Groom Your Horse With His Comfort in Mind

“Optimized” grooming led to as many as 177 times more positive behaviors on average per horse per 10-minute grooming session than standard grooming, researchers found.
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Grooming horse
'Optimized' grooming led to as many as 177 times more positive behaviors on average per horse per 10-minute grooming session than standard grooming. | Photo: iStock

If your horse doesn’t like being groomed, he’s not alone. French researchers recently found that only 5% of horses showed positive behaviors during a standard grooming session. And those that didn’t often demonstrated negative or even dangerous behaviors.

That’s why the same research group developed an “optimized” grooming method that includes massages. Perhaps the most enhanced aspect, though, is incorporating equine feedback—the handlers learned to pay attention to their horses’ signs of comfort and discomfort and to respond accordingly. The result? Optimized grooming led to as many as 177 times more positive behaviors on average per horse per 10-minute grooming session than standard grooming.

“Horses in our study receiving optimized grooming clearly sought contact with the handler and never showed signs of discomfort or defense,” said Léa Lansade, PhD, of the French Horse and Riding Institute and the National Institute for Agricultural Research’s behavior science department, in Tours

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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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