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Personal space requirements of mares versus geldings (Equus caballus): welfare implications and visual representation of spatial data via Spatial Web diagrams)

  • N. Morgan (a1) and H. Randle (a2)

Extract

Increasing numbers of mares are competing at elite levels, and are recognised as being crucial to the production of high calibre sport horses. The management strategies utilised to look after horses affect their welfare and performance. By its very nature the domestication of horses has resulted in their confinement and also in major alterations to their natural social group structure. Most domestic pasture groups comprise mares and castrated males (Van Dierendonck, Sigorjonsdottir and Thorhallsdottir, 2002) and in the absence of a mature stallion are non-reproductive (Boyd and Kieper, 2002). Many equine behaviour studies have been directed at improving welfare and performance, but few centre on Personal Space Requirements (PSR). This study examines whether equine PSR varies between gender. Human personal space (PS) is defined as ‘the geographical component of interpersonal relations’ (Gifford, 1983) and its invasion is shown to cause instantaneous physiological stress (increased blood pressure and heart rate) and longer-lasting psychological stress (anxiety and tension), particularly when individuals can only endure exposure to stress passively (Sawada, 2003).

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Boyd, L. and Keiper, R. 2005. Behavioural ecology of feral horses in The Domestic Horse: The Origins, Development and Management of its Behaviour. Mills, DS and McDonnell, SM Eds. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2005.
Cooper, J. J., Daniel, S. M., McDonald, L. 2000. The effect of increasing visual horizons on stereotypic weaving: implications for the social housing of stabled horses. Applied Animal Behaviour Science 69: 6783.
Gifford, R. 1983. The experience of personal space: Perception of interpersonal distance. Journal of Nonverbal Behavior 7: 170178.
Sawada, Y. 2003. Blood pressure and heart rate responses to an intrusion on personal space. Japanese Psychological Research 45: 115121.
Sigorjonsdottir, H, Van Dierendonck, MC, Snorrason, S and Thorhallsdottir, AG. 2003. Social relationships in a group of horses without a mature stallion. Behaviour 140:783804.
Strand, S. C., Tiefenbacher, S., Haskell, M., Hosmer, T., McDonnell, S. M. and Freeman, D. A. 2002. Behaviour and physiological responses of mares to short-term isolation. Applied Animal Behaviour Science 78:145157.
Van Dierendonck, M. C, Sigorjonsdottir, H. and Thorhallsdottir, A. G. 2002. Changes in social behaviour of mares pre and post partum compared to behaviour of non-pregnant herd mates in semi-feral mixed herds of Icelandic horses. Havemeyer Foundation Workshop on Equine Behaviour and Welfare, Iceland, 2002.

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