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Cerasoli, F., Podaliri Vulpiani, M., Saluti, G., Conte, A., Ricci, M., Savini, G., et al. (2022). Assessment of Welfare in Groups of Horses with Different Management, Environments and Activities by Measuring Cortisol in Horsehair, Using Liquid Chromatography Coupled to Hybrid Orbitrap High-Resolution Mass Spectrometry (Vol. 12). Animals, 12(14).
Abstract: Horses have always been animals used for companionship, work, transportation, and performance purposes over the history of humanity; there are different ways of managing horses, but studies on how horse welfare is influenced by different activities and managements are scanty. Understanding how the management, the environment, and the different uses of horses can affect the level of stress and well-being is important not only for people associated with horses. Three groups of horses with different management, environments, and activities were selected: (1) stabled horses ridden frequently, (2) horses that perform public order service under the Italian state police, and (3) free-ranging horses. Cortisol analysis was carried out on horsehair samples using liquid chromatography coupled to hybrid orbitrap high-resolution mass spectrometry (LC-HRMS/MS), a laboratory technique used for the first time to quantify horsehair cortisol. The selection of horses to be included in the three groups was carried out by including only subjects with positive welfare assessment in accordance with the horse welfare assessment protocol (AWIN). These analyses demonstrated that the cortisol levels detected in the horsehair of free-ranging animals were significantly higher compared to those detected in stabled and working horses. These results may have been a consequence of complex environmental, managerial, and behavioral factors, which should be worth further investigation