Welfare of Wild Horses during Training Studied

While the program proved stressful, physical parameters appeared within normal limits of horses in training.
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Taking a wild horse from his native lands and subjecting him to a training program sounds like a stressful experience for the horse. But just how stressful is it? To find out, Polish researchers recently investigated how their country’s wild horse training program was affecting the horses’ welfare.

While the Polish program proved stressful for the young colts involved, the stress and physical effort still appeared to be within normal limits of young horses in training, said Witold Kedzierski, PhD, from the department of animal biochemistry and physiology at the University of Life Sciences in Lublin, Poland.

Kedzierski and colleagues studied six 3- and 4-year-old Konik horses that had been captured in their native forest environment and started in training by the national training program. The program involves gathering and domesticating colts as 2 year olds and training them to pull light carts over the next 12 to 18 months. Once they are accustomed to light cart work, Kedzierski said, they are trained to pull a plow. Plow training begins abruptly with the young horse being yoked to an older, experienced Konik stallion. They plow for two and a half hours with five-minute breaks every 45 minutes.

Kedzierski studied stress levels and physical efforts of both the young horses and the stallions sharing their yokes on the first day of plow training to determine how the method affected their welfare

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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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