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The use of mirrors for the control of stereotypic weaving behaviour in the stabled horse

By L. M. McAfee, D. S. Mills, J. J. Cooper

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Abstract

Weaving, a common locomotor stereotypy, is associated with social isolation in stabled horses. In this study we investigated the effect of provision of mirrors on weaving as this may have a similar effect to access to conspecifics. The behaviour of 6 known weavers, each in 1 of 3 locations within a working equine yard, was recorded, 5 days a week for 12 weeks. After a pre-trial period of a week, 1 horse in each of the 3 locations was provided with a 1 m x 1.5 m mirror for 5 weeks, after which time the mirrors were removed and placed in the stables of the other 3 subjects for the next 5 weeks. All mirrors were then removed and the horses observed for a final week (post-trial period). The provision of a mirror significantly reduced the incidence of both stereotypic weaving (P0.001) and nodding (P0.05) for the 5 weeks of treatment but did not affect the time the horses spent standing active, dozing or ingesting. The mirror may mimic visual contact with conspecifics (minimizing the social isolation of the stable) and/or provide environmental distraction or additional visual stimuli, altering the horses' perception of the environment and their resultant responses to it. The use of mirrors in the stable appears to be a more effective treatment of weaving than many current popular treatments, including weaving bars.

Date 2002
Publication Title Applied Animal Behaviour Science
Volume 78
Issue 2/4
Pages 159-173
ISBN/ISSN 0168-1591
DOI 10.1016/S0168-1591(02)00086-2
Language English
Author Address Animal Behaviour, Cognition & Welfare Group, Dept. of Biological Sciences, University of Lincoln, Riseholme, Lincoln, LN 2 2LG, UK.dmills@dmu.ac.uk
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Tags
  1. Abnormal behavior
  2. Animal behavior
  3. Animal rights
  4. Animal welfare
  5. Behavior and behavior mechanisms
  6. Deviant behavior
  7. Horses
  8. Isolation
  9. Mammals
  10. mirrors
  11. Physical environment
  12. stimuli