Your Guide to Equine Health Care

Opening Windows for Equine Social Interaction

Horses stabled with a large open window between stalls showed more positive social behavior and less aggression and boredom than when they were separated by full walls, researchers found.

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As social relationships between horses become a greater equine welfare focus, scientists are seeking ways to allow social interactions for animals housed in traditionally isolating box stall settings. But don't tear your barn and stalls down just yet: French researchers recently tested another solution—windows between stalls—with positive results.

“Horses stabled with a large open window between two stalls showed more positive social behavior and less aggression and boredom than when they were separated by full walls,” said Claire Neveux, MSc, researcher and equine behavior consultant at Ethonova, based in Monteille. Neveux presented her research at the 2014 French Equine Research Day held March 18 in Paris.

In her study Neveux and her fellow researchers observed 12 riding horses in their home stable for 10 days. For the two days prior to the study period, horses were allowed to see each other through a barred window installed in their normal 9 foot-by-9 foot box stalls. (There was only one window for every two stalls.) Additionally, each stall had a half-door that opened to a common area where they could see other horses, but not touch them.

For the first five days of the study, the researchers closed the barred windows to create a solid wall, as the horses had been stalled previously, but the horses could still look into the common area via their open half-doors. In the second half of the experiment the researchers opened the windows between the stalls and removed the bars, allowing the horses access to their neighbors. In each study phase researchers noted 180 behaviors per 24-hour period per

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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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