Does your horse have learning or performance problems under stress? Some semiochemicals might help.

According to a French-Italian equitation scientist, a little bit of the semiochemical–a chemical substance produced by an animal and used in communications, such as a pheromone–produced by lactating mares might help horses learn and perform better during or immediately after stressful situations.

"Our study highlights the interest in using and investigating the semiochemical approach to facilitate horses’ adaptation process during a cognitive effort," said Alessandro Cozzi, PhD, DVM, MSc, head of the department of clinical sciences at the IRSEA Research Institute in Saint Saturnin les Apt, France.

Mares produce the Equine Maternal Appeasing Pheromone (EAP) during the first few days after foaling, Cozzi explained during the presentation of his research at the 2011 International Society for Equitation Science (ISES) Conference, held Oct. 26-29 in Hooge Mierde, The Netherlands. First identified in 2001, EAP is involved in the mare-foal bonding mechanism.

Cozzi recently tested the effect of applying a synthetic EAP analog gel into horses’ nostrils 20 minutes before a one-hour trailer ride on performance post-transport.

In his experiment Cozzi randomly divided 23 horses into two groups: one treated with nasal EAP and one treated with a nasal placebo gel. To place them in a common stressful situation, all the horses were trailered for one-hour round trip, as transportation is now known to be a major source of stress for horses, Cozzi said. The horses’ heart rates were evaluated and monitored as a str