A new study from Poland suggests that music may help horses relax and perform better.
To determine whether listening to music has physiological effects on horses, researchers at the University of Life Sciences in Lublin selected 70 3-year-old Arabian racehorses. Forty of the horses were exposed to music for five hours each afternoon for six months, while the remaining horses, serving as a control group, heard no music.
Every 30 to 35 days during the study period, the researchers collected cardiac measurements from all the horses while they were at rest, saddled and ridden at a walk.
Over the first three months of the study, the cardiac measurements of horses exposed to music indicated lower levels of stress. The researchers concluded that the music had a positive effect on the emotional well-being of those horses. This effect was most pronounced two to three months after the study began and eventually tapered off.
Looking at how well the horses performed in competition, the researchers found that those who listened to music won significantly more prize money than did those in the control group. They postulate that playing music in a barn, at least for two or three months, could improve the welfare and performance of racehorses.
This article first appeared in EQUUS issue #458, November 2015.