Do you enjoy parades? The crowds. The celebratory mood and settings. The bright lighting and loud music. The colorful floats. That was a rhetorical question because I bet you do. But what about your horse? Have you ever posed to think that such a scenario could bring stress to your horse? Sometimes it may, though the situation might not be as agitating as you may think.
According to a recent Swiss research, public parade settings may not actually be a source of equine stress more than these other normal conditions that we subject horses to as part of their daily working life. In fact, the stress levels may be much lower that what horses experience in transportation, weaning or other activities and situations that may lead to minor pain and/or short-term separation.
Some of the stress parameters examined in the study conducted at the University of Zurich’s Veterinary School’s Equine Department include heart rate, heart rate variability and fecal cortisol. 23 horses from different backgrounds were involved. All the horses ride in the annual Sechseläuten parade in Switzerland.
In order to compare the stress levels experienced in daily life activities to parade conditions, lead researcher Professor Ella Nina Novotny and her team of equine scientists took the same horses through a number of ridden exercises. On checking the same stress parameters, they realized that fecal cortisol levels demonstrated a very minor difference.
However, despite the fact that both heart rate and heart rate variability were found to suggest higher stress levels in parade conditions, these levels were still within the confines of stress levels often observed in domestic horses during routine exercise, work and management.
Meanwhile, in comparison to unsedated horses, very light sedation appeared to have very little effect on horses. Both cortisol and cardiac rates among sedated and unsedated horses didn’t depict any major differences.
However, according to the research team, further research needs to be done in order to clarify why the research survey produced such results.
Another factor that made a difference was equine experience: the more the number of years of experience with this particular Swiss parade a horse had, the lower its stress levels.
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