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THE PROBLEM: Horses are social animals, but many horses housed in stables are not allowed to touch each other. Studies show that using stable partitions that allow horses to touch may enhance horse well-being. Introducing more physical touch with other horses makes horses more relaxed when they are in stables, and young horses able to touch other horses learn more quickly in their first training. However, more studies are needed to show if stable partitions also will benefit older horses, potentially improving their well-being, learning capabilities and trainability.  

THE PROJECT: To answer these questions, researchers will enroll 40 older, client-owned horses from the resident population at Hartpury Equine Centre. The horses will do a learning test, their owners will do a trainability questionnaire. Three stabled days and nights will be videoed to give a starting point for each horse. As long as horses learn at a similar speed, they will be put into either a group where they can touch other horses in their stables, or a group staying in their normal stables, not able to touch other horses, just see them. Once the horses have been in these different stabling conditions, they will take another learning test and owner will be given another questionnaire. This process will be repeated again three weeks later. Data analysis will help researchers learn about any differences in learning, behavior and trainability between the two groups.  

POTENTIAL IMPACT: If successful, researchers hope better learning test results and training scores of horses in the group allowed to physically touch other horses in their stables will encourage more horse owners to think about introducing more social interactions in their own stables to help improve the well-being of their horses. Findings also will help spur more research to evaluate the long-term impacts of social stabling partitions for the management and performance of horses. 

Study ID
Study Status
Grant amount awarded
Grant recipient
Hartpury University
Study country
United Kingdom
Lorna Cameron, MSc
Study category