Loading horses into trailers can be challenging and potentially dangerous, especially with young horses. Could lighting in the trailer help make the process less stressful?
Claire Neveux and colleagues investigated how lighting inside a trailer can affect the horse’s experience, especially during loading and when the trailer is stationary. They found that having consistent and bright LED lighting inside the trailer can make a difference.
The work has been reported in the journal Applied Animal Behaviour Science.
For the study, the researchers used a specially designed trailer with adjustable LED lights. They tested this setup with 20 young French Trotter horses who were relatively new to travelling and loading. They had them load into the trailer multiple times, (“Loading Phase”). After loading, the horses remained in the stationary trailer for two minutes with the experimenter (“Stationary phase”).
The research team used varying lighting conditions in the trailer, which included different levels of brightness and temperature, such as warm white light (3000K), neutral white light (4500K), and cold white light (6300K) generated by LED lighting. To evaluate how these distinct lighting conditions influenced the horses’ reactions, the research team closely monitored the horses’ behaviour and documented their heart rates.
Among their findings were that horses expressed fewer stress-related behaviours and loaded faster when there was a high light level inside the trailer.
In addition, heart rates recovered more quickly when horses were loaded and kept under artificial white light LED lighting in a stationary trailer.
However, they stress that many factors, including the horse’s environment, personality and past experience affect their response to loading in a trailer.
The team comprised Claire Neveux, Marion Ferard and Emmanuel Melac, from equine behavior consulting firm Ethonova in Belle Vie en Auge, France, and Nicolas Pousset, from the University of Tours. The study was supported by the Normandie Incubation science valorisation cluster, France, co-funded by the University of Caen.
Effects of different LED lighting conditions on young horses during trailer loading and stationary confinement. Claire Neveux, Marion Ferard, Emmanuel Melac, Nicolas Pousset. Applied Animal Behaviour Science (2023) Vol 261, 105885
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