Acta Vet. Brno 2013, 82: 447-451

Some possible factors affecting horse welfare assessment

Magdaléna Fejsáková1, Jana Kottferová1, Zuzana Dankulincová2, Eva Haladová1, Raquel Matos1, Igor Miňo1

1University of Veterinary Medicine and Pharmacy in Košice, Department of Environment, Veterinary Legislation and Economics, Košice, Slovakia
2Pavol Jozef Šafárik University in Košice, Institute for Society and Health, Institute of Public Health, Medical Faculty, Košice, Slovakia

The aim of this study was to assess the influence of various stimuli that confound interpretation of assessed indicators of horse welfare during rest and working period by the use of non-invasive methods of sampling. In total, 40 horses of different breeds and used for different purposes in Slovakia were used. The following indicators were tested: concentration of cortisol in saliva and 11,17-dioxoandrostanes in faeces measured by Elisa methods, heart rate and heart rate variability recording with the Polar Heart Rate Monitor and presence of stereotypical behaviour assessed with a horse questionnaire survey. The evaluated physiological responses were mostly affected by the type of work undertaken, especially horse movement intensity (P < 0.001) and horse equipment used during the working period (P < 0.01). Horses that showed stereotypical behaviour were less stressed during rest (P < 0.05) compared to horses without stereotypical behaviour. Horse breed, age, sex and stabling conditions affected only some of the heart rate indicators. The type of riding style had no fundamental influence on evaluated indicators. These observations highlight the difficulties in determining the welfare status in horses, since measurements can be affected by many factors that need to be investigated for achieving relevant outcomes. This is the first study in Slovakia focusing on the evaluation of horse welfare by non-invasive sampling.


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