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Sunesson, Louise, 2012. Hästar i skrämmande situationer : en jämförelse mellan hanterad respektive fri habituering. First cycle, G2E. Skara: SLU, Dept. of Animal Environment and Health



In connection with riding and handling of horses, many accidents that can cause severe injuries to both horses and humans are existent. The cause is in most cases that the horse is frightened. The horse's fear also affects its usefulness and it has been shown to have adverse effects on the horse's welfare. To increase safety and improve the welfare of both humans and horses, it is important to find appropriate training methods to reduce the fear of horses in frightening situations. This experimental study compares handled habituation to free habituation. The aim was to study the impact of these training methods on the horse's behaviour and habituation, and to find out which method is most successful to reduce the fear of horses in frightening situations. Twenty horses were randomly divided into groups of ten horses per training method. The horses had three training sessions each and then they were tested for the task, to go over a bridge consisting of assembled plywood boards lying on the ground.

About half of the horses passed the task, to go over the bridge, either correctly or with some small error. Only a very small difference between the two training methods were observed, handled habituation was found to be slightly better. Instead, a difference between horses with different use/breed and personality could be observed. The results indicate that the horses in the both training methods were calm during the test, all went with lowered heads and without any signs of escape behaviours or tenseness. During the training sessions the horses in handled habituation were closer to the bridge (P<0,05), and at the both training methods the horses were closer to the bridge for each training session. The study also found that horses with handled habituation showed more interest in the bridge compared to horses that were trained with free habituation, which had more interest to trot/canter and neigh to connect with other horses. Snorting and defecation were observed in more horses trained with free habituation while lowered head and escape behaviours were observed in more horses trained with handled habituation. Snorting, defecation and escape behaviours decreased from day one to day three.

It was concluded that training with habituation, both handled and free, can reduce fear in horses. It's a calm training method where the horses showed few behavioral signs of fear and these were of low accident risk. More research on habituation could be undertaken to develop the method so that accidents in riding and handling of horses can be reduced and horse welfare improved. Handled habituation was shown both in terms to cross the bridge, close to the bridge and behaviorally to be slightly more effective than free habituation. But the difference was very small and to draw any conclusions, further studies are required. This study suggests that humans may have a calming effect on the horses, but the training method that is best also seems to depend on the horse's personality.

Main title:Hästar i skrämmande situationer
Subtitle:en jämförelse mellan hanterad respektive fri habituering
Authors:Sunesson, Louise
Supervisor:Blokhuis, Harry
Examiner:Alm Bergvall, Ulrika
Series:Studentarbete / Sveriges lantbruksuniversitet, Institutionen för husdjurens miljö och hälsa
Volume/Sequential designation:397
Year of Publication:2012
Level and depth descriptor:First cycle, G2E
Student's programme affiliation:VK002 Ethology and Animal Welfare - Bachelor's Programme 180 HEC
Supervising department:(VH) > Dept. of Animal Environment and Health
Keywords:häst, inlärning, habituering
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Subject. Use of subject categories until 2023-04-30.:Animal ecology
Deposited On:21 Jun 2012 13:43
Metadata Last Modified:21 Jun 2012 13:43

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