Jørgensen, G. H. M., Liestøl, S. H. - O., & Bøe, K. E. (2011). Effects of enrichment items on activity and social interactions in domestic horses (Equus caballus). Appl. Anim. Behav. Sci., 129(2), 100–110.
Abstract: The aim of this study was to investigate the use of items intended to provide enrichment during turnout, both for individual and group kept horses in an attempt to reduce the amount of passive behaviours. The study was divided into two parts, where study 1 involved eight horses rotated through eight individual paddocks, each containing one of seven enrichment items and one paddock being kept without item, functioning as a control. The horses' item-directed behaviours; passive behaviours or other non-item related activities were scored using instantaneous sampling, every minute for 1h at the beginning and the end of the turnout period. Study 2 involved six horse groups (3-6 horses) and the same scoring methods and ethogram as in study 1. The four items that the horses interacted the most with during study 1 (straw STRA, ball filled with concentrates CBALL, branches BRAN and scratching pole POLE) are investigated in study 2. In addition, the amount of social interactions was recorded. Both horses kept individually (P<0.05) and in groups (P<0.0001) performed significantly more item-directed behaviours towards edible items like STRA and CBALL than other objects. There was, however, no overall relation between the numbers of item-directed behaviours and the number of passive behaviours observed, indicating that the enrichment items did not alone reduce the amount of passive behaviours during turnout periods. Such a reduction was, however, only apparent when horses spent more time eating green leaves growing on the paddock surface (R=-0.97 study 1, R=-0.67 study 2, P<0.0001). Access to STRA in group kept horses also seemed to reduce the amount of agonistic behaviours (P<0.0001). In conclusion, if grass is not available in paddocks, the provision of roughage reduces the amount of passive behaviours in singly kept horses and it also reduces the risk of agonistic interactions between horses kept in group.
Wyss, C. (2015). Does housing in a „social box“ change faecal cortisol metabolites concentration in stallions? In Proceedings of the 3. International Equine Science Meeting.
Abstract: In order to improve the housing conditions of stallions in individual boxes by offering a possibility to have more social contact, the Swiss national stud farm tested a new box system for horses, allowing increased physical contact with the neighbouring stallion. The aim of this part of the study was to investigate whether this type of housing system (named “social box”) potentially induces a change in stress reactions in stallions compared to conventional boxes. Therefore faecal cortisol metabolite (FCM) concentration was measured as a non-invasive parameter to assess endocrine responses related to this new environment.
Four groups each consisting of eight adult Freiberger breeding stallions were included in the test design. Every stallion spent three weeks in a conventional box and in a social box respectively (cross-over design). The conventional box consisted of a separation wall with a lower opaque part and an upper part with vertical barriers (5 cm between barriers), allowing visual and olfactory contact but strongly limiting tactile contact. The separating wall of the social box consisted of two lateral sections, one part being opaque to the ceiling and the second part consisting of vertical barriers (30 cm between barriers), allowing the horse to have physical contact with its neighbour or to avoid it.
In horses, FCM concentration reflects an average level of circulating cortisol over a period of approximatively 24h. Faecal samples were collected the day following integration in social / conventional boxes, reflecting the potential stress induced by increased social interactions during the integration. In order to asses potential chronical stress, faeces samples were also collected in week one, two and three after the integration into the social / conventional box (in total: 4 samples per horse and housing system). The samples were immediately stored at -20°C until they were analysed. The samples were not analysed in the laboratory until the end of the experiment, therefore the duration of conservation in the freezer varied from 40 to 429 days.
A considerable percentage of data from groups 1 and 2 was below the detection limit (<0.8 ng/g) (Tab. 1). Thus the statistical analysis was conducted with the FCM concentration from groups 3 and 4 (n horses = 16) which contained no values below the detection limit.
Tab. 1: Details about FCM values and storage time for the 4 groups of stallions
Group Storage duration [d] Proportion of data below the detection limit (<0.8 ng/g) Mean [ng/g] Median [ng/g]
Group 1 384-429 55.6 % 2.2 0
Group 2 315-360 25.5 % 5.8 6.3
Group 3 41-79 0.0 % 8.7 8.0
Group 4 40-85 0.0 % 5.8 5.4
Despite the impressive social interactions observed between the stallions directly after being introduced into the social boxes, we did not find any differences in FCM concentration between the stallions being introduced into the conventional box and the social box on the day of integration (social box: n samples = 16, mean±SD: 6.9±4.7 ng/g; conventional box: n samples = 16, mean±SD: 9.0±11.2 ng/g; Wilcoxon signed rank test V = 70, p = 0.94).
Overall the samples taken during integration and in week one, two and three did not show evidence of changes in FCM concentration in either housing system over a longer period of time (social box: n samples = 64, mean±SD: 7.9±6.2 ng/g; conventional box: n samples = 64, mean±SD: 6.6±3.4 ng/g; Linear mixed model (LMM), p = 0.56).
Our results suggest that the possibility of having physical contact with a conspecific does not induce changes in FCM concentration in breeding stallions. The considerable percentage of values below the detection limit in groups 1 and 2 seemed to correlate with the increasing duration of storage before analysis. During the IESM Network Meeting 2015, we would like to discuss possible methodological issues and the possibilities to correctly integrate these low values in the statistical analysis.
Ahrendt, L. P., Christensen, J. W., & Ladewig, J. (2012). The ability of horses to learn an instrumental task through social observation. In Applied Animal Behaviour Science (Vol. 139, pp. 105–113).
Abstract: The ability of horses to learn through social observation may ease the implementation of new management systems, because the use of automatic feeders etc. by naive horses could be facilitated by observation of experienced horses. However, previous studies found no documentation for observational learning abilities in horses. This study aimed to investigate the ability of horses to learn an instrumental task from a familiar conspecific when social interaction was allowed during the demonstration. Two similar experiments were performed. In the first experiment, Observer horses (n=11) participated in ten successive demonstrations, where a trained Demonstrator opened an operant device by pushing a sliding lid aside with the muzzle in order to obtain a food reward. Immediately after the demonstrations the Observer horses were given the opportunity to operate the device alone. Control horses (n=11) were aware that the device contained food but were presented to the operant device without demonstration of the task. The learning criterion was at least two openings. Accomplishment of and latency to accomplish the learning criterion, and investigative behaviour towards the operant device were recorded. Five Observers and one Control, out of the eleven horses in each treatment group, accomplished the learning criterion. Even though this presents a high odds ratio (OR) in favour of the Observer treatment (OR=7.6), there was no significant difference between the treatment groups (P=0.15). Analysis of investigative behaviour showed, however, that the demonstrations increased the motivation of the Observer horses to investigate the device. Subsequently, a similar experiment was performed in a practical setting with 44 test horses (mixed age, gender and breed). We used the same operant device and the same number and type of demonstrations, although the horses were held on a loose rope to minimise aggression. In this second experiment, six of 23 Observer horses and five of 21 Control horses learned the instrumental task, representing no influence of the demonstration. Thus, this study did not demonstrate an ability of horses to learn an instrumental task through observation.
Zeitler-Feicht, M. H., Streit, S., & Dempfle, L. (2011). Automatic feeding systems for horses in group housing systems with regard to animal welfare. Part 2: Comparison of different automatic feeding systems. Tierärztl Prax, 39(G), 33–40.
Abstract: Ziel: Überprüfung der Tiergerechtheit von in der Bauweise unterschiedlichen
Futterabrufstationen für Pferde in Gruppenhaltung anhand ethologischer
und physiologischer Parameter. Material und Methoden: In 32
Offenlaufställen (452 Pferde) mit computergesteuerten Abrufstationen
für Kraftfutter und Heu erfolgten kontinuierliche Direktbeobachtungen
für je einen 24-Stunden-Tag (Tortenstückverfahren). Erfasst wurden: Aufenthaltsdauer,
Besuchshäufigkeit, Droh- und Meideverhalten im Fütterungsbereich,
Blockaden sowie Herzfrequenz und Integumentverletzungen.
Ergebnisse: Eine Durchlaufstation reduzierte die Zahl der Auseinandersetzungen
im Fütterungsbereich signifikant. Ansonsten erhöhten die
für das fressende Pferd tiergerechten Varianten (Fressstand mit Eingangssperre,
ohne Austreibehilfe) Besuchshäufigkeit und Aufenthaltsdauer und
steigerten somit auch die Anzahl an Drohgesten je Tier und Tag. Insgesamt
betrachtet kann jedoch die Anzahl an sozionegativen Interaktionen
im Fütterungsbereich der Abrufstationen als relativ gering eingestuft
werden. Die Herzfrequenz lag im Warteareal bei den meisten Pferden im
physiologischen Bereich (45,1 ± 12,42 Schläge/min), erhöhte sich jedoch
in der Abrufstation um ca. 20 Schläge/min. Einige Tiere zeigten möglicherweise
stressbedingt kurzfristig auffallend hohe Werte (≥ 100 Schläge/
min). Integumentverletzungen im Zusammenhang mit dem Fütterungssystem
traten nicht auf. Der wichtigste Einflussfaktor auf die Untersuchungskriterien
war der Betrieb (Fläche, Konzeption, Management).
Schlussfolgerung: Durchlaufstationen sind pferdegerechter als Rücklaufstationen.
Nicht tiergerecht sind Stationen mit stromführender Austreibehilfe.
Weitere bauliche Unterschiede der derzeitigen Futterabrufstationen
dürften eher von untergeordneter Bedeutung sein, vor allem da
Flächengebot und Konzeption der Offenstallanlage sowie das Management
die überprüften Kriterien zur Tiergerechtheit maßgeblich beeinflussen.
Untersuchungen zur Abklärung der Ursache für die vereinzelt aufgetretenen
sehr hohen Herzfrequenzwerte sollten durchgeführt werden.
Objective: Comparison with regard to animal welfare of different automatic
feeding systems for hay and concentrate in group housing systems
for horses using parameters of ethology and physiology. Material and
methods: Parameters of research comprised: duration of stay, frequency
of visit, threatening behaviour with and without risk of injury, and avoiding
behaviour as well as heart rate and injuries of the integument. 452
horses were observed at the feeding area of 32 run-out-sheds. Every group
of horses was continuously observed following the pie chart system for
24 hours. Results: The “walk-through” station significantly reduced the
number of conflicts in the feeding area, whereas those systems which are
appropriate for the feeding horses (feeding station with access barrier and
without stimulation device by electric shock) led to a higher frequency of
visits and a longer duration of stay resulting in more threatening gestures.
However, the number of negative interactions in the feeding area of the
feeding systems can all together be classified as relatively insignificant.
The heart rate was within the physiological range (45.1 ± 12.42 beats/min)
in the waiting area, but increased by approximately 20 beats/min on average
within the feeding station. Some horses showed a very high heart rate
(≥ 100 beats/min) while entering the feeding station, possibly stress-related.
There were no injuries of the integument associated with the feeding
systems. The most important factor of the observation criteria was the
individual group housing system with its different dimensions, conception
and management. Conclusion: “Walk-through” stations are better than
”walk-back” stations with regard to animal welfare. Likewise, automatic
feeding stations with a current-carrying stimulation device are not supportive
of good welfare. The other differences between the constructions
of feeding stations of present systems are probably of less importance, particularly
as it was shown that the stable (management, stable area, conception)
had a significant influence on the surveyed parameters. Investigations
to obtain information on the cause for the sporadic occurrence of
very high heart rate values should be undertaken.]
Keywords: Pferd, Fütterungssystem, Bauvarianten, soziale Interaktionen, Besuchshäufigkeit, Aufenthaltsdauer, Herzfrequenz, Verletzungsrisiko [Horse, feeding system, different types of construction, social interactions, visiting frequency, duration of stay, heart rate, risk of injury]
Zeitler-Feicht, M. H., Streit, S., & Dempfle, L. (2010). Automatic feeding systems for horses in group housing systems with regard to animal welfare. Part 1: Feeding stalls versus automatic feeding systems. Tierärztl Prax, 38(G), 363–370.
Abstract: Gegenstand und Ziel: Überprüfung der Tiergerechtheit von Abrufstationen
für Kraftfutter und Heu in der Gruppenhaltung von Pferden anhand
ethologischer und physiologischer Parameter im Vergleich zu konventionellen
Fressständen. Material und Methoden: Die Verhaltensbeobachtungen
fanden in 11 bzw. 10 Offenlaufställen mit Abrufstationen
bzw. Fressständen statt. 270 Pferde wurden individuell unterschieden.
Untersuchungsparameter waren: Drohverhalten mit und ohne Verletzungsrisiko,
Meideverhalten, Verdrängung aus dem Fressstand sowie
Herzfrequenz und Integumentverletzungen. In jedem Betrieb erfolgten
kontinuierliche Direktbeobachtungen für je einen 24-Stunden-Tag (Tortenstückverfahren).
Ergebnisse: Im Wartebereich der Abrufautomaten
traten signifikant mehr Drohgesten ohne bzw. mit Verletzungsgefahr je
Pferd und Tag (8,6 bzw. 3,0) auf als im Wartebereich der Fressstände
(3,4 bzw. 0,9). Demgegenüber konnten die Pferde in Abrufstationen
(1,4 Drohgesten je Pferd und Tag) ungestörter fressen als in Fressständen
(3,2 Drohgesten je Pferd und Tag). Insgesamt betrachtet ergab sich
jedoch bei beiden Fütterungssystemen eine geringe Anzahl an sozionegativen
Interaktionen im Bereich der Futtereinrichtungen. Die Herzfrequenz
lag im Warteareal im Durchschnitt im physiologischen Bereich
(44,59 ± 11,73 Schläge/min). Integumentverletzungen im Zusammenhang
mit dem Fütterungssystem traten nicht auf. Der wichtigste Einflussfaktor
auf die Untersuchungskriterien war der Betrieb (Fläche, Konzeption,
Management). Schlussfolgerung: Unter dem Aspekt der Tiergerechtheit
hinsichtlich des Stress- und Verletzungsrisikos durch soziale
Interaktionen eignen sich bei ordnungsgemäßer Gruppenhaltung mit
fachgerechtem Management sowohl Fressstände als auch Abrufstationen
für Pferde im Offenlaufstall.
[Objective: A comparison with regard to animal welfare of feeding
stalls and automatic feeding systems for hay and concentrates in group
housing systems for horses using parameters of ethology and physiology.
Material and method: The observations of animal behaviour took
place in 10 stables with feeding stalls and in 11 stables with automatic
feeding systems. The field around the feeding systems was divided into
three areas with comparable dimensions (waiting area, exit area and
inside of the feeding system). 270 horses were individually observed.
Parameters of research comprised: threatening behaviour with and
without risk of injury, avoiding behaviour, ”chasing away from the feeding
place”, as well as heart rate and injuries of the integument. Every
group of horses was continuously observed for 24 hours. This observation
took place on four different days and comprised six sessions, each
of 4 hours. Results: In the waiting area of the automatic systems there
were significantly more threatening gestures with and without risk of
injuries for each horse and day (8.6 and 3.0, respectively) than in the
waiting area of the feeding stalls. In contrast, the horses could eat more
relaxed in the automatic systems (1.4 threatening gestures for each
horse and day) than in the feeding stalls (3.2 threatening gestures for
each horse and day). All together the number of negative interactions in
the feeding area of both feeding systems was relatively low. The heart
rate was within the physiological range (44,59 ± 11,73 beats/min) in
the waiting area. There were no injuries of the integument in correlation
with the feeding systems. The most important factor of the observation
criteria was the individual group housing system with its different dimension,
conception and management. Conclusion: Under the aspect
of animal welfare both feeding systems are suitable for horses with respect
to the risk of stress and injuries by social interactions and under
the condition of proper group housing with professional management.]
Keywords: Pferd, Fütterungseinrichtungen, soziale Interaktionen, Herzfrequenz, Verletzungsrisiko, Betriebseinfluss [Horse, feeding stations, social interactions, heart rate, risk of injury, individual farm management]