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Influence of approach on behavioral responses of young horses

By C. Sankey, S. Henry, C. Clouard, M. A. Richard-Yris, M. Hausberger

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Nowadays, there are very few elements on the general way to approach animals for occasional interventions. In this study, we investigated the behavioural responses of young horses to an approaching human. This study was conducted on 39 one and two year-old horses. Horses were kept in same age groups in two pastures. We defined 7 approach zones for each horse (1/left shoulder, 2/left flank, 3/left croup, 4/right shoulder, 5/right flank, 6/right croup and 7/front). A single experimenter approached all horses in the field, looking at the animals and walking with a slow and regular step, perpendicularly to each of the target zones. The results indicate that if the number of approaches leading to contact only slightly differed according to the approached side, clear behavioural differences were observed: approaches on the right side induced in most cases positive reactions from the horses, such as remaining immobile awaiting for contact or sniffing the human experimenter, whereas approaches on the left side induced more negative reactions, such as threats. These results raise questions concerning the classical practice that consists in always approaching and manipulating horses on their left side.

Date 2010
Pages 161-167
ISBN/ISSN 2-915250-16-2
Publisher Les Haras Nationaux
Language French
Author Address Universite de Rennes 1, UMR CRNS 6552, Laboratoire d'Ethologie Animale et Humaine (EthoS) Station Biologique, 35380 Paimpont, France.
Cite this work

Researchers should cite this work as follows:

  1. Animal behavior
  2. Fear
  3. Horses
  4. Mammals
  5. position
  6. Relationships
  7. Sport animals
  8. young animals