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The effect of a compressed air stimulus on blocking times in a concentrate feeding station for horses in group housing

By Aline Gülden, Wolfgang Büscher

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Abstract

Concentrate feeding stations are used to meet the different feeding requirements of group-housed horses. In practice, blocking times caused by horses remaining in the feeding station without concentrate allowance constrain the feeding process considerably. To date, the application of an electric shock seems to be the most effective stimulus to prevent these blocking times. The aim of the present study was to examine the effectiveness of an innovative stimulation device in preventing the occurrence of blocking times. The study was carried out in a so called active barn, a group housing system with a generous space offer which is subdivided into different functional areas (resting, water intake, concentrate intake, roughage intake, paddock, pasture). Each of the 16 horses observed was fed with the help of a concentrate feeding station. As standard, the concentrate feeding station was equipped with a stimulation device that is intended to encourage the horses to leave the station after feed intake. The stimulation device consisted of an acoustic signal (beeper) and a touch trigger (thin stick) that should drive the horses from the feeding station. In the course of the present study, an additional stimulus was implemented, namely the application of compressed air between the horses’ hind legs. The behaviour of the horses was recorded with video observation and analysed over a period of 3×24h in each of the trial periods (1. Status quo=no application of compressed air; 2. Compressed air; 3. Compressed air after two weeks of application; 4. Compressed air after six weeks of application). It was observed that the average daily blocking durations, as well as the average daily blocking frequencies of the horses, could be reduced significantly by the application of compressed air. However, an increase of the observed blocking durations and blocking frequencies during the six weeks of the trial period indicates the occurrence of a habituation effect over time. In the course of the present study it became obvious that there are great individual differences concerning the reaction of the horses to the applied stimulation devices. As the emergence of blocking times is a very complex issue, the authors strongly recommend further scientific research on this topic. Possible future research focuses are discussed in the course of the present study.

Publication Title Applied Animal Behaviour Science
Volume 191
Pages 39-48
ISBN/ISSN 0168-1591
DOI https://doi.org/10.1016/j.applanim.2017.02.006
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Tags
  1. Feeding
  2. Group housing
  3. Horses
  4. stimulation