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Friday, September 21, 2012

paper added to journal club - adult horse play and its link to stress

I have the lucky job of coordinating my school's Behavior Medicine Club's journal club activity!  This month I've picked a horse based behavior article, and added it to the Mendeley journal club (found in the right hand side bar of the blog).

This research was covered in Equus magazine a couple of months ago, and going through the study and it's conclusions with a Board- certified behaviorist and veterinarian should be really interesting.

The full text of this article can be found on the web and so should be available to you (in English).  Do you agree with the study?  I'd love to hear your input!

Hausberger, M., Fureix, C., Bourjade, M., Wessel-Robert, S., & Richard-Yris, M.-A. (2012). On the significance of adult play: what does social play tell us about adult horse welfare? Die Naturwissenschaften, 99(4), 291-302. doi:10.1007/s00114-012-0902-8

Here's the abstract to get you started (bolded phrase is my emphasis):

Play remains a mystery and adult play even more so. More typical of young stages in healthy individuals, it occurs rarely at adult stages but then more often in captive/domestic animals, which can imply spatial, social and/or feeding deprivations or restrictions that are challenging to welfare, than in animals living in natural conditions. Here, we tested the hypothesis that adult play may reflect altered welfare states and chronic stress in horses, in which, as in several species, play rarely occurs at adult stages in natural conditions. We observed the behaviour (in particular, social play) of riding school horses during occasional outings in a paddock and measured several stress indicators when these horses were in their individual home boxes. Our results revealed that (1) the number of horses and rates of adult play appeared very high compared to field report data and (2) most stress indicators measured differed between 'players' and 'non-players', revealing that most 'playful' animals were suffering from more chronic stress than 'non-playful' horses. Frequency of play behaviour correlated with a score of chronic stress. This first discovery of a relationship between adult play and altered welfare opens new lines of research that certainly deserves comparative studies in a variety of species.

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