Current Research

Investigation of Social Buffering as a Potential Method to Reduce Stress Response and Improve Horse Welfare

“The horse is a highly social, gregarious animal who has a close relationship with a few companions. But nowadays horses are often kept in social isolation, deprived of the benefits of this company which can be a stressful situation for the animal and lead to an increase in the risk of a range of health and behaviour problems. 

The aim of this research is improvement of animal welfare by an investigation of social buffering (i.e how stress can be reduced by the presence of another horse), with the main objective being to eventually replace the companion by a substitute (indirect social stimuli) when social isolation cannot be avoided.”

Claire Ricci-Bonot, PhD Student

Past Studies 

Historically, we have done a lot of work on repetitive behaviour problems (stable vices) and developed both the use of mirrors for weaving and helped Feedmark develop ‘Settelex’ for cribbing.

Below are some examples of published papers from both staff and students. Click a title to find out more.

Social learning in horses: The effect of using a group leader demonstrator on the performance of familiar conspecifics in a detour task

Horses’ responses to variation in human approach

The role of the image of a conspecific in the regulation of stereotypic head movements in the horse

The effect of a neighbouring conspecific versus the use of a mirror for the control of stereotypic weaving behaviour in the stabled horse

The use of mirrors for the control of stereotypic weaving behaviour in the stabled horse

The effect of increasing visual horizons on stereotypic weaving: Implications for the social housing of the stabled horse