28th July 2009
A recent report published in Equine Research News has found that a familiar handler will help calm an aroused horse. Research was carried out by Amanda Warren Smith from Charles Sturt University, Larry Greetham from Piplyn Lodge, Gundaroo and Paul McGreevy from Sydney University. They investigated the behavioural and physiological effects of the presence of a familiar handler on a horse that has been aroused or startled. Four groups of seven horses were set up as follows: Group A – were not aroused and left alone Group B – were aroused and then left alone Group C – were not aroused then given free interaction with a familiar handler Group D – aroused then given free interaction with a familiar handler They started by getting a non familiar handler to jump up and down waving a hat beside the horses until their heart rate exceeded 100 beats per minute. The halter and lead rope were then removed and the handler departed. For the next 5 minutes, the horses in Group A and B were left alone whereas for Groups C and D a familiar handler entered the yard and stood still in the middle looking at the ground. The study showed that the heart rate of the horses was greatest during the first minute with the lowest recorded for Groups A and C. Group B had the highest heart rate during the test. The time take to to approach the handlers did not differ between the groups. The horses in Group D took fewer steps and Group A were most likely to exhibit head lowering spontaneously. These results show that allowing an aroused horse free interaction with a familiar handler has more of a calming influence than leaving the horse alone. Therefore having a familiar handler present when a horse is aroused will help calm the horse, this is important as research has shown that a horses’ ability to learn is enhanced by calmness. Extract taken from Equine Research News – July 2009 based on the report: The Influence of Human Presence on Calming Aroused Horses – Amanda K Warren-Smith (Charles Sturt University); Larry Greetham (Piplyn Lodge, Gundaroo); Paul D McGreevy (University of Sydney).