The use of a mirror reduces isolation stress in horses being transported by trailer

Article English OPEN
Kay, R ; Hall, CA (2009)
  • Publisher: Elsevier (not including Cell Press)

Horse trailers are a common form of transportation for horses and ponies and often require the animal to travel alone or with a single companion. The current study investigated the effect of transporting horses alone, in company or with an acrylic safety mirror (measuring 81 x 61.5 cm) that provided surrogate companionship. The behavioural and physiological responses of twelve mature horses during a 30-minute journey by trailer under the three treatments were compared. Behaviour (vocalisation, eating, head-tossing, pawing, and head turning) was recorded. In order to assess circulatory changes that occur as part of the response to transport, heart rate (HR), rectal (Tr) and ear-pinna (Tp) temperatures were recorded. When travelling with a live companion significantly less time was spent vocalising (p<0.001), head turning (p<0.001), head-tossing (p<0.01) and pawing (p<0.01); eating behaviour increased (p<0.05). Physiological responses (increases in HR and Tr and decreases in Tp) were also significantly reduced when travelling with a live companion (p<0.01). Travelling with the mirror did not significantly affect physiological responses compared with travelling alone, but the rise in Tr and fall in Tp was reduced (p=0.052 and p=0.051 respectively) and can be considered a trend. When travelling with a mirror significantly less time was spent turning the head (p<0.01), vocalising (p<0.05) and head tossing (p<0.05); eating behaviour increased (p<0.05).
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