Thursday, November 5, 2009

Is your Horse Stressed?

New research from the University of Rennes in France links the presence and severity of stable vices to horse's performance disciplines.  76 horses were studied; all were stabled 23 hours per day, and exercised one hour per day.  Under these conditions, 65 horses exhibited "abnormal repetitive behaviors". Dressage horses were not only the most likely to exhibit vices in this study, but also developed more serious vices than the other horses.  The researchers add, 
Although some work stressors involved here may be specific to equine work, others are clearly shared with other species, including humans: emotions suppression, interpersonal conflict, physical demands, lack of reward and negative future expectancy that are associated with depression in humans.
Research should always have the goal of improving lives.  The Centaurian hopes the animals in this study will next be studied "at grass."  In human parlance, they need a vacation!

Hausberger M, Gautier E, Biquand V, Lunel C, J├ęgo P (2009) Could Work Be a Source of Behavioural Disorders? A Study in Horses. PLoS ONE 4(10): e7625.