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Hartmann, E., Bøe, K. E., Jørgensen, G. H. M., Mejdell, C. M., & Dahlborn, K. (2017). Management of horses with focus on blanketing and clipping practices reported by members of the Swedish and Norwegian equestrian community1. J Anim Sci, 95(3), 1104–1117.
Abstract: Limited information is available on the extent to which blankets are used on horses and the owners' reasoning behind clipping the horse's coat. Research on the effects of those practices on horse welfare is scarce but results indicate that blanketing and clipping may not be necessary from the horse's perspective and can interfere with the horse's thermoregulatory capacities. Therefore, this survey collected robust, quantitative data on the housing routines and management of horses with focus on blanketing and clipping practices as reported by members of the Swedish and Norwegian equestrian community. Horse owners were approached via an online survey, which was distributed to equestrian organizations and social media. Data from 4,122 Swedish and 2,075 Norwegian respondents were collected, of which 91 and 84% of respondents, respectively, reported using blankets on horses during turnout. Almost all respondents owning warmblood riding horses used blankets outdoors (97% in Sweden and 96% in Norway) whereas owners with Icelandic horses and coldblood riding horses used blankets significantly less (P < 0.05). Blankets were mainly used during rainy, cold, or windy weather conditions and in ambient temperatures of 10°C and below. The horse's coat was clipped by 67% of respondents in Sweden and 35% of Norwegian respondents whereby owners with warmblood horses and horses primarily used for dressage and competition reported clipping the coat most frequently. In contrast to scientific results indicating that recovery time after exercise increases with blankets and that clipped horses have a greater heat loss capacity, only around 50% of respondents agreed to these statements. This indicates that evidence-based information on all aspects of blanketing and clipping has not yet been widely distributed in practice. More research is encouraged, specifically looking at the effect of blankets on sweaty horses being turned out after intense physical exercise and the effect of blankets on social interactions such as mutual grooming. Future efforts should be tailored to disseminate knowledge more efficiently, which can ultimately stimulate thoughtful decision-making by horse owners concerning the use of blankets and clipping the horse's coat.
Hartmann, E., Christensen, J. W., & McGreevy, P. D. Dominance and leadership: Useful concepts in human-horse interactions? Journal of Equine Veterinary Science, .
Abstract: Dominance hierarchies in horses primarily influence priority access to limited resources of any kind, resulting in predictable contest outcomes that potentially minimize aggressive encounters and associated risk of injury. Levels of aggression in group-kept horses under domestic conditions have been reported to be higher than in their feral counterparts but can often be attributed to sub-optimal management. Horse owners often express concerns about the risk of injuries occurring in group-kept horses but these concerns have not been substantiated by empirical investigations. What has not yet been sufficiently addressed are human safety aspects related to approaching and handling group-kept horses. Given horses? natural tendency to synchronize activity to promote group cohesion, questions remain about how group dynamics influence human-horse interactions. Group dynamics influence a variety of management scenarios, ranging from taking a horse out of its social group to the prospect of humans mimicking the horse?s social system by taking a putative leadership role and seeking after an alpha position in the dominance hierarchy to achieve compliance. Yet, there is considerable debate about whether the roles horses attain in their social group are of any relevance in their reactions to humans. This article reviews the empirical data on social dynamics in horses, focusing on dominance and leadership theories and the merits of incorporating those concepts into the human-horse context. This will provide a constructive framework for informed debate and valuable guidance for owners managing group-kept horses and for optimizing human-horse interactions.
Keeling, L. J., Bøe, K. E., Christensen, J. W., Hyyppä, S., Jansson, H., Jørgensen, G. H. M., et al. Injury incidence, reactivity and ease of handling of horses kept in groups: a matched case control study in four Nordic countries. Appl Anim Behav Sci, .
Abstract: Abstract There is increasing interest in keeping horses in groups, but progress is hampered by a lack of knowledge about which horses can and should be kept together. Therefore, our objective was to investigate the effect of group composition on the occurrence of injuries among horses, the ease of removing horses from groups and horses’ reactivity to a fearful stimulus. Using a matched case control design, 61 groups of horses were studied in Denmark, Norway, Finland and Sweden. They were allocated into groups of similar or different age and sex or where membership changed regularly or remained stable. Injuries were recorded before mixing the horses into treatment groups, the day after mixing and four weeks later. Reactivity of horses to a moving novel object and the behaviour of a horse being removed from its group and the reactions of other group members towards this horse and the handler were evaluated. It was hypothesized that a more socially variable group composition has beneficial effects on behaviour, ease of handling and reducing reactivity whereas frequent changes in group composition has negative consequences, resulting in more injuries. We found that differences in treatment effects were mainly related to breed, rather than group composition. Icelandic horses reacted less to the movement of the novel object (P = 0.007) and approached it more afterwards (P = 0.04). They also had fewer new injuries than warmbloods following mixing (P < 0.001) and fewer than all other groups 4 weeks later (P < 0.01). Most new injuries after mixing were minor and recorded on the horse’s head, chest, hind legs and rump. In conclusion, variations in sex and age composition of the group had little effect on injury level, reactivity and ease of handling compared to the general effect of breed. Concerns about the risk of severe injuries associated with keeping horses in groups are probably overestimated. Thus, we propose that horses can be successfully kept in groups of different sex and age composition.
Hartmann, E., Søndergaard, E., & Keeling, L. J. (2012). Identifying potential risk situations for humans when removing horses from groups. Appl. Anim. Behav. Sci., 136(1), 37–43.
Abstract: Removing a horse from its social group may be considered risky, both for the handler and the horse, because other horses can interfere in the catching process. The main aim of this study was to identify where and when these risk situations occur while removing a horse from its group. A potential risk situation was defined by the closeness of loose horses in the group or by any physical contact with them. Whether the number of horses following would be influenced by the social rank of the horse being led out, and whether more horses would follow to the gate when a larger proportion of the group was removed compared to when a single horse was taken out were also investigated. Thirty-two mares (1–2 years) were kept in groups of four. All horses were taken out of their home paddock twice alone (64 tests) and twice with a companion (32 tests). One handler (or two handlers when two horses were removed) was asked to approach (phase 1) and catch the target horse (phase 2), walk it to the centre of the paddock and remain stationary at a post for 30 s (phase 3), walk to the paddock entrance (phase 4) and through the gate (phase 5). The number of horses following, and the number of loose horses in proximity (<2 m, 2–5 m) to the target horse and handler was estimated, and horse–horse and horse–human interactions were recorded continuously for the five scoring phases. Significantly more loose horses were within 2 m of a single target horse during the phases approach (mean ± SD: 1.5 ± 0.8), catch (1.6 ± 0.9) and post (1.7 ± 0.7) than during walk (1.0 ± 0.5) and gate (1.1 ± 0.6). Rank did not influence the number of horses following to the gate (high rank: 2.4 ± 0.7; lower rank: 2.0 ± 1.0; P = 0.396) and interactions between horses were rare. A greater proportion of the loose horses followed when two horses (0.9 ± 0.2) were removed compared to when a single horse (0.7 ± 0.3) was taken out (P = 0.011). In conclusion, maintaining a distance to other horses in the group by reducing the time being relatively stationary, so giving loose horses fewer chances to approach, is likely to contribute to improved handler's safety. Removing a small proportion of the group may also decrease the probability of the other horses following.
Hartmann, E., Søndergaard, E., & Keeling, L. J. Keeping horses in groups: A review. Appl. Anim. Behav. Sci., .
Abstract: Although husbandry conditions for horses have improved over the last decades, many horses are still kept singly with limited or no physical contact to other horses. This is surprising, given the fact that keeping horses in groups is recognised best to fulfil their physical and behavioural needs, especially their need for social contact with conspecifics, as well as to have a beneficial effect on horse–human interactions during training. Group housing of farm animals is widely applied in practice. As a consequence, scientists have investigated numerous aspects of group housing to help further improve animal welfare and human–animal interactions under these conditions. However, compared to this literature available in farm animals, and the plentiful studies conducted of feral horse populations, there is much less done when it comes to the management of horses kept in groups in the domestic environment. In particular, limited scientific information is available into the effect of group size and group composition on behaviour and methods of introducing new horses into established groups, even though problems related to social integration are repeatedly taken as arguments against keeping horses in groups. This review, therefore, aims to provide an overview of the current scientific knowledge regarding keeping horses in groups. Furthermore, it aims to give insight into whether or not some of the concerns related to keeping horses in groups are justified and to review scientifically based solutions that could be useful in practice to improve horse welfare and human safety.
Hartmann, E. (2010). Managing horses in groups to improve horse welfare and human safety. Ph.D. thesis, , .
Abstract: Managing horses in groups to improve horse welfare and human safety
reactions to mixing and separation
Hartmann, Elke (2010) Managing horses in groups to improve horse welfare and human safety . Doctoral diss. Dept. of Animal Environment and Health, SLU. Acta Universitatis agriculturae Sueciae vol. 2010:87.
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The aim of this thesis was to investigate whether specific anecdotal concerns related to keeping horses in groups are supported by science and, if so, provide scientifically based recommendations that could be implemented in practice.
The aim of studies I and II was to identify methods for mixing unfamiliar horses that could minimise aggressive interactions and associated risk of injury. Results of study I revealed that pre-exposure of young horses in neighbouring boxes tended to lower contact-aggression (e.g. kicks, strikes) and biting behaviour in particular was reduced when the same pair of horses subsequently met in a paddock. This was not found when older horses were mixed (study II). Aggressive behaviour received by a new horse was not significantly different in meetings when it met one other horse compared to meeting two unfamiliar horses at the same time.
Removing a horse from a group of four in study III was generally unproblematic. Most horses approached the handler when she was catching the horse and while standing with it in the middle of the paddock. Thus, potential risk may be higher in situations when the handler remains relatively stationary, as other horses of the group have time to approach. Rank did not influence the number of horses following to the paddock gate and interactions between horses were rare.
Since horses naïve to social separation may be more difficult to handle away from the group, the objective in study IV was to investigate whether the initial presence of a companion horse would modify responses to separation. Results revealed no significant differences in heart rates and the number of training sessions required when the horses were subsequently trained in the absence of the partner compared to horses trained alone from the start.
In summary, results give little support for the original areas of concerns about mixing and separating horses. Risk of injury to both horses and humans should not be overestimated when handling horses in groups, but being aware of potential risk situations and being able to react accordingly is likely to increase horse welfare and human safety.
Faculty: Faculty of Veterinary Medicine and Animal Science
equine, behaviour, welfare, housing, mixing, aggression, injury, separation, habituation, learning
horses, behaviour, bites, injurious factors, animal learning, animal welfare, sweden
Series.: Acta Universitatis agriculturae Sueciae
I. Hartmann, E., Winther Christensen, J., Keeling, L.J. (2009). Social interactions of unfamiliar horses during paired encounters: Effect of pre-exposure on aggression level and so risk of injury. Applied Animal Behaviour Science 121, 214-221.
II. Hartmann, E., Rundgren, M., Keeling, L.J. (in press). Comparison of 3 methods for mixing unfamiliar horses (Equus caballus). Journal of Equine Veterinary Behavior: Clinical Applications and Research.
III. Hartmann, E., Søndergaard, E., Keeling, L.J. Identifying potential risk situations for humans when removing horses from groups. Manuscript.
IV. Hartmann, E., Christensen, J.W., Keeling, L.J. (in press). Training young horses to social separation: Effect of a companion horse on training efficiency. Equine Veterinary Journal.
Number of pages: 75
Year of publication: 2010
ID Code: 2396
Deposited By: Hartmann, Elke
Deposited On: 08 November 2010
Hartmann, E., Keeling, L. J., & Rundgren, M. (2011). Comparison of 3 methods for mixing unfamiliar horses (Equus caballus). J Vet Behav Clin Appl Res, 6(1), 39–49.
Abstract: Horses are likely to exhibit aggression when meeting for the first time. Therefore, this study compared 3 methods for mixing horses to evaluate their effectiveness in reducing aggressive interactions: (1) mixing pairs of horses in a paddock (P, 10 minutes, 15 tests), (2) introducing 1 unfamiliar horse to a pair of familiar, resident horses in a paddock (PP, 10 minutes, 15 tests), (3) allowing limited physical contact between pairs of horses for a short period of pre-exposure in neighboring boxes (B, 5 minutes, 16 tests) before mixing them in a paddock (BP, 10 minutes 16 tests). A total of 16 Swedish Standardbred mares, aged 6-18 years (mean age ± SD: 11 ± 4.4), were included in the study. Half of the horses were familiar with each other (resident horses, n = 8), whereas the other half were bought in from a variety of sources (unfamiliar horses, n = 8). Social interactions, consisting of behaviors from the sender, the receiver, and the subsequent sender's response, were recorded continuously as frequencies. There were no differences in the frequencies of aggressive behaviors between the 3 mixing methods, including those aggressive behaviors in which physical contact had been attempted (kick, strike). Although resident horses were overall more aggressive (median number of aggressive behaviors per horse, 62; Q1, 36; Q3, 68.5) than unfamiliar horses (median per horse, 4; Q1, 2; Q3, 12.5) during all tests (U = 97, P = 0.003), none of the 62 tests needed to be terminated. Unfamiliar horses did not receive more aggression from resident horses in PP (mean per test ± SD: 5.1 ± 3.1) than in P (mean per test ± SD: 6.4 ± 4.9) (t = 0.63, P = 0.544). However, the behavior “attack” was more frequent in PP (median per test, 2; Q1, 0; Q3, 5) than in P (median per test, 0; Q1, 0; Q3, 1) (U = 282, P = 0.042), and “flee” was more frequent in PP (median per test, 6; Q1, 4; Q3, 8) than in P (median per test, 1; Q1, 0; Q3, 6) (U = 290, P = 0.018). Pre-exposure in boxes did not reduce aggression in BP (median per test, 7; Q1, 4.3; Q3, 11.8) as compared with P (median per test, 6; Q1, 2; Q3, 16) (U = 264, P = 0.767), but during pre-exposure in B tests, horses exchanged more nonaggressive (median per test, 2; Q1, 0.3; Q3, 4) than aggressive (median frequency of aggressive behavior, 0; Q1, 0; Q3, 1) (W = 71, P = 0.013) and mixed interactions (median per test, 0; Q1, 0; Q3, 1) (W = 92, P = 0.016) through the opening. Results suggest mixing an unfamiliar horse with 2 resident horses at the same time instead of one by one may be preferable. In this way, the total aggression received by the unfamiliar horse will potentially be less, even though aggressive interactions may be more intense.
Hartmann, E., Christensen, J. W., & Keeling, L. J. (2009). Social interactions of unfamiliar horses during paired encounters: Effect of pre-exposure on aggression level and so risk of injury. Appl. Anim. Behav. Sci., 121(3-4), 214–221.
Abstract: Group housing of horses is not widely applied in practice despite the welfare advantages of keeping animals socially rather than individually. In particular, concerns have been raised about the possible increased risk of injury and how to introduce a new horse into an established group. This study investigated two hypotheses: (1) pre-exposure of young horses in neighbouring boxes reduces the frequency of aggressive interactions when the same horses are subsequently put together in a paddock compared to horses without this previous box experience, (2) the occurrence of aggressive behaviour, in particular contact aggression in the paddock can be predicted after observing the horses' social interactions in neighbouring boxes. Danish Warmblood mares (n = 20), 2 years old, were kept in two groups of 10 horses. In total, 60 encounters were arranged whereby each horse was confronted pair-wise with six horses from the other group, three according to each treatment: treatment I--box (B) and subsequent paddock meeting (BP), and treatment II--only paddock meeting (P). Horses met in neighbouring boxes for 5 min and together in the same paddock for 10 min. The frequencies of aggressive and non-aggressive interactions were analysed from video recordings. Total aggression levels between BP and P did not differ, but [`]contact aggression', i.e. bite, kick, strike, push, tended to be lower in BP compared to P (median BP = 1, P = 2; p = 0.083) and there were less bites in BP than P (median BP = 0, P = 1; p = 0.050). Frequencies of [`]non-aggressive' interactions, e.g. friendly approach, nasal sniff, were lower in BP than P (median BP = 2.5, P = 10; p < 0.01). Results further revealed that [`]bite threat' performed in boxes correlated with [`]contact aggression' in the paddock (r = 0.46, p = 0.011). In conclusion, pre-exposure of young horses in neighbouring boxes may reduce [`]contact aggression', especially biting, in the paddock and [`]bite threat' shown in boxes may help to predict contact aggression when horses are later turned out together. The reduced non-aggressive interactions in the paddock in the BP test were probably a consequence of horses having exchanged these behaviours in the preceding B test. Exposing young horses in boxes next to each other may be a helpful tool before mixing them because horses meet in a safe environment that could assist in reducing the type of aggression where horses are most at risk of being injured.