The use of Head lowering in horses as a method of inducing calmness

Amanda Warren-Smith, PD McGreevy

Research output: Book chapter/Published conference paperConference paperpeer-review


Globally, millions of horses are used for a range of purposes by humans with varying levels of skill in horse handling. Inappropriate handling techniques,especially those that cause flight responses or conflict behaviour, account for much of the wastage rates among horses as well as the majority of the deaths and injuries among handlers. In contrast, some techniques help to calm horses and thus facilitate training. Anecdotal evidence suggests that one such technique is lowering the height of a horse's head position. To determine the effect of head lowering, 20 horses were paired for age, sex and breed before one from each pair was allocated to Group 1 (treatment group: stimulus for headlowering applied during testing period) and the other placed into Group 2 (controlgroup: no experimental stimulus applied during testing period). The stimulus forhead lowering was downward pressure on the headcollar via the lead rope untilthe horse lowered its head such that its lips were approximately at mid-cannon height; as soon as this occurred the pressure was released. The testing period was 15 consecutive minutes divided into three 5-minute phases: Phase 1, in which neither group had experimental stimuli applied; Phase 2, in which Group 1 had the stimulus for head lowering applied and Group 2 had no stimuli applied;and Phase 3 that repeated the Phase 1 treatment. Behavioural responses of the head, neck and legs and the physiological responses of heart rate and heart rate variability were measured and analysed with one-way analysis of covariance.There were no significant differences between groups with any of the other responses measured, except for sniffing the ground (P=0.039), probably due to the nature of the treatment. These results indicate that, under these conditions,head lowering does not result in increased calmness in horses.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publication1st International Equitation Science Symposium 2005
Place of PublicationSydney, Australia
PublisherPost Graduate Foundation in Veterinary Science
Number of pages9
ISBN (Electronic)097568762X
Publication statusPublished - 2005
EventInternational Equitation Science Symposium - Melbourne, Australia, Australia
Duration: 26 Aug 200527 Aug 2005


ConferenceInternational Equitation Science Symposium


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