• horse;
  • post inhibitory rebound;
  • exercise;
  • stable housing;
  • misbehaviour


Reasons for performing study: It is unknown if different locomotor activities are equally effective at meeting the stabled horse's need for exercise and if they attenuate unwanted behaviour.

Hypothesis: Alternative forms of exercise influence the intensity of locomotor activities during a period of turn-out (the so-called rebound effect) and the occurrence of unwanted or undesirable activities during standard handling situations.

Method: Twenty-four horses kept in stables were randomly assigned to one of 4 exercise regimes (walker, treadmill, turn-out and riding) for 4 consecutive days. Because these forms of exercise provide additional environmental stimulation, beyond that provided by exercise, each horse served as its own control in 4 corresponding (no exercise) control treatments presented in a balanced order. Unwanted behaviour was tested by taking horses to weighing scales and loading and unloading them onto a 4-horse float by an experienced handler and the rebound effect was tested by releasing them into a large arena for a period of 15 min at the end of the exercise and control treatments.

Results: Locomotor activities made up a large part of behaviour in the large arena following control treatments and all exercise regimes were sufficient to reduce the intensity of walking (P<0.05), trotting (P<0.01) and cantering (P<0.001) on release into a large arena. Exercise regime reduced the number of bucks (P<0.01) and rolling (P<0.05) during rebound tests suggesting that turn-out was having a stronger effect than the other 3 exercise regimes. Exercise regimes significantly reduced the amount of unwanted behaviour and the number of commands given by the handler during weighing (P<0.05) but had no effect on these behaviours during loading onto a float.

Conclusion: Providing stabled horses with one hour/day of exercise on a walker, treadmill, turn-out or by being ridden are all effective at allowing expression of locomotor activities in stabled horses.

Potential relevance: Providing stabled horses with regular exercise is likely to provide positive effects on horse welfare, training ability and handler safety.