Special Issue "Performance Horse Welfare: From Good Training to Appropriate Behaviour"

A special issue of Animals (ISSN 2076-2615). This special issue belongs to the section "Equids".

Deadline for manuscript submissions: closed (20 December 2018) | Viewed by 26745

Special Issue Editors

Dr. Barbara Padalino
E-Mail Website
Guest Editor
Department of Agricultural and Food Science (DISTAL), University of Bologna, Viale Fanin 50, 40127 Bologna, Italy
Interests: equine internal and sports medicine; exercise physiology; horse behavior and welfare; equitation science; animal behavior and welfare; animal transport; human-animal interaction; animal welfare science
Special Issues, Collections and Topics in MDPI journals
Prof. Dr. Sue M. McDonnell
E-Mail Website
Guest Editor
University of Pennsylvania School of Veterinary Medicine, New Bolton Center, 382 W Street Rd, Kennett Square, PA 19348, USA

Special Issue Information

Dear Colleagues,

This Special Issue welcomes the submission of full manuscripts of abstracts presented at the 14th International Society for Equitation Science Conference and other manuscripts related to the topics. Manuscripts reporting research related to good training, good feeding, good housing, good health, appropriate behaviour, and the human-horse relationship will be considered with the aim to enhance and safeguard the welfare and the health of the performance horses during training and non-training periods.

Dr. Barbara Padalino
Prof. Sue M. McDonnell
Guest Editors

Manuscript Submission Information

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Published Papers (8 papers)

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Research

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Article
Voluntary Rein Tension in Horses When Moving Unridden in a Dressage Frame Compared with Ridden Tests of the Same Horses—A Pilot Study
Animals 2019, 9(6), 321; https://doi.org/10.3390/ani9060321 - 06 Jun 2019
Cited by 9 | Viewed by 4012
Abstract
Too much rein tension while riding may compromise the welfare of the horse. But who generates the tension on the reins—the horse or the rider? The primary aim of this pilot study was to evaluate the maximum rein tension that horses voluntarily maintain [...] Read more.
Too much rein tension while riding may compromise the welfare of the horse. But who generates the tension on the reins—the horse or the rider? The primary aim of this pilot study was to evaluate the maximum rein tension that horses voluntarily maintain without a rider compared to rein tension with a rider. A secondary aim was to evaluate conflict behaviours in relation to rein tension. Thirteen horses were used, all fitted with customised “Animon” rein tension sensors (25 Hz, up to 600 N range), free-moving with side reins set in dressage competition frame with the noseline on the vertical. Rein tension was measured at the walk, trot, and canter in both directions in a round pen. The same horses were then ridden by their usual riders and completed the same task on a riding ground. Continuous video recordings were obtained to subsequently quantify the occurrence of conflict behaviours. The difference in mean maximum peak of rein tension with and without a rider for each gait was compared using the Wilcoxon Rank Sum test. Without a rider, rein tension was significantly lower (Wilcoxon T = 0, p < 0.01, 7.5 N ± 2.8 N) than with a rider (Wilcoxon T = 0, p < 0.01, 24.0 N ± 12.3 N). Regardless of the different rein tensions in the ridden exercise, all of the horses exhibited approximately the same amount of rein tension in the unridden exercise. The frequency of conflict behaviour was higher with a rider than without (11 ± 14 per minute vs. 2 ± 3 per minute; T = 4, p < 0.01). Full article
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Article
The Use of Infrared Thermography (IRT) as Stress Indicator in Horses Trained for Endurance: A Pilot Study
Animals 2019, 9(3), 84; https://doi.org/10.3390/ani9030084 - 07 Mar 2019
Cited by 22 | Viewed by 2573
Abstract
The aim of this pilot study was to document the effects of endurance training at different intensities on heart rate (HR), blood count, serum cortisol, and maximal temperatures of different body locations, namely eye, crown, pastern pasterns, gluteus and longissimus dorsi muscle ( [...] Read more.
The aim of this pilot study was to document the effects of endurance training at different intensities on heart rate (HR), blood count, serum cortisol, and maximal temperatures of different body locations, namely eye, crown, pastern pasterns, gluteus and longissimus dorsi muscle (mm), measured by infrared thermography technique (IRT) in horses trained for endurance. Possible associations among the studied parameters were also investigated. Our hypothesis was that temperature, measured by IRT after endurance training of different intensities would vary depending on the intensity and would be positively correlated with HR and serum cortisol. Eight horses were tested before and after training of different intensities (low, moderate, and high). The results partially supported our hypothesis; all the studied parameters increased after training (p < 0.05), eye temperature (ET) correlated positively with HR (p < 0.01), and crown temperature (CT) correlated positively with cortisol (p < 0.01). However, only HR and white blood cells increased with the intensity of the exercise (p = 0.0016 and p = 0.0142, respectively). Our findings suggest the evaluation of ET and CT may become a useful non-invasive tool to detect physiological stress during training and to evaluate how the horses cope with the training. Infrared thermography technique may also become a useful tool for the early identification of horses that are not fit to compete or to continue the competition. However, further studies should be conducted on a larger number of horses and during competitions to ascertain our preliminary findings. Full article
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Article
Health and Body Conditions of Riding School Horses Housed in Groups or Kept in Conventional Tie-Stall/Box Housing
Animals 2019, 9(3), 73; https://doi.org/10.3390/ani9030073 - 26 Feb 2019
Cited by 7 | Viewed by 6879
Abstract
We compared welfare measures of horses among Swedish riding schools (RS) during winter where horses were kept either in group housing (n = 8) or in tie-stalls/boxes (n = 8), Health data for six previous months were obtained for all horses [...] Read more.
We compared welfare measures of horses among Swedish riding schools (RS) during winter where horses were kept either in group housing (n = 8) or in tie-stalls/boxes (n = 8), Health data for six previous months were obtained for all horses at each RS from their records. Ten horses per RS were examined, with the exception of one where only 8 horses were examined. Health conditions and body condition score (BCS) using the Henneke scale were recorded and management factors were quantified (health check routines, feeding, housing-related risk factors, time outside). RS-recorded health data (for 327 horses in total) revealed that lameness was the most common issue in both systems. Respiratory problems and colic were significantly more common in tie-stall/box horses. The percentage of horses with respiratory problems (mean ± SEM) was 5.8 ± 1.4 in tie-stall/box systems and 1.1 ± 0.8 in group housing (F = 8.65, p = 0.01). The percentage with colic was 2.38 ± 0.62 in tie-stall/box systems and 0.38 ± 0.26 in group housing (F = 8.62, p = 0.01). Clinical examination of 158 horses revealed 207 conditions in these horses, the most common being minor skin injuries in areas affected by tack (i.e., saddle and bridle, including bit). Such injuries tended to be more prevalent in horses housed in tie-stalls/boxes (1.8 ± 0.6) than in group housing (0.5 ± 0.3) (F=3.14, p = 0.01). BCS was similar between systems (tie-stall/box 6.2 ± 0.1, group 6.3 ± 0.1), but the average BCS exceeded the level that is considered optimal (BCS 4–6). In conclusion, we found that Swedish RS horses are generally in good health, particularly when group-housed. However, 25%–32% were overweight. Riding schools would thus benefit from having an independent feeding expert performing regular body condition scoring of all horses and advising on feeding regimens. Full article
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Article
Significance of Group Composition for the Welfare of Pastured Horses
Animals 2019, 9(1), 14; https://doi.org/10.3390/ani9010014 - 05 Jan 2019
Cited by 8 | Viewed by 3139
Abstract
We explore how herd composition and management factors correlate with frequencies of social interactions in horse groups. Since the welfare of horses correlates with low aggression levels and social contact opportunities, information of this kind is important. The data are a collection of [...] Read more.
We explore how herd composition and management factors correlate with frequencies of social interactions in horse groups. Since the welfare of horses correlates with low aggression levels and social contact opportunities, information of this kind is important. The data are a collection of records of social interactions of 426 Icelandic horses in 20 groups of at least eight horses. The complexities and limitations of the data prohibit useful statistical modelling so the results are presented descriptively. Interesting and informative patterns emerge which can be of use both in management and in future studies. Of special interest are the low levels of agonistic behaviours in breeding groups where one stallion was present. The horses were less agonistic when in groups with young foals and where group membership was stable. Unfamiliar yearlings in peer groups were especially aggressive. Allogrooming was most frequent in groups with relatively more young horses and in unstable and small groups. Interestingly, the horses allogroomed more if they had few preferred allogrooming partners. The findings show that composition (age/sex) and stability of groups are of great importance with respect to aggression levels and opportunities for establishing bonds. Full article
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Article
Evidence for Right-Sided Horses Being More Optimistic than Left-Sided Horses
Animals 2018, 8(12), 219; https://doi.org/10.3390/ani8120219 - 22 Nov 2018
Cited by 8 | Viewed by 3046
Abstract
An individual’s positive or negative perspective when judging an ambiguous stimulus (cognitive bias) can be helpful when assessing animal welfare. Emotionality, as expressed in approach or withdrawal behaviour, is linked to brain asymmetry. The predisposition to process information in the left or right [...] Read more.
An individual’s positive or negative perspective when judging an ambiguous stimulus (cognitive bias) can be helpful when assessing animal welfare. Emotionality, as expressed in approach or withdrawal behaviour, is linked to brain asymmetry. The predisposition to process information in the left or right brain hemisphere is displayed in motor laterality. The quality of the information being processed is indicated by the sensory laterality. Consequently, it would be quicker and more repeatable to use motor or sensory laterality to evaluate cognitive bias than to perform the conventional judgment bias test. Therefore, the relationship between cognitive bias and motor or sensory laterality was tested. The horses (n = 17) were trained in a discrimination task involving a box that was placed in either a “positive” or “negative” location. To test for cognitive bias, the box was then placed in the middle, between the trained positive and negative location, in an ambiguous location, and the latency to approach the box was evaluated. Results indicated that horses that were more likely to use the right forelimb when moving off from a standing position were more likely to approach the ambiguous box with a shorter latency (generalized linear mixed model, p < 0.01), and therefore displayed a positive cognitive bias (optimistic). Full article
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Article
Examining Canadian Equine Industry Participants’ Perceptions of Horses and Their Welfare
Animals 2018, 8(11), 201; https://doi.org/10.3390/ani8110201 - 07 Nov 2018
Cited by 8 | Viewed by 3071
Abstract
The diversity of the Canadian equine industry makes determining baseline attitudes and beliefs a challenge. Adult members of the Canadian equine industry (n = 901) participated in an online survey to report demographic information and views on the role of horses and their [...] Read more.
The diversity of the Canadian equine industry makes determining baseline attitudes and beliefs a challenge. Adult members of the Canadian equine industry (n = 901) participated in an online survey to report demographic information and views on the role of horses and their ability to experience affective states. Questions regarding the welfare state of all horses in the industry, potential ways to address welfare issues, and eight short scenarios were presented. Qualitative analysis, descriptive statistics, and a Chi-squared test for independence examined survey results and potential relationships. Participants strongly believed horses were capable of feeling positive and negative emotions, particularly pain and fear, but rarely were these beliefs reflected in their answers regarding aspects of equine welfare, which may be due to the large bias in these beliefs. Lack of knowledge and financial difficulties were noted as the biggest threats to equine welfare. Overall, there was widespread agreement regarding the presence of welfare issues within the equine industry, but opinions were more divided regarding how to best address them and which horses were most at risk. Understanding these perceptions may be useful to direct educational programs and industry-wide initiatives to address equine welfare through human behaviour change. Full article
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Article
Parameters for the Analysis of Social Bonds in Horses
Animals 2018, 8(11), 191; https://doi.org/10.3390/ani8110191 - 27 Oct 2018
Cited by 7 | Viewed by 2323
Abstract
Social bond analysis is of major importance for the evaluation of social relationships in group housed horses. However, in equine behaviour literature, studies on social bond analysis are inconsistent. Mutual grooming (horses standing side by side and gently nipping, nuzzling, or rubbing each [...] Read more.
Social bond analysis is of major importance for the evaluation of social relationships in group housed horses. However, in equine behaviour literature, studies on social bond analysis are inconsistent. Mutual grooming (horses standing side by side and gently nipping, nuzzling, or rubbing each other), affiliative approaches (horses approaching each other and staying within one body length), and measurements of spatial proximity (horses standing with body contact or within two horse-lengths) are commonly used. In the present study, we assessed which of the three parameters is most suitable for social bond analysis in horses, and whether social bonds are affected by individual and group factors. We observed social behaviour and spatial proximity in 145 feral horses, five groups of Przewalski’s horses (N = 36), and six groups of feral horses (N = 109) for 15 h per group, on three days within one week. We found grooming, friendly approaches, and spatial proximity to be robust parameters, as their correlation was affected only by the animals’ sex (GLMM: N = 145, SE = 0.001, t = −2.7, p = 0.008) and the group size (GLMM: N = 145, SE < 0.001, t = 4.255, p < 0.001), but not by the horse breed, the aggression ratio, the social rank, the group, the group composition, and the individuals themselves. Our results show a trend for a correspondence between all three parameters (GLMM: N = 145, SE = 0.004, t = 1.95, p = 0.053), a strong correspondence between mutual grooming and friendly approaches (GLMM: N = 145, SE = 0.021, t = 3.922, p < 0.001), and a weak correspondence between mutual grooming and spatial proximity (GLMM: N = 145, SE = 0.04, t = 1.15, p = 0.25). We therefore suggest either using a combination of the proactive behaviour counts mutual grooming and friendly approaches, or using measurements of close spatial proximity, for the analysis of social bonds in horses within a limited time frame. Full article
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Erratum
Erratum: Sigurjónsdóttir, H.; Haraldsson, H. Significance of Group Composition for the Welfare of Pastured Horses. Animals 2019, 9, 14
Animals 2019, 9(7), 453; https://doi.org/10.3390/ani9070453 - 17 Jul 2019
Viewed by 1137
Abstract
The authors wish to make the following correction to their paper [...] Full article
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