Using Body Language to Assess Fatigue in Working Horses
Horses communicate their physical state of tiredness and even soreness after work through their facial expressions and weight-shifting patterns, said Pedro Henrique Esteves Trindade, PhD candidate at São Paulo State University, in Jaboticabal, Brazil.
Many owners and riders already intuitively recognize the body language of tired horses, Trindade said. But by applying science to these observations, researchers can develop an ethogram (behavior chart) that handlers can use to concretely identify signs that their horses’ welfare is at risk due to overwork.
“Scientists can take these body language indicators and establish classifications of intensity of physical tiredness (using dose-response studies),” he explained. “After these steps, the most powerful indicators can be used on farms to recognize physical tiredness before the animal reaches deleterious levels of fatigue or physical exhaustion. This will be important to determine the workload and also the rest period of the ranch
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