Posture, Behaviors Indicate Horse Well-Being

If a horse spends most of his time standing in the same position in his stall, would you say he’s just bored? And what about a mare that threatens to bite when you approach her stall–is she vicious?

The latest behavior research

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If a horse spends most of his time standing in the same position in his stall, would you say he’s just bored? And what about a mare that threatens to bite when you approach her stall–is she vicious?

The latest behavior research coming out of the University of Rennes is saying no, those are not the only explanations. In fact, chances are that these actions are actually indicators that the horse is not doing as well as it should.

In a study of 59 horses in three equestrian centers, equine behavior scientist Carole Fureix, PhD, and her team sought to define specific criteria for evaluating well-being in the domestic horse. What they discovered was that certain posture positions and behavioral habits directly mirrored health problems, especially back pain, or abnormal blood parameters.

"For example, it turns out that the horses who aren’t feeling well physically or mentally are more likely to spend the majority of their stall time in particular positions," Fureix said, adding that more precise descriptions of these positions will be released soon. "Researchers have already defined specific positions that reflect acute (immediate) stress, but it now appears that these can indicate chronic stress or pain as well

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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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