Group or Individual Horse Housing: Which is Less Stressful?

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Group or Individual Horse Housing: Which is Less Stressful?

. And as the research pours in, we’re finding more and more support for that idea. Case in point: British researchers have confirmed that horses tend to show more physiological signs of stress when they’re housed in individual stalls, whether they act like it or not.

[أسماء خيول السباق] “The physiological changes we saw in our study horses cannot be masked in the same way that a horse can mask behavior (a survival mechanism in a prey species),” said Kelly Yarnell, PhD, researcher at Nottingham Trent University, in Nottingham, U.K. “And unfortunately, in the most isolated housing (individual box stalls), adrenal activity was very high (which can result in high levels of cortisol, the “stress hormone,” being released). If very high levels of cortisol are present chronically or on a highly repetitive basis, then this can be detrimental for our horses’ health.”

In their study, Yarnell and her colleagues tested fecal cortisol levels, eye temperature, and behavior during handling in 16 university lesson horses housed in four environments:

Individual box stalls with no physical contact;
Individual box stalls with limited physical contact;
Group stalls housing two horses together; and
Group pens housing several horses together.

All horses were on a break from lessons during the summer and were kept in a pasture before the experiment began. They had, however, all been introduced and were accustomed to each kind of housing situation before the study began, so nothing was new. When the researchers brought the horses into the stables for the experiment (each horse got to test each situation for five days), they were careful to bring in all the horses at about the same time so they didn’t experience stress from just getting left out of the larger herd, Yarnell said.

By far, the horses showed the highest levels of fecal cortisol when housed in individual box stalls with no physical contact with other horses, she said. Although they could see each other over their respective barn doors if they were looking over at the same time and could hear each other, they were otherwise completely isolated, as is common in many stables.

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