Solo And Stressed: Individual Housing May Encourage Infectious Diseases In Horses - Horse Racing News | Paulick Report
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Solo And Stressed: Individual Housing May Encourage Infectious Diseases In Horses

Horses that transition from living in a herd to being stabled individually exhibit stress-related changes, according to researchers at the University of Hohenheim in Stuttgart, Germany. Dr. Sonja Schmucker and colleagues created a study using 12 geldings and followed them through a series of management changes, monitoring their immune response and behavior.  

The horses were all between 2 and 3 years old and had been living in a herd on pasture before the study began.  

The first phase of the study divided the horses in the two groups and placed them in paddocks where the groups could not see each other; the horses remained living outside 24/7. After eight days, the herds were again combined for eight weeks.

The second phase of the study moved the horses into stalls with bars where they were able to see and touch their neighbors. For the first week, the horses were allowed to exercise for 30 minutes in groups of six in an indoor arena. The horses were lunged for the remainder of the trial, with no group turnout ability.

The scientists collected blood samples from all horses on days 1 and 8 after each change in housing. Samples were also taken 7 and 6 days and immediately before the stabling phase began. The samples were analyzed for immune cell numbers and cortisol concentrations.

The team found that shifting the horses to individual housing brought on both acute and lasting stress-induced immune changes that dividing the larger herd did not. They report that these changes could make the horses more vulnerable to infectious diseases. 

Stereotypical behaviors also began when the horses were individually housed.

Read more at Equine Science Update

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