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Serum Cortisol Concentrations and Behavior Assessment as Tools for Evaluating Stress in Horses Used in Therapeutic or University Riding Programs

By Shikun Chen

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Abstract

Stress is known to have a negative impact on the health and well-being of animals. Physiological and behavioral changes offer objective and easy to use methods of evaluating stress in horses. However, there are limited studies showing a relationship between changes in stress-related behavior and stress-related serum cortisol concentrations in horses. This study evaluated the relationship between stress-related behavior and cortisol concentration changes in horses used in a university equine program and a therapeutic riding program. Behavior was evaluated by two trained observers during multiple riding sessions. Audio recordings were made during direct observation, and video recordings were used to later confirm audio observations. Serum samples were collected before, immediately after, and 30 minutes after riding, and were evaluated for cortisol concentrations. Results showed no change in behavior scores in either group of horses, but serum cortisol concentrations increased in university riding horses as the semester progressed. However, all serum cortisol concentrations remained within or below normal ranges. A relationship between stress related behavior and cortisol concentration changes was not shown clearly, suggesting horses were in a low-stress environment.

Submitter

Marcy Wilhelm-South

Purdue University

Date 2017
Pages 52
Department Hutson School of Agriculture
Degree Master of Science in Agriculture
URL https://digitalcommons.murraystate.edu/etd/64/
Language English
University Murray State University
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Tags
  1. Animal-assisted activities
  2. Animal-assisted therapies
  3. Animal behavior
  4. Horses
  5. Mammals
  6. open access
  7. therapeutic riding programs
  8. Universities and Colleges
Badges
  1. open access