Manageability, reactivity and learning ability of horses are three essential characteristics for the rider-horse relationship. In comparison to routine handling, extra handling may reduce fear of humans and general reactivity and thereby improve manageability and learning ability in a variety of farm animal species, including horses. The purpose of this paper is to review the experiments which have studied the effects of handling on manageability, reactivity and learning ability of foals. Many authors have studied the period during which the handling is performed, and particularly the periods following birth and weaning. Even if it has become fashionable to handle foals immediately after birth, experiments which tested the effects of neonatal handling found either short-term effects or no effect. On the other hand, the time of weaning appears to be a favourable period to handle foals, since handling performed at this time provides long term effects on manageability and reactivity. The type of handling and how it is perceived by the animal could also influence the effectiveness of the handling treatment. Many studies have investigated this aspect on other farm animal species. For example, 'forced human handling' of sheep has been compared to 'gentle handling', and only the gentle handling was found to affect approachability. However, to our knowledge, no study on horses has examined the effect of the type of handling and how it is perceived by the animal. Finally, it is also important to consider the duration of the handling treatment and the necessity to maintain its effect over time with additional handling. Until now it has not been proved that handling horses for less than 5 days is effective, on the contrary, two weeks is sufficient to induce some effects and is generally the most common duration used. Handling procedures that use the optimal type, length and period may have durable effects on manageability, reactivity and learning ability of foals. Nevertheless, other approaches such as indirectly approaching the foal through the mother may also have beneficial effects on horse behaviour.
|Publication Title||Horse behaviour and welfare|
|Publisher||Wageningen Academic Publishers|
|Location of Publication||Wageningen|
|Author Address||INRA, Centre de Recherche de Tours/Nouzilly, 37380 Nouzilly, France.|
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