The majority of working horses are stabled overnight but little is known about how different stable designs, which may affect aspects such as access to social contact, may affect sleep behaviour. Any differences could have implications on welfare and the horses’ ability to perform optimally. This study investigated whether barred or solid walled stables resulted in different nocturnal behavioural patterns including; position in the stable, recumbent and standing sleep, foraging and social behaviour. Twelve riding school horses (multiple breeds and sexes, age range of 10 years, all bedded on straw) were observed from 22:00 to 07:00 using an infrared CCTV system for two consecutive nights each. Six horses were housed in stables with barred walls (S1); six were housed in stables with solid walls (S2). Differences between total duration of behaviour for S1 and S2 were analysed using the Independent T-test (P≤0.05) in IBM SPSS21. There was a significant difference (t=2.436, P˂0.05) for drowsing behaviour in S2 (mean 137.5+68.6 minutes) compared with S1 horses (mean 288.7+135.6 minutes). No other significant differences were observed; however, non-statistical analysis revealed a higher duration of wall-orientated behaviour in barred stables and recumbency behaviour in solid wall stables. Horses appear to be more vigilant when they can see a neighbour and display reduced lateral recumbency, which appears to be compensated for by increased standing sleep. These patterns suggest that the walled stables facilitate better nocturnal behaviour patterns in terms of Rapid Eye Movement (REM) sleep which is beneficial to equine welfare. Future studies might extend this research to use a cross-over design to further test influence of stable design but clearly more research is needed to establish optimal conditions for when the stable light is turned off.
|Publication status||Published - 2014|
|Event||10th International Society of Equitation Science Conference: Equine Stress, Learning and Training - , Denmark|
Duration: 5 Aug 2014 → 8 Aug 2014
|Conference||10th International Society of Equitation Science Conference|
|Abbreviated title||ISES 2014|
|Period||5/8/14 → 8/8/14|