Oxidative stress plays an important role in the development of many horse diseases and it has been shown that housing has important implications for the psychophysical well-being of horses. The aim of this study is to determine if there are any differences between the redox status in horses in relation to housing conditions. The four housing conditions analyzed were: single box, without external access and without contact (Cat A), single box with external access and possibility of partial contact (Cat B), group housing with box and large paddock (Cat C), pasture with more than 7 horses and the possibility of green forage for the whole year (Cat D). A group of 117 healthy horses were selected in several private stables in Northern Italy. All subjects treated with any type of drug were excluded. At the end of the enrollment, the 117 selected horses were divided into the four housing categories. Stereotypies were highest in the group of horses in single box, without external access and without contact (Cat A). Oxidative stress was evaluated by testing plasma or serum samples for the following parameters: superoxide anion (WST), nitric oxide (NO), reactive oxygen species (d-ROMs), ferric reducing ability of plasma (FRAP), and the activity of superoxide dismutase (SOD). Simultaneously with the blood sampling, the owners completed a questionnaire with all the management aspects of the horse (signaling, feeding, equestrian activity, vaccinations, foot management etc.). The statistical evaluation was carried out based on the categories previously described, on the presence and absence of stereotypies and on some signaling data obtained from the questionnaire. There were no significant differences in the parameters analyzed between the categories. No significant redox status differences were detected based on the presence or absence of stereotypies. Interestingly, when the age was introduced as selection (<14 and >14 years old) parameter inside the categories, statistical significance was observed for some of the stress markers considered. Finally, independently of the housing conditions, the horses of the most two represented breeds exhibited different values of FRAP. All these aspects are commented in the discussion.
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