emotional care of our horses
Here are a couple of articles that might be eye opening to some folks.
The research articles were interesting, but I didn't find them surprising at all.
On the first article, I would have guessed without a doubt that dressage is the most stressful for the horse, without even reading the article, because dressage requires such perfection from the horse and he doesn't have an outlet for the stress. I think dressage even looks stressful for the rider! The other two disciplines- eventing and vaulting allow the horse some freedom of movement to move out and the rider is not micro-managing their every move and asking for complex control of their body while changing gaits and tempos. I did find it kind of sad that the horses were kept stalled and only got one hour a day of exercise, but maybe that is common.
The second article is also common sense because horses are herd animals and of course they are more stressed, worried, and less happy when stabled by themselves. Two together is definitely better, and if they put them in a herd of several horses with room to move around and plenty of pasture, I bet the horses would be happier still. :D
So I guess the moral of the story is horses don't like isolation and stress. Who does?
I bet trail and pleasure horses who are kept in a herd environment are amongst the least stressed horses. Heck, that probably extends to broodmares and foals too (at least up until weaning time).
dressage can be a lot less stressful then some people make it, we have to remember that!
My horse takes dressage more seriously then I do! She gets so worked up if she thinks she did something wrong that I have to stop and pat her and just walk for a while, poor girl. But it can be stressful, that's for sure! I have a dressage show in a few days and before a test I feel like throwing up! Poor RENs has to save me and show me how wel She can do. I think the best way to take a LOAD of stress of a horse is to make sure they know riding/dressage if a HOBBY. Guys get all worked up about football games, but we CAN NOT get worked up about riding, if we do we do damage to our horses minds and sometimes even bodies.A rider treating it like it's just for fun makes the horse feel like that to, which is nice for the horse. :)
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I guess I was thinking more of upper level dressage riders, like they showed pictures of in the article. When you get to really high levels of any discipline, the stress will go up. When you do it casually or for fun, it is less stressful for man and horse. :-)
Our horses turn into snorters getting 'high'
"The length of time in stalls may have an influence."
I'd be far more interested in a study where they looked at a population of horses that had turnout and normal social interaction with other horses. The fact that 65 out of 76 horses have stereotypies suggests that spending 23 hours per day in a stall is the principle cause of equine stress and neuroses and subsequently, developing behaviours like cribbing, weaving, and so on. Then I'd argue that the personality of the horse, the type of work it's asked to do, the diet it's on, who it's neighbours are, and other variables come into play in determining whether or not an individual horse housed under those circumstances acquires a stereotypey behaviour. I think this article (and possibly the researchers) were too quick to link it to the demands of upper level dressage. It might be, but it might not be. Here's a theory I think equally as valid. "Hot" or high-strung horses kept confined most of the day may well be more likely to develop these behaviours (in my experience, they are). It also so happens that most upper level dressage horses are fairly hot, while a vaulting horse is generally a laid back and relaxed character. So the type of horse more likely to succeed in the upper levels of dressage is also the horse more likely to acquire stereotypies in certain kinds of environments.
The second article on the other hand offers some solid empirical evidence that social isolation can cause stress related behaviour.
The third article in spirithorse's last post was interesting, especially where it discussed how stall vices most likely develop in young horses (which disputes the theory that if your horse is stabled next a cribber, he will start to crib).
One of the boarders at my barn just bought a weanling. The filly, who was kept in a pasture with her mother, was weaned by her move to our barn and now she is to be kept in a stall for two weeks. The barn owner quarantines (of a sort. The horse is kept in the same barn as everyone else but it is not allowed to be turned out with them and you can't touch it. Not sure how effective this sort of "quarantine" actually is but that's a different discussion) every incoming horse for two weeks due to concerns she has about strangles. Also, the fillies owner is concerned that if she lets the filly loose in the field, she might not catch her again. We don't even have an enclosed arena so they can't let the filly out of her stall.
I appreciate these concerns but if this were my filly I wouldn't be happy. The filly is tolerating it but she does a lot of box walking and whinnying. I'd probably print this article out for the barn owner and then discuss possible solutions other than keeping the filly in a stall for two weeks. The last thing I'd want is to deal with a cribber/box walker/weaver of my own making for the next twenty-five to thirty years.
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