Stabled horses ate more when music played – study

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Night-time music had a significant effect on behaviour of stabled horses in a recent study.

Research carried out by Naomi Hartmann and Linda Greening in the Equine Science Department of Hartpury University in Britain examined the effect of playing classical music to horses at night.

Seven horses, kept on the same yard, were stabled for 24 hours a day and followed the same daily routine. Their behaviour was recorded from 8.30pm to 6.30am the following morning for nine nights

For five nights, classical music (Beethoven’s ninth symphony) was played continuously from 8.30pm to 1.30am. On two nights at the start, and again at the end of the study, no music was played to provide control observations.

The researchers found that music had a significant effect on behaviour. Horses spent more time eating when music was played. Other behaviours – such as standing alert, walking and excreting – decreased compared to the control periods when no music was played. They also found significant differences in the occurrence of lying down, although these were not clearly linked to exposure to music.

The researchers conclude: “The addition of music appears to have a significant effect on the equine nocturnal time budget that might be beneficial from an equine sleep perspective.”

A Preliminary Study Investigating the Influence of Auditory Stimulation on the Occurrence of Nocturnal Equine Sleep-Related Behavior in Stabled Horses. Hartman N, Greening LM. J Equine Vet Sci. 2019 Nov; 82:102782. doi:10.1016/j.jevs.2019.07.003

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