Recreational horses can tend to get cranky when worked in temperatures above 26 degrees Celsius (79 degress Fahrenheit), according to Polish researchers.
Wind speeds above 5.5 metres per second – that’s 12.3 miles per hour, or 19.8 kilometres per hour – were also linked to undesirable behavior.
Iwona Janczarek and her colleagues set out to examine whether a range of atmospheric conditions might disrupt the behavior and physiological condition of recreational horses.
The researchers, from the University of Life Sciences in Lublin, Poland, carried out their research on 16 Anglo-Arabian geldings, from July 1 to September 1, during the warmer months.
Each day, from 9am to 10am, the horses were worked under saddle.
The riders and the researchers undertook a qualitative behavioral assessment of each horse, with the animals’ mood and willingness to work evaluated.
They looked in particular for incorrect behavior while being ridden, noting both the number of occurrences and the percentage of time they took up during the riding sessions.
The research team recorded the heart rate, body temperature and respiratory rate of each animal at 8am to obtain resting measurements, and repeated the measurements at 10.05am to collect post-exercise data.
They took measurements of air temperature, relative air humidity, wind speed and atmospheric pressure at 8am and 10am.
They found that adverse changes in behavior can occur if the horse is ridden when the air temperature climbed above 26 degress Celsius and when wind speeds exceeded 5.5 meters per second.
“Such conditions may cause a reduction in the mood and willingness to work in horses,” the researchers reported in the Animal Science Journal.
No apparent affect on the mood of the horses was found from humidity or atmospheric pressure.
The researchers continued: “Physiological parameters like heart rate and body temperature seem to be more sensitive indicators of the horse body reaction to the weather than behavioral reactions.”
Correlations between the behavior of recreational horses, the physiological parameters and summer atmospheric conditions.
Janczarek I, Wilk I, Zalewska E, Bocian K.
Anim Sci J. 2015 Jul;86(7):721-8. doi: 10.1111/asj.12343. Epub 2014 Dec 9.
The abstract can be read here.