Competition Horses Housed in Single Stalls (II): Effects of Free Exercise on the Behavior in the Stable, the Behavior during Training, and the Degree of Stress
Citable Link (URL):http://resolver.sub.uni-goettingen.de/purl?gs-1/7076
Although housing horses in single stalls limits their natural behaviour to a great extent, this housing system is widespread in Germany, especially for competition horses. To improve the welfare of this system, free exercise on pastures or paddocks is deemed suitable, but it is also feared because of injuries and decreased willingness/motivation to perform. In the present study, three treatments were investigated with regard to their effect on the behaviour of six competition horses in the stable and during training, and on their degree of stress: daily training without free exercise (NT), solitary turnout for two hours after training (ST) and two-hour turnout in groups of two after training (GT). The horses’ behaviour in the stable was continuously analysed via video recordings (2 pm to 6 am) on three days at the end of each treatment. The degree of stress was evaluated daily by heart rate variability (HRV) at rest. The behaviour during training was evaluated by a questionnaire answered by the riders and the distance covered during training was measured by GPS. When no turnout was allowed (NT), the horses showed less lying in the stable compared to the treatments with turnout. HRV measurements resulted in great individual differences but generally there was a higher degree of stress shown with the treatment NT according to the parameters SDNN, RMSSD and LF/HF. The willingness to perform was evaluated as being slightly better in the treatments with turnout than in the treatment without turnout.