Research: Mirrors Help Reduce Stress and Social Isolation

A research team at The Lincolnshire School of Agriculture, located near the town of Grantham in the English county of Lincolnshire, recently released the results of a study showing that horses are more content and relaxed if acrylic mirrors are

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A research team at The Lincolnshire School of Agriculture, located near the town of Grantham in the English county of Lincolnshire, recently released the results of a study showing that horses are more content and relaxed if acrylic mirrors are fitted inside their stables.


Stall-kept horses which become frustrated, bored, or stressed often develop the habit (often considered a stable vice) of swaying their necks and heads from side to side in a motion which is known as “weaving.” The researchers who conducted the study fitted acrylic mirrors on stable walls. They found that horses which normally exhibited such behavior as weaving either stopped or considerably reduced it within 24 hours.


Daniel Mills, DVM, a lecturer at the University of Lincoln (the Lincolnshire School of Agriculture is a part of the university) and a member of the Animal Behavior, Cognition, and Welfare Group, was a researcher in the study. He commented, “The weaving behavior stopped almost instantaneously. Some of the horses in this experiment had been displaying this mannerism for six years.”


While it is not known how or why mirrors reduce weaving, the scientists on the research team believe that in mimicking visual contact with another horse, the image acts as a distraction, reducing the feeling of confinement and social isolation

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Harry Pope is a free-lance writer and cartoonist. The Canadian horse lover and recreational rider lives in Woodville, Ontario.

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