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Physiological and Behavioral Responses of Horses to Wither Scratching and Patting the Neck When Under Saddle

By Zoë W. Thorbergson, Sharon G. Nielsen, Rodney J. Beaulieu, Rebecca E. Doyle

Category Journal Articles
Abstract

Riding is considered to be an arousing activity for horses. It has been suggested that wither scratching may be a more useful tool for relaxation compared with the common practice of neck patting. In the current study, 18 horses were exposed to 3 treatments, including control or no interaction, neck patting, and wither scratching, for 1 min each following a short obstacle course. Heart rate, heart rate variability, and a variety of behaviors were measured in the horses. Wither scratching produced a significantly longer duration of relaxed-type behaviors. Wither scratching could be a useful tool to help a horse relax while under saddle. Additionally, the study identified 2 ear positions that may be useful for future research in horse behavior.

Publication Title Journal of Applied Animal Welfare Science
Volume 19
Issue 3
Pages 245-259
ISBN/ISSN 1088-8705
DOI 10.1080/10888705.2015.1130630
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Tags
  1. Agitation
  2. Behavior and behavior mechanisms
  3. Horses
  4. welfare