At the beginning of the training routine, young racehorses are exposed to stressful stimuli. Janet Marlow at PetAcoustics aims to evaluate the influence of a relaxing massage which the horses received in the stable, and the influence of music piped into the stable, on the long-lasting stress level of the horses
‘Massage or Music Meant to Be Relaxing, Result in Lowering Salivary Cortisol Concentration in Race Horses’
Young Purebred Arabian horses in Poland are routinely submitted to race training. At the age of 2.5 years, they are moved from familiar studs to an unfamiliar race training centre. Much of the stimuli accumulated at the beginning of the training routine is associated with transport, change of residence, physical effort and participation in races, and can elicit chronic stress in horses (Alexander and Irvine 1998). Moreover, the commercialisation of racetracks alters the living conditions towards circumstances inconsistent with the biology of horses (MacTaggart et al. 2010). Keeping a racehorse in a box for most of the day, results in restricted freedom of movement (Henderson 2007). An unfamiliar environment, isolation, and short feed intake can also deepen the stress level (Waters et al. 2002). It is known that longlasting stress has a negative influence on the organism. The factors generating stress in trained horses, however, can only be partially eliminated. Therefore, negative factors should be controlled and their effects should be mitigated (Evans 2003). Various relaxing methods may be used, e.g. free movement in the paddocks, massage and music. Massage promotes general body relaxation and increases the sense of an animal’s well-being (Scott and Swenson 2009). In horses, the heart rate measured during and immediately after a massage was reduced, and improved behavioural responses were noted (McBride et al. 2004). Horses are generally sensitive to music. The most visible sign of the influence of music on horses is the horse’s ability to synchronise their movement to musical rhythm (Bregman et al. 2012). According to Carter and Greening (2012), the effect of the music on a horse’s behaviour depends on the music genre. Stachurska et al. (2015) showed that relaxation music positively affected the emotional state in racehorses. However, little is known how these kinds of relaxation methods reduce long-lasting stress in racehorses (Scott and Swenson 2009).
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