Does Parade Participation Stress Horses?

On average, horses’ stress levels remained within the range observed during routine work and management.
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Does Parade Participation Stress Horses?
Horses' stress levels remained within the range of stress levels often seen during routine work and management. | Photo: iStock
You might enjoy parades’ celebratory settings and crowds, bright lights, loud music, and colorful floats, but would your horse? For many horses, such a scenario might seem like a recipe for a highly stressful experience. But, in reality, it might not be as agitating as we think.

Actually, parade settings might not actually cause more stress than other common conditions we put our horses into as part of their working life. Swiss researchers recently determined that, on average, stress parameters in horses participating in public parades don’t differ significantly from those caused by minor pain or short-term separation. And they’re much lower than what we see during transportation and weaning.

“Contrary to popular belief, public manifestations involving horses walking through large crowds and even galloping in groups around bonfires don’t seem to be a major source of stress that could be considered to compromise welfare,” said Ella Nina Novotny, MSc, of the University of Zurich Veterinary School’s Equine Department. She presented her work at the 2017 Swiss Equine Research Day, held April 6 in Avenches.

Furthermore, she added, very mild sedation had little effect on stress parameters in horses sedated for the event

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Passionate about horses and science from the time she was riding her first Shetland Pony in Texas, Christa Lesté-Lasserre writes about scientific research that contributes to a better understanding of all equids. After undergrad studies in science, journalism, and literature, she received a master’s degree in creative writing. Now based in France, she aims to present the most fascinating aspect of equine science: the story it creates. Follow Lesté-Lasserre on Twitter @christalestelas.

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