Understanding Horse Body Language
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Understanding Horse Body Language

August 31, 2019


Okay, good evening everyone. I’d like to welcome you all to the My Horse
University and Equine Network’s live webcast titled “Understanding Horse Body Language.” Today’s webcast is sponsored by Weaver’s Leather. From their humble beginnings as a two man
shoe and harness repair shop in the heart of Ohio’s Amish country to today’s leading
leather manufacturing business, Weaver Leather has never lost sight of their principles. Check out their website at www.ridethebrand.com
for a good source of tack, saddlery, educational information, and safety tips. Our presenter today is Dr. Katherin Houpt
from Cornell University. She is a James Law professor of Animal Behavior
and a veterinarian. She’s also has a PhD and is board certified
by the American College of Veterinary Behaviorists. She’s published a textbook called “Domestic
Animal Behavior” now on its fourth edition, as well as numerous scientific articles. Her current research interests are cribbing
and foal rejection. She also manages an animal care clinic at
Cornell University and has a column in Horse and Rider magazine. Please note that you are able to ask questions
during the presentation via the text chat at the bottom of your screen. The questions will be answered by Carissa
Wickens and Dr. Camie Heleski. Carissa is currently working as a graduate
research assistant in the Department of Animal Science at Michigan State University. She is studying behavioral abnormalities in
horses. Dr. Heleski earned her PhD from Michigan State
in the area of animal behavior and welfare. Her research interests encompass several different
areas of horse behavior and welfare as well as horse/human interaction. The presentation from tonight will be recorded
and will be made available to you by the end of the day tomorrow. For those of you who purchased the series,
the entire behavior series, the recording will be in the same course site as the first
webcast. For those who specifically purchased this
webcast, we will email you instructions for accessing the recording. So at this time, without any further ado,
I will turn the presentation over to Dr. Houpt. Good evening, thank you for giving up a spring
evening. Before we can understand equine communication,
we’ve got to understand their perception. So I’m going to spend a few minutes on that
topic. We’re going to talk about vision and hearing
and a little bit about tactile or touch sensation. What can a horse see? We want to talk about their field of vision,
their visual acuity or how well can they see, and color vision. You have probably seen pictures like this
showing that horses can see almost 360 degrees whereas humans can see far less. The compensation is that the horse has very
limited binocular vision whereas a human has very good binocular vision and that’s the
red part of the slide. This doesn’t mean that horses can’t measure
depth, they can do that even with their monocular vision which is why they don’t knock over
too many jumps. This is just a black and white version but
showing something really important which is although the horse can see up to 215 out of
360 degrees with each eye, he can’t see directly behind him. He has this blind area. Which means that if you walk up directly behind
a horse, he may be startled and kick you. So either approach from the side or speak
to him if you must come from behind. This is one way to measure whether horses
can see or not. It’s called a electroretinogram. You put a contact lens on the horse, you flash
light in his eye, and you will see a change in electricity. the inserted box shows you the normal response
of a horse when he perceives light. So this is the electrical response of the
retina to light. The big picture shows what happens with a
blind Appaloosa. This was a night blind horse; every night
he would be turned out in the summer time and every morning he would come in with lots
of cuts and bruises. And that was because he couldn’t see. And the electroretinogram confirmed that he
could not see. But that doesn’t tell us how well the normal
horse can see. So you can test visual accuity. This particular series of experiments were
done in Canada and they trained the horses that they would get a reward if they pressed
the panel that had stripes on it. There were two panels, both of them had dishes
of grain behind them but only one would unlock. And the horse would press on that and get
his food reward. If he pressed the other one, he wouldn’t get
any food. They gradually made those stripes narrower
and narrower until the horse could no longer descriminate. And based on that, they did a few horses and
it took a long time to train them, but based on that they found that horses can see, not
as well as we can, but they actually have better visual acuity than dogs and cats. What about color vision? You often read in old books that animals see
in shades of grey but that’s not actually true. A and C show you a scene from the human point
of view in A, and the horse’s point of view in C. So we see a
green pasture, a palomino horse, a white barn and brownish ground. The horse sees sort of a dark yellow pasture,
sees himself as another shade of yellow, and the ground as even lighter yellow. So the world seems to be pretty yellowish. If you look at B, you see two little girls
on their horses and this girl has on her arm a orange scarf. This little girl has on a red jacket and a
pink sweater to us. They’re both wearing blue jeans and you’ll
notice that the horse can see the blue jeans, but he sees that orange scarf as one shade
of yellow and the pink and red as other darker shades of yellow. So that’s what the world looks like to horses. This is because horses have what’s called
dichromatic vision -they only have two visual pigments and we have three. So we’ve seen how the world looks to a horse. This is a way it looks to a human, the upper
bar shows you that humans can see purples and blue and green and yellow and orange and
red. but a dog or a horse will see purple and then
yellow, various shades of yellow, with red being dark. So if you are a red/green colorblind human,
which is relatively common particulary in men, you will see the world like a horse does. And what about hearing? This is the way that you can determine if
a horse can hear by putting a microphone in his ear, and then having electrodes that are
attached just to the skin, just behind his ears and on his neck. And from that you can record electrically
from his brain. It’s really a very neat system because you
can actually see the changes in voltage along every connection between the nerves that go
from his ears to his brain. And they’re about six synapses or connections
between the nerves. And if the horse could not hear, it would
be a flat line. And if it had an injury halfway up, you would
see changes in electricity and then it would be flat. So again, you can tell whether a horse can
hear or not using this. And you do it on any horse right off the street. But if you want to do it more precisely, you
have to train the horse. And this horse is listening to a loud speaker. When he hears -when he wants to essentially
play the game, he will press that upper panel which says “observing” and then sounds will
be played and he will press a panel when he hears something. He will get some water as a reward. If he cheats, and presses this panel when
there’s no sound, then the system will go off and he will have to wait a minute – that’s
his time out period. So that is what was used to carefully determine
how well horses could hear. And this is the sound threshold of people
and of horses. This is the frequency in kilohertz and this
is the intensity, how loud it has to be before the animal or the human can hear it. Of course, this is all based on human hearing
so about 4 kHz is the best frequency for humans. Horses are similar but not exactly the same. They’re not as good at hearing low frequencies
but they’re actually better at high frequencies. They can hear up above 16 kHz. In other words, they can hear some ultrasound. Now this is of theoretical interest but it
can also be of practical interest if you have in your barn, an ultrasonic rodent repeller,
it might also scare your horses. So once a year I get a question about that. Here is another test of hearing and this is
to see how well the horse can localize sound. He would get again a water reward if he pressed
this panel when the sound was coming from the right speaker. And they would begin with the speakers very
far apart and then bring them closer and closer together to see how good he was at localizing
the sound. And the results when they compared all the
different kinds of animals, was that horses we not good at localizing sound. If you think of the sound coming from a circle
around you, humans could hear a pin drop one degree of that three hundred and sixty degree
circle. Cats and dogs are pretty good, five to ten
degrees, but horses are down to about twenty degrees. So they’re not as good at localizing sound. That may be the reason why they tend to sometimes
jump in front of the car whos noise has scared them rather than away from it. And then there’s the tactile sense. This is what we use when we are riding. And those of you who are dressage riders probably
know that the horse can perceive where your heels are. And in fact, they can perceive a touch that’s
an inch from another touch as being two different places on its body. So that is why we can teach horses to move
so percisely from our touch. It’s also why horses who are used with neophite
riders, with beginner riders often become very difficult to teach to do anything else
because they are habituated to being touched in too many places. Another practical aspect of a horse’s sense
of touch is the twitch. You know, this is a chain or rope that is
put around the horse’s nose and then it is twisted. So why does it work? It works because the horse has a lot of receptors,
a lot of touch receptors around its nose. So that if you took a hair and touched it,
say, two number four, you could record from the brain and you would get a nerve firing. And if you touched another place, another
set of nerves would fire. And that has been mapped on the horse’s brain. And notice that the nostril has as much space
in the brain as the whole leg, which is a much bigger surface area. So that means that horses are very sensitive
in the nose. I probably didn’t have to tell you that. But what we think is happening is that when
you inflict pain on all of those receptors, all of those pain detecting nervers, that
it releases endorphins, the bodies opiates. And so then the horse is relaxed, he does
not feel pain. And in fact, he’s probably rewarded and so
you can do minor things to the horse while you’re using the twitch and – the next miracle
is that can you put the twitch back on him the next day? Because he associates it with pleasurable
things rather than pain. Let’s move on to the main topic, equine communication. In order to understand horses, we hve to learn
how they communicate. And again, I’ll go through visual, auditory,
and olfactory communication. And the signals are the ears, the head, the
nostril, the tail, and the general posture. This shows you an alert horse; she’s so alert
that she jumped over that fence about a minute later. Here’s another alert horse. You can tell that because his ears are forward,
his nostrils are relaxed, and he’s standing erect. Tails are also very important. This is a picture from George Waring’s horse
behavior book. If you look at the bottom, you’ll see that
horses tuck their tails in when they are afraid. When they are angry, when they’re aggressive,
they will lash their tails. If they’re just feeling good, they will hold
their tails up in the air. And this of course is what we like to see
in Arabians and that’s what’s artificially done in gaited horses. The tail posture you should probably keep
an eye out for is this where the horse is holding his tail horizontally so that the
hair falls from – the tail bone, it falls straight down. And he’s actually flexing it so it’s high
at the tip and high at his rump but depressed in the middle. That’s an ambivilous horse; that horse doesn’t
know what it wants to do. So it might run away from you or it might
run over you. So the tail can be clamped in fear, lashing
in aggression, up in just good spirits, or flexed if the horse is ambivalent. So here is a horse with it’s pinned ears,
thrusting its head towards the victim, and its tail is away from its body, so it’s an
active tail. This is a picture from Sue McDonald’s equine
ethogram where the horse, a stallion, is giving the arched neck threat. You can see it’s quite exaggerated there. So he’s threatening another horse and watch
for that amongst your own horses because it can be subtle. Here’s the same mare that had jumped over
the fence but here she is showing ambivalence. She has one ear forward and one ear back. And that’s because this is not her colt. This is someone else’s colt who has just met
her, is trying to play with her, and she may be deciding whether to try to kill him or
let him play with her. Fortunately, she decided to let him play. So if the ears are one forward and one back,
and there isn’t a sound in back of the horse and one in front of it, it probably isn’t
sure what it’s going to do. We look at their forelimbs, they communicate
by striking and pawing. With their hindlimbs they threaten. Pawing is a sign of impatience, of course
it’s left over from horses pawing to get to food or water. Striking on the other hand is aggression. These are two Chincoteague ponies play fighting
but if that hoof struck you, it would be pretty painful. So that is a form of aggression usually in
male horses. Here are two horses and one bucket of food
so it’s not the right way to feed horses. But you certainly see the dominance hierarchy. In this case, the dominant horse is on the
left with her ears pinned, her tail is lashing, and she’s thrusting her head at the other
horse who is retreating and tucking her tail. Here is, again, the wrong way to feed horses. Notice that both of the supplanted horses
have their ears out to the side. That is as close as we can come to a subordinate
ear position in horses. So look for that when you see your horses
interact either with you or with other horses. The supplanting horse has its ears pinned
and is lashing it’s tail. Here is a very clear visual signal – ears
really pinned, her mouth is open, she’s showing her teeth. Look at her nostrils, they’re wrinkled. So this is a fairly extreme form of aggression. Here is fear behavior. This is the whites of the eyes, the sclera. If you can see the whites of their eyes, they
are frightened. If you look at the horse’s lips they can be
relaxed. If the lower one is drooping, that usually
means the horse is tired or in pain. Upper lip drooping usually means pleasure. And they, of course, can stick out their tongue. I’ll talk more about that. So here is a relaxed horse, his lower lip
relaxed – is probably sleeping, slow wave sleep or sleep of the body. And its nostrils are relaxed. Again, you look at their ears to see if they’re
forward or backward or sideways. You look at their nostrils to see if they’re
wrinkled or dilated. The elongated upper lip often or usually happens
in response ot tactile pleasure. The horse, in this case, is rubbing its neck
against a tree and you see the long lip on the right. the upper left horse is rubbing its rump on
the fence and again, elongated upper lip. But what’s most important from your point
of view is the lower right. This horse is being scratched on the withers
by a human and is showing this elongated lower lip. I’m sorry, upper lip. The horse on the lower left is an alert horse
– ears up, very erect. And then here’s the opposite, the stand rest
with the head down, hind limbs – one of which is flexed which means that it’s not exerting
any muscular activity. They have a series of ligaments in their legs
called the “stay apparatus” that allows them to stand without using much energy. His eyes are closed, again, this horse is
probably sleeping standing up. But remember, he has to lie down to dream
sleep. This horse is being aggressive. Look at her nostrils – that’s the first sign. So if you’re working with a horse and it’s
nostrils begin to narrow, you better watch out. The horse is getting aggressive. She’s lashing her tail, she’s showing her
teeth. This horse is aggressing toward me because
she is painful. Her belly is very swollen, she has edema,
and she doesn’t want me to touch her. Or as I always say, she doesn’t like that
suit. One or the other. One of my favorite behaviors is snapping. I don’t like the name because it implies aggression. But it is a facial expression of an immature
horse. They usually do it in approach/avoidance situations. They’re opening and closing their mouth, clapping
their teeth together. This is a foal approaching its mother, but
its mother had been neighing and acting wilder than the foal had ever seen before, so he
was afraid. But he also wanted to approach her. Here is a much more common situation. That is a colt approaching the stallion. He doens’t have to approach the stallion,
but he is probably fearful so he snaps. Notice that the stallion is giving the arched
neck threat. He snaps at the stallion and then the stallion
let him play. Here is another facial expression which is
not as obvious. But this is the mating face of a mare. There are lots of other signs that a mare
is in heat, she’s squating and urinating. But she will also stand with her ears turned
back, not flattened but just turned back, and her lips will be very relaxed. And that is one more sign that you can use
to tell that she is in heat. And then this is a fairly new controversial
behavior and that is the food anticipating expression, which is what I call the or – submission
which is what Monty Roberts calls it, the horse is putting its tongue in and out. Let me switch to the videos to show you what
this looks like. That’s called come eat with me. And I’m not really sure what it means as horses
seldom seem to do it to eachother. Although if you want to see this expression,
look at the Budweiser ad from this year’s Super Bowl, a small horse is showing that
behavior to the Clydesdale. Here is another facial expression, a sign
of frustration. The head twist: she’s not tossing her head,
she’s twisuing her head. She’s doing this because her foal’s on the
other side of the barn. This also, head shaking – this is not the
pathological head shaking that has a variety of causes like allergies. But this is the horse that just shakes its
head up and down, sometimes in a mild threat and sometimes in food anticipating, which
is probably a threat to you. Then there is this behavior that has three
names, it’s called herding or driving or snaking. And you can see why it’s called snaking because
the horse’s head is down and its ears are so flat that he looks like a snake. And he’s also moving in a serpentine or snake-like
manner. He doesn’t go straight, he goes from side
to side. And he is driving mares ahead of him. He usually does it not to drive his herd to
water or food, but rather to get away from rivals. In this case, it’s a human. And some geldings and stallions will show
this behavior when you try to catch his mares. I’ll show you another picture of the same
behavior. It is mostly a stallion behavior and he is
driving his mares away from some geldings who are in the same paddock. So three names but the same behavior. These are auditory signals – horses can neigh,
they separation call which I’m sure you’ve all heard. They can nicker (imitates a nicker) which
is common in foals, mares to their foals or foals to their mares. And of course we all know that horses will
knicker to us when they want food. So its a care soliciting, or care offering
behavior. Blow is something that they do when they are
very startled. Roar is what stallions do and that attracts
mares. Mares will approach the stallion that roars
them most. Snorting can be just because you have something
in your nostrils but it is also a complaint. The horse is doing something that it doesn’t
want to do. And squealing. I’m hoping that we will hear the squeal. But this is showing you what I was doing in
the last slide, and that was making a sonogram. A sonogram shows you time and frequency. And if you notice the left one doesn’t look
like the right one, these are two different foals and they seem to have two different
voice prints. Some people call these voice prints. And mares can actually tell the difference
in their foals voices just as we can tell the difference looking at these sonograms. Okay, so let’s see if this one will work. And you might want to turn up your volume. So if you hear – if two horses squeal when
they first meet or under any circumstance, that probably means you shouldn’t put them
together. It’s aggressive but it can be the victim or
it can be the horse that wins the encounter. But it certainly means that they are not friendly
to each other. And that brings me to olfactory signals. Horses have a – the behavior which you saw
in that video of putting their nostrils together when they meet. And this can be when they’ve been separated
for a couple of hours or have never met each other before. We don’t know what they detect in each other’s
breath, but it can be followed by aggression. Usually one or the other horse will strike
as you saw in the video and sometimes squeal. There was a behaviorist who said that if you
blew in a horse’s nostrils, then the horse would be friendly to you. I wouldn’t do that if I were you. I’ve tried it and it – the horse bit me across
the head. I thought, “that can’t be right” and blew
in the horse’s nostrils again and she bit me again. But it is something that horses do with each
other that needs more investigating. Feces seem to be very important to horses,
and I’ll talk more about that. And urine, and even the udder skin secretions. So one of the things where smell is very important,
as I said is in the manure, in the feces. This is a picture from Chincoteague and if
any of you have not been there, I would visit it though it’s a long way from Michigan. But it is one of our islands that has a population
of free ranging ponies. And here is a stallion adding his manure to
manure that was already there. And each stallion who comes by will deposit
something on that pile. We don’t really know what the message is;
I’m pretty sure from some experiments that we have done, that they can determine sex
from the basis of manure. Actually, better than they can from urine. They may be able to detect individuals. They will say, “Ah, Stormy was here and not
Blacky.” And probably most important of these stallions
is, the next stallion that comes along can determine fitness. They can smell in the manure whether the horse
is well or not. So if a stallion comes along and smells manure
of a stallion that is not too well, then he will probably go and challenge that stallion
because he can get his mares. And that is probably the main function of
this behavior, to tell a stallion “I have been here” – the horse is leaving his calling
card and also maybe who he is and how healthy he is. This is a fenceline and there were pony stallions
on either side of this fence and so they couldn’t defecate, they couldn’t put their manure on
top of the other stallion’s. Instead, they made very large manure piles
along the edge of the fence. This is a very common behavior and it means
that it’s easier to clean the stalls of the stallion because they tend to even defecate
on top of their own manure as well as other horses. Here is a picture of two stallions, they’ve
just met each other, one or both of them will defecate then they both turn around and sniff. And then they will either fight or just go
their separate ways. Again, they’re judging each other’s fitness. And here you see horses that have just encountered
a stud pile and they are – one horse is striking at the other: aggression. This is the equine appeasing pheromone. Now a pheromone is something secreted by one
animal that affects the behavior of another animal of the same species. And this one is actually available as liquid,
has been avialable in this country, isn’t at the moment but probably will be in the
future, it’s called Modipher – made in France and it is made from the skin, the epidermis
of lactating mares. That is, it’s a synthetic version of that. And in fact, an old horseman’s tale was if
you wanted to make friends with a horse, especially a mare, you rub your hands between the two
halves of her udder and you get this black greasy secretion. That’s where the pheromone is. And then if you rubbed it on your hands, the
horse would like you. This product has been available – unfortunately
it was available as a spray that you sprayed up the horse’s nose. So you can imagine how most horses liked it. But those horses who will tolerate it, show
improved performance in the show ring, it seems to reduce weaning stress. Another study shows that horses are more likely
to get on trailers, that would certainly be worth it. I found that it didn’t reduce separation anxiety
when you took – separated two horses they would continue to neigh and run around as
they usually did. That may have been too much of a stress on
the horses. This is Flehmen or lip roll behavior. This is when it occurs, the horse is grazing
along and suddenly he throws up his head and Flehman at the same time he’s urinating. Presumably on urine from this mare. So why do they do that? What is happening? Flehman is this behavior where they curl up
their upper lip and they’re bringing things into what’s called the vomeronasal organ. This is an organ that lies between the nasal
cavity and the mouth. It’s a tube and it’s bilateral, it’s on either
side. In horses, it opens only into the nose. Dogs and cats it opens only into the mouth. This is a little gorey picture but it shows
you a tube going into the entrance of the vomeronasal organ, which is pretty hard to
see in a live horse. If you look at it under the microscope, it
is a tube – it has a hole in the middle. And around it are the sense cells, the sensory
mucosa. There are also a lot of mucous glands and
a lot of blood vessels. And if you look at it in higher magnification,
you can see the sensory cells and you can see the mucosa, these purple things. And the circles here are blood vessels. What we think happens is that the horse will
draw things into this vomeronasal organ and then flush it out with the mucous. So the next time you see a horse do this behavior,
look to see if his nose runs afterwards. That’s the mucous draining out of the vomeronasal
organ. Here’s a pony obediently showing Flehmen. I just have a dish with urine in it and we
have a tube running into his nose, not into his vomeronasal organ, just into his nose
and we’re measuring the pressure in his nose. And here is the pressure in his nose every
time he breathes it goes up or down, but when he Flehmens, it goes way up and way down. And that allows him to suck things into his
vomeronasal organ and push them out again. What happens before and after a horse Flehmens? Well, this is a very fussy slide, but the
top arrow shows you that usually there’s sniffing before they Flehmen. And after they Flehmen, they usually sniff
again, they may go over to a mare but they are much more likely to sniff and Flehmen
again. Why do they do it? Why do horses, stallions especially, spend
so much time doing it? It’s because when they perceive urine, they
have an increase in hormones called lutenizing hormone – this shows you how it increases
over the first few minutes after the horse has sniffed urine. And he does more than sniff if, he actually
draws it into the vomeronasal organ. After fifteen minutes or so, he puts into
his blood lutenizing hormone and that increases testosterone. So essentially it is sexually activating the
horse. So that is the function of lip curl, Flehmen
or horse laughing behavior. So this is the end of my formal presentation. So I’d be happy to answer your questions. I just want you all to be aware that you should
be able to read the horse’s body language, sometimes immitate it. I often joke that the reason we can control
horses is to horses, we seem to always be aggressive beacause our ears don’t stick up. We can block them, we can put Vicks in the
nostrils of the stallion so that he can’t perceive mares. And we can use these signals to make our life
and our horse’s life better. And I’d be happy to answer questions. I’ll ask a question of you then, has anyone
seen this tongue protrusion behavior from horse to horse? The question is, with head twisting -have
I found it to be more common in Arabians and Thoroughbreds? Well, I mean almost all problems are more
common in Thoroughbreds, at least cribbing is much more common. Arabians, I would agree do more of what I
call star-gazing where the horse puts his head up when he is extra anxious, especially
if his food doens’t get there in time. And let me see. But usually when I’ve seen it has been in
horses that wanted to be out of the barn or into the barn and weren’t able to do it. I saw you’re having big storms and so far
Dr. Heleski says that she hasn’t seen tongue protrusion horse to horse. And someone else, Valery Frederick, is saying
she’s seen it only in response to people. And Dr. Heleski says “I usually have seen
this tongue protusion after horses had some sort of stressful, frustrating event. But now they’re starting to relax.” I think that that’s certainly the situation
where I see it. If I round pen a horse when I take the pressure
off of him, he seems to start this chewing or putting his tongue in and out. And farriers tell me that if they see a horse
do that, then they know they’re not going to have any more trouble with it. Then Laurie wants to know if it makes any
difference what tone of voice one uses when communicating with a horse – high pitch versus
low pitch? I don’t think that our voices manage to get
up to ultrasound or so low that horses can’t hear it usually. But in general, you should use a falling inflection
if you want the animal to stop doing something. And use a rising inflection when you want
them to come. So you don’t say “come,” you say “come.” It’s much more likely for the animal to approach
you. Now that has only been shown in dogs. But I’m pretty sure it is true in horses as
well. Okay. And then here’s another question; what do
I think about t-touch when working with a horse as a form of communication? You know, it – you’re doing the t-touch right? If the horse shows this protrusion of the
upper lip. Now the t-touch for those of you are not aware
of it is using your fingers in a circular fashion on the horse’s skin. And you should start out and get the best
response if you do it on the horse’s shoulders and neck – the same places where they are
likely to, especially this time of year, to mutually groom. So you make a circle about three quarters
of the circle and your touch has to be so light that you could do it on your eyeball. And then you move to another spot and you
do it. And it does tend to relax the horses. And so it has been shown to make horses better
able to be loaded into trailers – that was some nice work done by a Canadian veterinary
student. And I think it works well for that. And I think all you’re doing is relaxing the
horse. And in fact, physiologically it’s been shown
that if you rub them in withers area, they’re heart rate goes down. If you rub them on the chest, it doens’t. So there is a physiological response to it. And then this is – Laura Gomez is saying,
“I try a low voice with my stallion when I want to calm him down and it seems to work
better than if I give him a command in a higher tone. As I said, I think that lower tones both with
humans and in horses tend to work better. But no one’s every looked at that scientifically. And so two of you, one of the names has disappeared,
but someone apparently has happened upon using the t-touch by herself and found that it worked. And then Paige Atkins said that she found
the same thing with her Thoroughbred that a calm tone calms him down. Okay. Other things? How many of you have horses that nicker to
you? And Dr. Heleski said “For what it’s worth,
I hope you do a study with an udnergrad this next year comparing positive voice tones to
negative ones.” So that will be nice. Tune in next year! And several people have come in – Sharon says
her horses nicker whenever they see her. Maryann Linder says her horses nicker a lot. Sarah is saying, yes her horses do it and
so on. It looks like your horses are nickering. Which is nice, they must be happy horses. So how many of you have horses that can tell
when the lights are on in the house because they know their breakfast is coming? So here’s one from Virginia Bowen, my mules
who used to only squeal will nicker to me now. And Elizabeth Bowen’s donkeys respond when
the lights go on -but I suppose it is their braying rather than nickering. Or do they nicker? I have not worked that much with donekys. And then Dr. Heleski says that her horses
respond to the garage door. I’m sure it depends on where your barn is
in relationship to your house. But my horse learned when I have a visitor,
and the horse used to respond when he saw the dining room lights go on. But the visitor who in return for his room
and board feeds the horse, is on the second floor. So now the horse becomes agitated as soon
as he sees the lights go on in the second floor. It’s really interesting, relatively quick
learning experience. Virginia Bowen says soem donkeys do a kind
of whooping bray which I think is equivalent to a nicker. But mine move quickly to the bray. Ah yes, so this is my favorite question from
Laurie – have you had success in treating a horse who cribs? Well, mostly no. When I first began to study cribbing, I felt
that it was a behavior that you should allow horses to do. But in the past few years, it has been proven
that it does lead to colic – a particular kind of colic called epiploic foramen entrapment
which just means that a loop of bowel gets trapped. And this probably occurs because horses have
swallowed enough air that their intestines essentially are floating around in their abdomen. So now I think we should try to keep horses
from cribbing. The best thing in my experience is to feed
them hay and oats, not sweet feed. Sweet feed seems to be what causes horses
to crib. And it may be the combination of molasses
and the grains. But you can certainly lower the rate of cribbing. You can of course use a cribbing collar. And at least in my experiments, we don’t find
that the horses are stressed by that. But very often the collar has to be so tight
to keep the horse from cribbing that he gets skin lesions. That is, his hair is worn off and he may actually
get sores on his neck from it. The cribbing surgery often does not work and
can have very bad consequences. For example, we had a horse who was cribbing
away but we noticed she had sort of a dimple in her neck. But she colicked and we tried to pass the
stomach tube, you couldn’t pass the stomach tube because of the scar tissue that had formed
in her neck. So that can be a bad consequence. We have tried cribbing rings and they didn’t
work very well in that they fell out very quickly. The only thing that stressed the horses about
the cribbing ring was the actual surgery of putting these copper colored steel rings into
their teeth. The horses of course were sedated and given
an analgesic, a pain killer, but their cortisol went up. By the next day, it was normal. They did take longer to eat after they had
the cribbing rings put in but it had no effect on their grazing. So keep your horse on pasture. If you must feed him grain, feed him oats
and use oils for calories is my treatment for cribbing. But if the horse has been cribbing for some
time, there’s not much you can do. Carissa Wickens who I think has left by now
has also studied this. Okay. You’re welcome! I don’t know what time it is because I’m in
the dark here. If there are any more questions, I’m still
here. Yes! Okay, well, this is a statement from Virginia
Bowens, saying she’s written a paper on horse welfare. So if we have a couple of minutes, what are
the welfare concerns? Certainly things that we already have laws
about such as soaring in Tennessee Walkers, but I think there are a lot of other things
that probably should be addressed. One of the things that I think is of interest
is that horses really like bedding. And the more bedding you give them, the better
off they probably are. Now I have not invested in – Dr. Houpt this
is Gwyn. Wood shaving but we did find that if you gave
the horse three bags – we’ve got just a couple minutes left so if anyone has any last questions,
please type them in the text chat area. Okay, so pasturing versus stalling – I mean,
I think pasturing is much much better. It’s better for the health of the horse and
as long as he is with compatible pasture mates, it’s much better for them socially. And they talk about stall vices – well I think
the vices we put them in stalls. A red out situation in Europe climate is perfectly
healthy for the horses. The makeup of the herd – the problem is is
that we keep introducing strange horses. That’s why we see all of this aggression. If the horse were in a natural situation,
the mares were probably born in that herd and they will stay there most of their lives. Some of them leave but once they get into
a herd or band, they stay there. The stallions leave, they all leave the herd
where they were born and then eventually most of them get mares. And we tend to keep them either in unisex
groups or mixed sex groupsbut they keep turning over. And when you add a new horse, you never know
whether that horse is going to be the bottom or the top of the pecking order. I’ve seen both things happen and I’ve seen
a horse move right up from the bottom to the top within a few weeks. Okay. So this is another question, what is my take
on rubber stable mats and shavings versus dirt and shavings. Rubber stable mats on top of concrete and
shavings probably is not as good for the horse’s feet as dirt and shavings. I’ve never asked the horses to do a two choice
preference to see what they like. But it’s interesting that we just finished
a study on Standardbreds. Now Standardbreds have no stable vices, they
don’t crib, they don’t weave, they don’t stall walk, but they paw. They dig holes. And at least in the stable where we were studying
them, they had about eighteen inches of diry on top of concrete and they were just digging
holes through to that. In this case, it probably was so that they
could stand with their hind legs lower than their front legs. We think it may be because they’re lame rather
than because they are bored or something. Boredom is probably seldom a cause of behavior
problems than lack of something. Except maybe in colts who are wanting to play
with things. It seems that rubber would maintain moisture
which is bad for the hoof. That certainly could be true. And then Virginia says, “The bedding explains
why my mule likes to nap on an old bedding mulch pile the owner left before I moved in.” And that’s what got us started in looking
at this bedding preference because horses usually don’t lie down in the middle of the
day. But we noticed that the horses were lying
down as soon as their stalls were cleaned which was the middle of the day. And the shavings instead of being spread out
all over the stall were just put in a pile in the middle and the horses were sleeping
on that pile. So it was thick and it was clean and it turns
out that yes, the horses would have preferred deeper bedding. But when I suggested to give the horses more
bedding, the manager of the barn said that, “Well, he would just charge me three times.” Anything else? Okay. I think we’re to the end of our time here. So, first of all, of course I’d like to thank
Dr. Houpt for her time and for her presentation this evening and sharing her knowledge with
us. Also, I’d like to thank Carissa and Camie
for helping with the questions. Weaver Leather of course, for sponsoring this
webcast. And most importantly, we hope all of you enjoyed
the presentation this evening. There is an article in this last month’s issue
of Horse and Rider that relates to this as well. The title of the article is “Equine Expressions:
Understanding Your Horse’s Body Language.” So you may want to check that out, it is online
as well. The next webcast in this series is going to
be held on Wednesday, April 1st so next week Wednesday at 7pm EST on the topic of Managing
Horse Behavior: Let Your Horse Be a Horse. And that will be presented by Dr. Cynthia
McCall and she is from Auburn Unviersity. So if you have any questions, please make
sure to contact My Horse Unviersity. Our phone number and contact information is
517-353-3123. You can email us at [email protected]
or of course, check out our website at www.myhorseuniversity.com. Once again, everyone just want to remind you
that the webcast of this evening was recorded and we will give you access by the end of
the day tomorrow. If you purchased the series, it’s going to
be in that same course site on there. And for any of you who only purchased this
webcast, we’ll be sending you an email tomorrow with instructions of how to access it. So with that, unless there are any other questions,
we will go ahead and end the session for this evening. Thank you all. Thank you, Dr. Houpt. Okay! I can go home and feed my horse now?

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