Home' Breeding and Racing : Issue 118 December 2014 Contents 38 FOR DAILY INDUSTRY NEWS UPDATES VISIT WWW.BREEDINGRACING.COM
EQUINE STRESS (CONT)
who suffered a fatal heart arrhythmia and
European stayer Araldo who was startled by a
spectator, twisted on one leg and badly broke a
bone too severely damaged to fix.
“I personally don’t have any ethical issues
with using horses in sport, they are looked after
extremely well when in training and racing and
they do enjoy the routine and competition.”
Following the unfortunate deaths of the
duo, the Victorian Racing Club made interim
changes to enhance the “safety and well-
being of horses” for the final two days of the
2014 Melbourne Cup carnival. They banned
patrons from having flags “in horse areas” and
changed the process of horses following the
winner back into the mounting yard in Gr1
races, while still allowing patrons to watch the
animals return to scale.
Peta Hitchens, who has undertaken much
study on the causes of jockey falls in Australia
and other parts of the world, said more
thorough education of horses in race-day
conditions prior to them commencing a
racing career was worthy of consideration.
“It may be necessary to impose stricter
criteria before granting clearances for horses
to race, with focus on observation of each
horse’s tractability and readiness,” observed Dr
Hitchens, who is currently a researcher at the
Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences.
Dr Merkies said an as yet unpublished
study showed that turning racehorses out in a
paddock even for an hour a day and keeping
horses off-track, and only trailering in for race
days, greatly reduces stress levels.
An October 2014 study published in the
Journal of Veterinary Behavior suggested an
influence of psychological and physiological
stress in humans on horses. It is common
belief in the horse industry that horses
reflect the way those around them feel. If the
crowd is scared, the horse will be frightened.
If the handler is upset, the horse will react
accordingly. Whether they are feeling empathy
reason and it is figuring out how best to deal
with each horses requirements and every horse
will cope with different situations differently.”
This theory is much the same for
international air travel, according to
thoroughbred transport expert Chris Burke of
“We stick with the traditional techniques
and not rush horses, provide lots of space,
sometimes a mild sedative and a companion
horse when possible,” Bourke said.
Advancements in testing to better identify
diseases have led to quicker movement,
efficiencies and technological advancements
have led to smoother and safer travel.
“ The air stable is basically a horse float
without the wheels. We reduce grains and are
at the mercy of the airlines a bit and we take
their shoes off and keep up the water but they
are left more or less alone.
“ The important thing is not to change
things too much. Horses are not silly and will
react when things change.”
It is possible that owners, large and small,
will make changes to the stabling areas after
learning what causes stress for their horses,
some of which may even be stressed on a daily
basis without the owner suspecting it.
The best barns are airy, well lit and with
terrific ventilation, the stalls are bright and
open where the occupant can see other
horses, and where individual and group
turnouts are offered.
“Good stable design in itself can decrease a
horse’s stress levels...”
or reacting to human emotions is less clear.
Prior to joining Inglis in June this year,
Fairgray worked at the Hunter Valley stud
Arrowfield for 14 years, holding the position
of Stud Manager since 2007. He said, as is the
case in life, it is the youngest horses that need
the most care and attention - especially the
most popular yearling lots being constantly
pulled out for inspection at sales.
Fairgray commented, “A change in
environment can be very challenging and
stressful and the first bit of stress begins
once they are loaded into a float, and
travelling with a stable buddy is a good way
to provide reassurance.”
He said it was important the truck trip was
“not a speed affair” and the horse manages
to settle and maintain its balance around
corners; also, it is important not to travel in
the heat of the day and to ensure the horses
are adequately hydrated.
For all travel it is important that horses on
high grain diets have the amount of grain
reduced a few days prior to departure and
add electrolytes to avoid the animal becoming
flighty. Fairgray suggested some herbal
remedies worked well in keeping a horse calm.
Once on the sales ground it is imperative
horses can see each other from their boxes,
either next door or across the alley way, and
that they are taken for a hand walk.
“It will generate confidence and take away
some of the fear of the new surroundings. The
key is to try and keep things as similar to when
they are at home, and at all times the handlers
keep calm and quiet, and avoid anything that
may startle the horse. Horses get stressed for a
Horses can resent jockeys
Other important considerations include:
Are the ceilings high?
If the doors or walls are solid boards can
they be removed and bars or grillwork added
so horses can see their neighbors?
Is there a level base drainage and absorbent
How is the air quality?
Can rising warm air escape - no, then add a
Is feed time causing stress? It is important
to coordinate feed times in larger barns so the
last horses are not always going out of their
Are horses fretting for companionship? For
whatever reason your horse cannot have an
equine mate you can at least consider a goat
Industrial psychologists have long know n
that removing avoidable stress and creating
a positive working environment translates to
a more productive workforce. The analogy
is simple: while it’s impossible to remove all
stress inputs, the happier a horse is the more
likely it is to run to its potential.
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