Researchers have found that just one hour of exercise a day takes the edge off of stabled horses. They also studied whether or not the four different forms of exercise: the horse walker, treadmill, turnout and recreational riding, were equally effective in reducing unwanted behavior from horses housed in stalls.
Two dozen thoroughbreds and part-thoroughbreds received an hour of exercise every day with one of the four exercise methods. Every few days, each horse’s behavior was evaluated while being handled for weighing and then during loading in and out of their trailers.
Each horse was also released into an arena by itself for 15 minutes. Its activity was documented to assess rebound behavior. The researchers considered rebound activity as an indicator of the horse’s previous behavioral deprivation, resulting from being confined to a stall. They also did a second arena test, but this time after the hoses had daily exercise for an hour.
The researchers saw that horses that had daily exercise did less walking, trotting and cantering when in the arena, even when their previous exercise only consisted of walking. Those horses that had turnout did the least amount of cantering, and seldom bucked or rolled during their freedom in the arena. Horses exercised by walking or riding usually bucked two or three times while in the arena. Meanwhile, horses without any daily exercise let out six or seven bucks and also rolled once or twice during their 15 minutes at liberty.
All types of exercise left horses in a more cooperative and less reactive mood. This was reflected in less vocalizing while being handled and in taking less time to load onto weight scales. Whether they got exercise made no difference, however, in how horses behaved during trailer loading.
While this study doesn’t indicate whether one hour of exercise is ideal or even enough for a stabled horse, it does show that an hour of activity makes a significant difference in a horse’s behavior.
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