Competition more stressful for inexperienced horses
17 Sep 2015
Researchers in Italy undertook a study of 23 Arabian horses competing in Gymkhana games events. Approximately half of the horses were experienced at this sort of competition and were competing in a higher level and half were inexperienced and competing at a lower level. At intervals of five minutes and thirty minutes after competing, the experimenters measured cortisol levels in the horses via blood sample. They found that inexperienced horses had significantly higher level of cortisol than the experienced horses showing that the competition was more stressful for the inexperienced horses, even though the course they had to complete was less difficult.
Both groups of horses followed the same training regime in the four weeks leading up to the event at which the study was conducted.
It would be interesting to see the difference between stress levels when the horses were at home versus when they first got to the competition. A more detailed classification of “experienced” vs “inexperienced” horses would be useful too. eg., experience could be measured by number of shows attended in lifetime, although this information could be difficult to obtain.
Fazio, E., Medica, P., Cravana, C., Molinari, P., & Ferlazzo, A. (2014). Effect of Experience on Adrenocortical and Thyroid Responses of Arabian Horses to Gymkhana Games. Journal of Equine Veterinary Science, 34(6), 799-804.