The Horse

OCT 2018

The Horse:Your Guide To Equine Health Care provides monthly equine health care information to horse owners, breeders, veterinarians, barn/farm managers, trainer/riding instructors, and others involved in the hands-on care of the horse.

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Page 10 of 51 | The Horse October 2018 11 How Location, Positive and Negative Experiences Impact Equine Learning Your horse gets stressed every time you ask him to stand in that set of crossties. But why? Then you remember: That was where he was standing when a tractor backfired and spooked him. Could he have associated this particular place with that scary event and negative emo- tions? Absolutely, French scientists have said. It's also likely your horse associates certain places with good events and good emotions, and in a very short time span, said Léa Lansade, PhD, of the French Horse and Riding Institute and the National Institute for Agricultural Research, in Tours. And what's more, those associations can directly affect horses' learning. "Each event a horse has experienced in a particular place leaves traces that last much longer than we might think," she said. "So later, when we work the horse in that place, that will have an impact on the way he learns. If in that place he experienced more positive events, he'll have a more flexible and shapeable behavior that better adapts to what we're asking of him. But if he's had unpleasant or even stressful experiences in that place, he could be … less capable of adapting to the task." Lansade and colleagues tested cognitive flexibility—the ability to adapt learning to new and chang- ing situations—in 55 mares that experienced negative, positive, or neutral experiences in specific stalls. Then, they taught each mare to find hidden food under a traffic cone to which a handler pointed. Finally, they removed the hidden food and observed how many times the mare touched the correct cone even when the food was gone. "The horses that learned in an environment where they'd had previous positive experiences were more flexible—meaning they were more capable of adapting their behavior to the situa- tion," she said. "They were more malleable, so to speak, and faster to understand the stakes involved in the situation … . As for the horses who learned in an environment where they'd had more stressful experiences, though, they had a more rigid behavior, seeming more 'stubborn' and 'automatic.'" Further studies could lead to more concrete training recommendations, Lansade said. In the meantime, for better welfare and training results, people need to train horses in places they as- sociate with positive experiences. Read more at—Christa Lesté-Lasserre, MA ISTOCK.COM 2019 Italian Congress in the Works The World Equine Veterinary Association (WEVA) is preparing for its next Congress, to be held Oct. 3-5, 2019, in Verona, Italy. Attendees will be able to choose from three lecture streams featuring presentations on topics including surgery, orthopedics, medicine, reproduction, ophthalmology, global equine wel- fare, and more. Support for international speak- ers comes from board members' and speakers' national associations, universities or private clinics, or commercial sponsors. This allows local veteri- narians access to world-renowned clinicans and their experience, which helps improve equine veterinary care around the world, in both developed and developing areas. This arrangement also allows WEVA to use some Congress returns to organize smaller intermediate meetings between larger Con- gresses. In the past few years, for example, WEVA held intermediate meetings in different regions of China, Romania, Russia, India, Chile, Brazil, and Mexico. More of these very practically oriented continuing education events, tailored to local veterinarians' needs and demands, are planned for Latin America, Eastern Europe, and Africa. Read more at —Vince Gerber, DVM, PhD, Dipl. ACVIM, ECEIM, WEVA President 'Welfare-Friendly' Whip Rules Recent study results suggest that modifications to Australian Standardbred racing whip rules, aimed toward more ethical use, had no negative effect on racing performance or race times. In fact, researchers said their data analysis suggested there might have even been a slight trend toward improved performance after Harness Racing Australia regulated whip use to allow only "flick- ing actions of the wrist or elbow," as opposed to a "swinging arm action," said Paul McGreevy, BVSc, PhD, MRCVS, MACVS (Animal Welfare), of the University of Sydney. The data suggest that racing authorities could improve animal welfare without compromising race results, he said, which could lead to an improved public image of the sport. For additional news items, see Lavender's Calming Effects Researchers found significant signs of stress reduction when horses inhaled diffused lavender essential oil compared to water vapor and chamomile. "The heart rate didn't change; what changed was the parasympa- thetic component of heart rate variability," said Ann Baldwin, PhD, of the University of Arizona. "One of the parameters of heart rate variability is RMSSD (root mean square of the successive differences), and that represents parasympathetic input, which is the relaxation part of the au- tonomic nervous system. If RMSSD goes up, that indicates the horse is relaxed. When the horses were sniffing the lavender, RMSSD significantly increased compared to baseline." Behaviors the horses displayed during lavender diffusion often included relaxation signals, such as neck-lowering, supporting the data. weva

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