What you think is good for human beings is also true for your horse—seeing neighbors and having a feeling of being part of a community.
Although many people may think that all their horses need is a shelter and that the traditional stable is the perfect home for any horse, researchers at Nottingham Trent University think otherwise. If you do not allow your animals to see their neighbors, then they are likely to become lonely and stressed. Therefore making it possible for your horse to socialize is the key to having a happy horse.
Traditional stables are divided into single units measuring around 25 square feet to 40 square feet and are constructed in such a way that animals cannot see each other. The scientists discovered that the reason behind most horses putting on long faces is because they feel an overwhelming sense of isolation.
According to Kelly Yarnell who works at Nottingham Trent University on equine welfare, social housing might be the answer. Kelly is also one of the researchers who took part in the research. Their research findings have been published in the Journal of Physiology and Behavior.
She goes on to state that having a safe and inviting stable is not enough to make your horse comfortable. The social aspect is also very important. One of the things that should be addressed with urgency include inadequate housing design, which has proven to cause stress as well as negative consequences in the well being of the horses.
The researchers measured the levels of the animal stress hormone known as corticosterone in horses that were kept in a variety of different settings. The settings ranged from communal paddocks to traditional stables of single units. It was found that horses that were kept in the communal settings were generally happier than those that were reared in the traditional stables.
This research shows that humans may be making assumptions about horses that are not entirely correct. Keeping horses in the traditional stables may be seen as a safe way of rearing the animals and protecting them from weather, but is also detrimental to their health.
So what is the solution?
Based on the research findings, the answer might lie in group housing despite the fact that introducing more windows and shared spaces might alleviate the problem. Still, horses need to feel close to one another and interact in their own way. Just as human beings will still not be comfortable living apart and only being allowed to see one another through the windows, horses will still not be satisfied with just more windows.
Another thing that can make horses happier is by bringing visitors to the stable. You can arrange to be bringing companion horses every now and then to kill the boredom. Horses can do well with a friend, like goats or chickens to share the stall. Therefore, the visitors need not to be necessarily fellow horses.
This research can be found in the journal Physiology and Behaviour.
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