Socializing speeds recovery for horses after exertion

After hard work, horses tend to bounce back faster when they are turned out with buddies rather than kept in stalls.

The best place for a horse to recover after strenuous exercise is with a group of companions rather than alone in a box stall, according to a study from Sweden.

Researchers at the Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences in Uppsala investigated the effects of housing on post-exercise recovery in eight mature trotting horses.

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Three horses standing next to each other looking directly into the camera.
Research has shown that horses recovery from exertion quicker if they are turned out with friends.

The horses were kept in either small herds in a group housing system or alone in box stalls for 21 days, then switched to the other housing method. On days 7 and 14 of each study period, the horses underwent a race-like exercise test. Researchers collected blood before, during and several times after exercise.

The data showed that after intense exercise, horses kept alone in box stalls ate less than horses living outdoors in groups. In addition, plasma non-esterified fatty acids, an important measure of post-exercise recovery, decreased more quickly in the horses living in groups.

The researchers conclude that a “free-range housing system hastened recovery in Standardbred trotters, contradicting anecdotal claims that it delays recovery. The free-range housing also had positive effects on appetite and recovery of energy balance.”

Reference: “Effects of Horse Housing System on Energy Balance during Post-Exercise Recovery,” Animals, November 2019.

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