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Heart rate and behavioural responses of crib-biting horses to two acute stressors
  1. M. Minero, DVM1,
  2. E. Canali, DVM1,
  3. V. Ferrante, DVM1,
  4. M. Verga1 and
  5. F. O. Odberg2
  1. 1 Istituto di Zootecnica Veterinaria, Università degli Studi di Milano, Via Celoria, 10, 20133, Milano, Italy
  2. 2 Department of Animal Nutrition, Genetics, Production and Ethology, University of Ghent, Merelbeke, Belgium

Abstract

The heart rate and behaviour of 14 adult saddle horses, eight crib-biters and six normal controls, were investigated. Initially, the relationship between crib-biting and heart rate was investigated while the horses were undisturbed. The horses were tested when restrained with a lip twitch, and assessed when they were exposed suddenly to the rapid inflation of a balloon. The heart rate of the crib-biters during crib-biting was lower than during other behaviour. The crib-biters had a higher overall mean heart rate (P<0.05) suggesting that they may have had a higher basal sympathetic activity. After the application of the twitch, all the horses had a transient increase in heart rate which returned to basal values more rapidly in the crib-biters. The crib-biters were less reactive to the lip twitch, five of the six investigated remaining calm, and after the release of the twitch, they spent more time nibbling (P<0.05) than the control horses. The crib-biters reacted more strongly to the inflation of the balloon (three of the six reacted), and after it had been inflated they spent more time walking in the box.

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