Physiological and behavioral responses of horses to wither scratching and patting the neck when under saddle

Zoe W. Thorbergson, Sharon G. Nielsen, Rodney J Beaulieu, Rebecca E. Doyle

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

12 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

Riding is considered to be an arousing activity for horses. It has been suggested that wither scratching may be a more useful tool for relaxation compared with the common practice of neck patting. In the current study, 18 horses were exposed to 3 treatments, including control or no interaction, neck patting, and wither scratching, for 1 min each following a short obstacle course. Heart rate, heart rate variability, and a variety of behaviors were measured in the horses. Wither scratching produced a significantly longer duration of relaxed-type behaviors. Wither scratching could be a useful tool to help a horse relax while under saddle. Additionally, the study identified 2 ear positions that may be useful for future research in horse behavior.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)245-259
Number of pages15
JournalJournal of Applied Animal Welfare Science
Volume19
Issue number3
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 2016

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