’T HAVE STAGE FRIGHT but their riders do! Research shows horses appear not to be affected by the presence of spectators. M ost of us are familiar with stage fright – with all its nasty manifestations such as rapid pulse, dry mouth, shaky voice, blushing and sweaty palms – but is the condition restricted to humans? How do animals react to the presence of human audiences? These questions have recently been addressed by the University of Veterinary Medicine, Vienna. Their results confirm that horse riders suffer more stress when performing in front of an audience than when practising for the event, but that the horses themselves react identically whether or not spectators are present. The horses and their riders thus perceive the challenges of competing in equestrian events differently. It is well known that horses show symptoms of stress when ridden, but relatively little attention has been paid to the effects on their riders. This is surprising, as equestrian sports rely on the close cooperation between the animals and their riders. How does the horse-rider team cope with the stress involved in competing in an Continued equestrian event? The results of this study imply that riders do not communicate their heightened anxiety at performing in front of spectators to their horses.