New research at Charles Sturt University (CSU) has established that providing a stabled horse with one hour of exercise a day has beneficial effects on horse welfare and handler safety.
Research leader Dr Raf Freire, lecturer in animal behaviour and welfare from the School of Animal and Veterinary Sciences at CSU at Wagga Wagga says “Many social animals in zoos and farms respond badly to small enclosures and social isolation and there is an urgent need to determine whether stabled horses experience similar welfare issues, and if so how these effects can be ameliorated through changes in management practices.”.
The study involved 24 horses, including thoroughbreds and stock horses, housed at the University’s Equine Centre at Wagga Wagga in 2008. The stabled horses were allocated one of four exercise routines; walker, treadmill, turn-out into a paddock, and riding.
In order to test responses to handling and stable housing, horse behaviour was recorded during loading and unloading onto a horse float and when released into a large arena after their exercise regime.
“We found that the exercise regimes significantly reduced the amount of unwanted behaviour and the number of commands given by a handler,” said Dr Freire
“Unwanted behaviour in horses is the leading factor in horse-related injuries and deaths in adults and children. So understanding what leads horses to ‘misbehave’ is critical to reducing the high levels of horse-related injuries and accidents.”
The international research team included Dr Freire and Dr Petra Buckley - also from the School of Animal and Veterinary Sciences - and Dr Jonathan Cooper from the Department of Biological Sciences at the University of Lincoln in the United Kingdom.
The research was funded by grants from Charles Sturt University and the EH Graham Centre for Agricultural Innovation – an alliance between CSU and the NSW Department of Primary Industries.
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