The effect of loading on the behaviour of horses
Loading is often challenging for many horses and, therefore, loading habituation is important and affects both animal welfare and human safety. The aims of this study are threefold; to investigate horse owners’ perception of loading, compare behaviour of horses loaded at two different sites and evaluate the effects of a standardized habituation procedure.
The first part of the study consisted of surveys distributed amongst Swedish horse owners to get an insight into owners’ perception of loading. The second part of the study involved 68 horses and 37 ponies observed at competitions site and one veterinary clinic to compare two populations with differing habituation levels. The last part of the study involved six young Icelandic horses who were observed during loading habituation over three experimental days. Heart rate of the horses was measured using a handheld heart rate monitor.
Results showed that 21% of the Swedish horse owners experiences problems with loading. Loading at the veterinary clinic took significantly longer when compared to the competition sites. Horses also showed more evasive behaviours when being loaded at the clinic. The loading time of the Icelandic horses was lowest on the third day. The heart rates were higher when the horses were inside the trailer when compared to outside the trailer.
The authors concluded that when loading is trained systematically and according to training principles horses may habituate rapidly to loading. This, as a results, may improve equine welfare and decrease human safety risks.
Read more about loading habituation, learning theory and ethology:
- Roles of learning theory and ethology in equitation - McGreevy and McLean (2007) http://ac.els-cdn.com/S1558787807001359/1-s2.0-S1558787807001359-main.pdf?_tid=5fe712c0-9cc4-11e7-a113-00000aab0f6c&acdnat=1505775469_d2dd449003dd6271c4d33ef3031a3d4d
- Training horses: Positive reinforcement, positive punishment, and ridden behavior problems - Hockenhull and Creighton (2013) http://ac.els-cdn.com/S1558787812000950/1-s2.0-S1558787812000950-main.pdf?_tid=54d1b660-9cc4-11e7-8502-00000aab0f27&acdnat=1505775451_e129ccb0d984c9405d0932229815b578
- Trailer-loading of horses: Is there a difference between positive and negative reinforcement concerning effectiveness and stress-related signs? - Hendriksen, Elmgreen and Ladewig (2011) http://ac.els-cdn.com/S1558787811000347/1-s2.0-S1558787811000347-main.pdf?_tid=519a8e72-9cc4-11e7-91df-00000aacb362&acdnat=1505775445_a393616643570dffb444f0ff32865fbf
- Loading the problem loader: The effects of target training and shaping on trailer-loading behaviour of horses - Ferguson and Rosales-Ruiz https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1284337/pdf/11800182.pdf
Have you ever experienced problems loading your horse?
How have you tried to solve this problem?
Have you ever seeked professional help?
> From: Yngvesson et al., Appl. Anim. Behav 184 (2016) 59-65. All rights reserved to Elsevier B.V.. Click here for the online summary.