ResearchBack to Stable Stress








There is always room for more research for new stable designs that are suitable for both horse and owner.  Edwards (1996) proposed a futuristic space age design that is feasible, practical and cost effective takes into consideration the needs of the horse, handler and owner.  There is also the need for epidemiological studies to monitor infections where horses are kept at pasture.

Minero et al (1998) aimed to study whether heart rate values recorded while subject stereotypies are significantly different from heart rates recorded during other behaviours.  Long term crib-biters were used.  The preliminary results show that the heart rate while the horses were performing the stereotypy was statistically lower than during other behaviour patterns.  The heart rate increased for a few seconds before cribbing bouts and decreased once the cribbing had started.  These preliminary findings seem to support the homeostatic function hypothesis of some stereotypies in some species.

As well as researching alternatives to stables there needs to be continued research on equine welfare. The Brambell committee was established to review the evidence that confinement of farm animals caused undue suffering, but there needs to be something similar done on horses. Research needs to be carried out on abnormal behaviours and welfare of competition horses.

There is a lack of detailed fundamental research exploring the motivational factors underlying stereotypies.  There is evidence to support the theory that stereotypies originate from specific motivational states but little research with the involvement of aversion, locomotory or other motivational systems.  There is also research needed to measure changes in hormonal and physiological variables during or after stereotypic bouts.  There is a need to unify the characteristics of stereotypies, and research to link stereotypies and welfare more.

Mason (1993) stresses the importance of presenting a complete description of the morphology, timing and stage of stereotypy, as well as the subject’s circumstances, age and past history.  Future studies should approach stereotypies in a multidimensional way, describing and measuring each of the different properties. A related technique uses the way in which the animals’ environment differs.  Space, amount of food and so on are recorded, and the relationships between these and the abnormal behaviours are analysed.

Ödberg (1993) suggested the following for future research:

  1. Carry out development studies, inducing stereotypies and investigating the changes in the environment.
  2. Study individual differences with different stereotypers and investigate in which aspects they differ.
  3. Use inter-discipline approaches, especially neuropsychological and biochemical ones, with more attention on cognitive process.
  4. Keep an open mind for different hypotheses.