A new study has shown that therapy horses are more sensitive to touch than riding or show horses.
A horse that is touched repeatedly may become more reactive or less reactive to the stimulation over time. Many factors can affect this, including the horse’s demeanor.
Dr. Céline Rochais and a research team from the Department of Animal and Human Ethology within the French National Centre for Scientific Research (CNRS), created a study to determine whether horses used in equine-assisted interventions become more sensitive to touch.
The team used 60 horses for the test: six that participated in equine-assisted therapy only, 14 lesson horses, and 40 horses used in both capacities. Each horse was tested for their touch reactivity with von Frey filaments, nylon threads of variable thicknesses that protrude out of a hard plastic body. This tool is calibrated to apply a specific amount of force, allowing the scientists to obtain standardized measurements.
The researchers found that horses used in equine-assisted therapies were more reactive to touch than other horses. They specifically were more reactive toward the thin filaments.
The team reported that this could be related to how humans interacted with the horses during the equine-assisted therapies; it was noted that participants with disorders had more fragmented actions and brushed the hindquarters more.
The authors concluded that attention should be paid to how horses are brushed and interacted with during equine-assisted interventions and that correct tactile actions should be encouraged.
Additional studies are needed, the team reported.
Read more at HorseTalk.
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