Five new equine behavior studies are being funded this year by the Morris Animal Foundation that is hoped will help veterinary scientists improve the well-being of horses.
The studies being funded are part of the Foundation’s Donor-Inspired Study program, which allows individual donors to directly support a research topic for which they have a passion, and for which there is a pressing need.
Funding for the new studies has been provided by Dr Wendy Koch, a veterinarian who has supported the Foundation for 30 years. Koch has closely followed equine behavior and welfare research and wanted to address an unmet need for funding in these areas. She worked with Morris Animal Foundation to create a special fund, Equine Behavior/Welfare Research to support studies that will improve understanding of horses’ behavioral and psychological needs and challenges.
Koch noted that “unwanted behaviors (from bucking to ‘zoning out’), ‘vices’, and other such problems are our horses’ only way of telling us that our behavior may be negatively affecting their welfare – and we often miss the subtler signals our horses send us”.
The studies funded are:
Effect of touch in human-horse interactions – Researchers will measure stress in horses involved in human interactions to find ways to alleviate stress and improve the experience and strengthen relationships between humans and horses.
Study stress in mares during weaning time – Researchers will study mare behavior during weaning of foals to develop strategies designed to reduce chronic stress in mares.
Develop online educational tools for horse owners – Researchers will create online training tools to help horse owners recognize horse behavior and body language associated with health or welfare issues.
Effects of roughage availability on behavior – Researchers will evaluate three feeding techniques and determine which strategy improves feeding management and reduces abnormal behaviors in horses.
Impact of light on stabled horses – Researchers will study the effect of different types of indoor lighting on the behavior and well-being of horses in stables.
The Foundation’s Equine Behavior Scientific Advisory Board, made up of equine behavior and/or welfare experts, reviewed all submitted grant applications and selected the approved studies based on scientific merit and potential impact for improving the health and welfare of horses.