Effects of different forms of exercise on post inhibitory rebound and unwanted behaviour in stabled horses

  • Freire R
  • Buckley P
  • Cooper J
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REASONS FOR PERFORMING STUDY: It is unknown if different locomotor activities are equally effective at meeting the stabled horse's need for exercise and if they attenuate unwanted behaviour. HYPOTHESIS: Alternative forms of exercise influence the intensity of locomotor activities during a period of turn-out (the so-called rebound effect) and the occurrence of unwanted or undesirable activities during standard handling situations. METHOD: Twenty-four horses kept in stables were randomly assigned to one of 4 exercise regimes (walker, treadmill, turn-out and riding) for 4 consecutive days. Because these forms of exercise provide additional environmental stimulation, beyond that provided by exercise, each horse served as its own control in 4 corresponding (no exercise) control treatments presented in a balanced order. Unwanted behaviour was tested by taking horses to weighing scales and loading and unloading them onto a 4-horse float by an experienced handler and the rebound effect was tested by releasing them into a large arena for a period of 15 min at the end of the exercise and control treatments. RESULTS: Locomotor activities made up a large part of behaviour in the large arena following control treatments and all exercise regimes were sufficient to reduce the intensity of walking (P < 0.05), trotting (P < 0.01) and cantering (P < 0.001) on release into a large arena. Exercise regime reduced the number of bucks (P < 0.01) and rolling (P < 0.05) during rebound tests suggesting that turn-out was having a stronger effect than the other 3 exercise regimes. Exercise regimes significantly reduced the amount of unwanted behaviour and the number of commands given by the handler during weighing (P < 0.05) but had no effect on these behaviours during loading onto a float. CONCLUSION: Providing stabled horses with one hour/day of exercise on a walker, treadmill, turn-out or by being ridden are all effective at allowing expression of locomotor activities in stabled horses. POTENTIAL RELEVANCE: Providing stabled horses with regular exercise is likely to provide positive effects on horse welfare, training ability and handler safety.

Author-supplied keywords

  • Exercise
  • Horse
  • Misbehaviour
  • Post inhibitory rebound
  • Stable housing

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  • R. Freire

  • P. Buckley

  • J. J. Cooper

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