MAY 2021 THE RIDER /27 ^Between The Ears^

alone or unable to visually see other horse companions. So what can we do to im- prove these scenarios? The University of Lin-

By Ellie Ross Social animals that are

isolated in their stall or in transit on a trailer usually exhibit signs of stress. This stress can be noted physio- logically by measuring the heart rate and also the ear and rectal temperatures . So- cial cohesion is far too often overlooked when horses un- avoidably have to go on stall rest or be trailered without a companion. Even in tradi- tional stabling, horses are often isolated and unable to see other horse companions. Weaving, stall walking, head-nodding etc. are all be- haviours believed to be caused by the distress of so- cial isolation.

Trailering stress - A study was performed

using 12 horses trailering in the same method - a two horse straight load bumper pull trailer for a 30 minute trip. There were significant differences in both behav- iour and physiologically be- tween travelling alone and travelling with a horse com- panion. All horses showed an increase in heart rate and temperature when travel- ling. As expected, the horses travelling alone had the highest heart rates, temper- atures and most stress be- haviours

. The stress

behaviours were head turn- ing (looking for other horses), vocalizing , head tossing, pawing and less in- terest in eating.

It is often said that a

horse finds it more stressful when a trailer stops moving as that is when the most ac- tivity such as pawing occurs but it actually isn’t about the horse’s preference that the trailer keep moving. Its about the fact that horses are most stable putting weight on all four feet (balance preservation) when the trailer is in motion. When the trailer stops moving, the horse has the opportunity to paw. Pawing is considered a displacement activity from barrier frustration and is most notably observed when horses are tied or re- strained in some manner, unable to reach another horse. Another interesting finding was that isolated horses had a reduction time in eating and drinking. They found that horses

eat when other horses eat and its fair to say that horses are not eating when they are screaming, head turning and/or pawing. This is a contributing factor to horses dehydration and weight loss from shipping. Heart rates also increased when travel- ling on uneven roads, stop and go (perhaps anticipation of arrival). The only factor that contributed to a signifi- cant reduction in heart rate while trailering was travel- ling with another horse companion. Stall rest/ stable isola-

tion - The same behaviours in trailering alone were noted in the stable when

coln, U.K., undertook a year long study into the use of mirrors as a surrogate com- panion to reduce the stress of isolation. The results had an enormously varied re- sponse but overall it was found to be beneficial. Very few horses responded ag- gressively but their histories showed these horses were not social anyway, therefore it is not recommended in these cases. In the majority of cases, it was stated that the mirror provided a calm- ing influence. Some results were more gradual than oth- ers and a few initially re- ported no benefit, only to change that statement a month or two later. It is most important to

note that only shatterproof acrylic mirrors be used and careful consideration to placement is given. Placing the mirror where a horse would be facing, an up- close reflection while eating its grain, is likely to increase stress. The ideal placement of the surrogate companion mirror is obviously away from anywhere the horse is feeding. The most success- ful position was just in side the stall door. There were also reports of an increase in successful stallion collec- tion on phantom mares when a mirror was placed where the stallion could see his reflection. In conclusion, it bene-

ficial to have a travel com- panion for your horse whenever possible but the use of a mirror in the study group did show a reduction in some of the stress behav- iours and a small reduction in the physiological meas- urements. Therefore the use of a mirror is preferable over trailering alone. In stabling or even

paddock isolation, the use of a mirror in most cases, was beneficial and most owners reported a reduction in anx-

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iety and or stress behav- iours. Horses that were turned out in an arena with mirrors

were observed to prefer to be standing close to the mir- rors.

Another added bonus

was that horses that were weavers were found to ex- hibit a reduction in weaving in a formal study in the U.K.

Reducing stress in trailering alone, stall rest or other isolation events

This study basically

squashes the accusation that other horses learn to weave from seeing a weaver do it! The reason why other horses in the barn begin to weave is not due to the observation of another horse. It is due to the same living conditions. If weaving was an observa- tional habit formed , then horses with mirrors would likely weave more not less. Researcher Daniel Mills got the idea to use mirrors with weavers when he became aware of the other studies being done to use mirrors to reduce stress of isolation. Other undesirable behav- iours such as ear pinning, head tossing and other head threats were significantly re- duced following the instal- lation of mirrors in the stall. This month I finally

get to bring home my in- jured weanling filly who will be on stall rest for 4 months and I am sure you can guess what will be in her stall.

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