SPOT­TING SIGNS OF EQUINE DE­PRES­SION

EQUUS - - Eq Medicalfro­nt - By Chris­tine Barakat and Mick McCluskey, BVSc, MACVSc

Re­search from France sug­gests that horses can de­velop some­thing akin to de­pres­sion in re­sponse to so­cial or phys­i­cal dis­com­fort.

For a study con­ducted at Univer­sity of Rennes 1, re­searchers se­lected 12 horses who were con­sid­ered “withdrawn” and 15 who be­haved nor­mally. “Withdrawn horses are rather easy to iden­tify as they have long bouts of five un­usual sounds: ba­boon, goose and whale calls; the call of a horse not known to the study horses; and pi­ano mu­sic. Each day each horse heard one of the sounds---played for three sec­onds from a speaker next the first day of the study, the withdrawn horses were sig­nif­i­cantly less likely to pay at­ten­tion to the noises. Only 50 per­cent of those horses re­acted to the noise--re­spond­ing by prick­ing the ears, lift­ing the head or some other sign of at­ten­tion---as op­posed to 90 per­cent of the nor­mal horses. Over the five­day course of the study, the con­trol horses showed ha­bit­u­a­tion to the un­usual noises, but the re­ac­tions of the withdrawn horses did not change sig­nif­i­cantly.

These findings, the re­searchers say, in­di­cate that the withdrawn horses had un­der­gone a cog­ni­tive shift: They were so phys­i­cally or psy­cho­log­i­cally stressed that they had tuned out their sur­round­ings.

“In hu­mans and an­i­mals, be­ing at­ten­tive is one as­pect of sub­ject cog­ni­tive abil­i­ties/ ca­pac­i­ties,” says Rochais. “The delay in re­spond­ing showed that withdrawn horses had ‘switched off’ from their en­vi­ron­ment and showed sen­sory inat­ten­tion. Such lapses of at­ten­tion are likely to be as­so­ci­ated with the chronic ef­fect of stres­sors, which might be ex­pected to in­duce a low­ered state of arousal.” She adds, “In hu­mans, for ex­am­ple, pain or strong dis­com­fort ‘cap­tures’ the at­ten­tion of the sub­ject. Here we do not know pre­cisely how the [horses] feel but they might have chronic dis­or­ders, which are one hy­poth­e­sis for an ‘in­war­dori­ented at­ten­tion.’”

A grow­ing body of re­search sug­gests that horses can en­ter a de­pres­sion-like state as a re­ac­tion to their en­vi­ron­ment

or chronic pain.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from USA

© PressReader. All rights reserved.