The influence of shavings bed thickness on nocturnal recumbent behaviour in horses

Linda Greening, Francesca Modena

    Research output: Contribution to conferencePoster


    As a large prey animal, the horse appears to have adapted to function optimally on a comparatively low amount of sleep, averaging 3 hours inside of a 24-hour time budget. Such knowledge stems from ECG and EEG studies, which more recently have been supported by behavioural observation studies. However, knowledge about what is quantifiable as 'good quality sleep', and the consequences of sleep deprivation in the horse is currently lacking. This information may be critical from an animal welfare perspective. In this regard, a growing body of work is investigating factors that promote and reduce the amount of nocturnal sleep available to the horse. The most recent study in this field pertains to the depth of bedding substrate in the stable. Six horses (mixed breed, age range 12-18 years) were observed using CCTV equipment between 2030 and 0630 over twelve consecutive nights during November 2018. Duration of sternal recumbency (SR) and lateral recumbency (LR), as inferred measures of different sleep states, were recorded using continuous focal sampling against a predetermined ethogram. Using a cross-over design, three horses (Group A) were given shavings bed of normal depth (5cm) whilst three horses (Group B) were provided with a deeper shavings bed (10cm) for the first four nights. Groups were then crossed over for the next four nights (five to eight). From night nine to twelve, all six horses returned to normal 5cm bedding depth. Differences in recumbency states (SR and LR) were tested using Wilcoxon Signed Rank (significance set at p<0.05). Overall, a significant difference (Z=-2.56; P=0.011) was observed between total duration of LR when bedded on 5cm (23 minutes) and 10cm beds (41 minutes). No significant difference (Z-1.63; P&gt;0.05) was observed for duration of SR when comparing 5cm (137 minutes) and 10cm beds (122 minutes). A significant difference (Z=-1.99; P=0.046) was also detected for total duration of LR when bedded on 5cm during nights nine to twelve (38 minutes) compared to 5cm during the cross-over experimental nights (23 minutes), suggesting some lasting effect of a deeper bed. Results therefore imply that increasing bedding depth could positively influence the occurrence of lateral recumbency (linked to the occurrence of paradoxical sleep) and thus potentially improve the welfare of the stabled
    Original languageEnglish
    Number of pages1
    Publication statusPublished - May 2019
    Event9th Alltech-Hartpury Student Conference - Hartpury University, United Kingdom
    Duration: 8 May 20198 May 2019


    Conference9th Alltech-Hartpury Student Conference
    Country/TerritoryUnited Kingdom


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