Avenches, Switzerland
Avenches, Switzerland

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Glauser A.,University of Bern | Burger D.,University of Bern | van Dorland H.A.,University of Bern | Gygax L.,Center for Proper Housing of Ruminants and Pigs | And 3 more authors.
Applied Animal Behaviour Science | Year: 2015

Regular free movement is an important factor for the wellbeing of horses, reducing the risk of behavioural disorders as well as maintaining bodily functions healthy. Currently animal welfare legislations in several countries require minimal stay times in outdoor enclosures. However, clear legal recommendations for the fence type enclosing or surrounding this area do not exist. With regard to electric fencing systems, some concerns exist that the latter could affect the behaviour of horses, cause chronic stress and reduce the accessible space. The aim of this study was to quantify stress responses in horses kept in small and big paddocks with wooden fencing compared to paddocks with electric fencing, focusing on possible differences concerning the utilisation of the paddock area between the two types of fencing and size. Twenty horses aged between 6 and 18 years were tested comparing two paddock sizes (12.25m2/36m2) either with wooden or electric fencing in order to evaluate physical and behavioural parameters. Each horse was tested in a randomised sequence in all four paddock types during 90min per type. During the experiments the horses were continuously recorded on video for later analyses of behavioural patterns and the utilisation of the available paddock area. Additionally, periodic measurements of heart rate (HR), heart rate variability (HRV) as well as standardised salivary samplings for later cortisol determination were carried out. Horses used the available area significantly less both in electrically fenced and small paddocks (p < 0.001). The border area (50cm) was used less both in electrically fenced and small paddocks (p < 0.001). The total amount of stress-indicating behaviour did not differ between the two fence types. Horses moved less in small (p<0.001) and electrically fenced (p<0.005) paddocks than in big and wooden fenced ones. Horses rolled less in small paddocks (p < 0.001). Fence contact was significantly less with electric fencing (p<0.001). Stress-indicating behaviour tended to be more prominent in small paddocks. Salivary cortisol and HRV parameters did not differ between the paddocks but a slight tendency of alteration of the low frequency/high frequency ratio indicating stress reactions was observed with electric fencing. Based on the measured physiological parameters there is no indication for stress in electrically fenced paddocks. However horses use less of the available paddock area both in electrically fenced paddocks and small paddocks, especially by avoiding the area near the fence. © 2015 Elsevier B.V.

Briefer Freymond S.,Agroscope Swiss National Stud Farm | Briefer E.F.,ETH Zurich | Zollinger A.,Agroscope Swiss National Stud Farm | Zollinger A.,Bern University of Applied Sciences | And 3 more authors.
Applied Animal Behaviour Science | Year: 2014

Moods can influence our judgment of ambiguous stimuli as positive or negative. Measuring judgment bias in animals is a promising method to objectively assess their emotional states. Our study aimed to develop a cognitive bias test in horses, in order to assess the effect of training using positive reinforcement (PR) or negative reinforcement (NR) on their emotional states. We trained 12 mares to discriminate between a rewarded and a non-rewarded location situated on each side of a paddock. The mares were then trained during five days to perform several exercises using PR (n= 6) for one group, and NR (n= 6) for the other (treatment). Finally, we compared the responses of the two groups to three ambiguous locations situated between the rewarded and non-rewarded locations (judgment bias test). During the training exercises, according to our predictions, behavioural measures suggested that NR mares experienced more negative emotions than PR mares. Surprisingly, the results of the judgment bias test suggest that NR mares were in a more optimistic mood compared to PR mares, despite previously experiencing more negative emotions during the treatment. NR mares could have been more motivated to obtain a food reward than PR mares, which had been rewarded throughout the treatment phase. Alternatively, NR mares could have developed optimistic bias triggered by release from the negative state experienced during treatment. This first attempt to test judgment bias in horses suggests that this is a promising method to measure horse mood. Knowledge about the effect of training methods on the mental health of domesticated animals can add a new dimension to animal welfare, in order to promote better ways to work with animals. © 2014 Elsevier B.V.

PubMed | Agroscope Swiss National Stud Farm and ETH Zurich
Type: | Journal: Scientific reports | Year: 2015

Studying vocal correlates of emotions is important to provide a better understanding of the evolution of emotion expression through cross-species comparisons. Emotions are composed of two main dimensions: emotional arousal (calm versus excited) and valence (negative versus positive). These two dimensions could be encoded in different vocal parameters (segregation of information) or in the same parameters, inducing a trade-off between cues indicating emotional arousal and valence. We investigated these two hypotheses in horses. We placed horses in five situations eliciting several arousal levels and positive as well as negative valence. Physiological and behavioral measures collected during the tests suggested the presence of different underlying emotions. First, using detailed vocal analyses, we discovered that all whinnies contained two fundamental frequencies (F0 and G0), which were not harmonically related, suggesting biphonation. Second, we found that F0 and the energy spectrum encoded arousal, while G0 and whinny duration encoded valence. Our results show that cues to emotional arousal and valence are segregated in different, relatively independent parameters of horse whinnies. Most of the emotion-related changes to vocalizations that we observed are similar to those observed in humans and other species, suggesting that vocal expression of emotions has been conserved throughout evolution.

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