Document type: Scientific article published in Animals
Authors: Maria Giorgia Riva, Francesca Dai, Mirja Huhtinen, Michela Minero, Sara Barbieri, Emanuela Dalla Costa
Preview: Noise anxiety is an over-reaction to loud noises commonly detected among pets and can greatly impact on their welfare and on their management. When exposed to noisy events, horses can show intense escape attempts, which may cause severe accidents for the horse and the rider/handler. The aim of the present study was to investigate, through a web survey, UK and US owners' perception of noise anxiety severity in their horses, their management strategies and perceived efficacy. The questionnaire was shared via social networking and advertised as "What is your horse afraid of? Over a total of 1836 questionnaires filled out; 409 owners reported that their horse has shown unusual behavior during a noise event. A two-step cluster analysis identified two groups: very anxious (VA) and slightly anxious (SA). VA horses were reported to have higher frequency of anxiety behaviors; higher frequency of signs of noise reactivity; and their anxiety did not improve with time. The most used management strategies consisted in providing hay throughout the night, turning in/out their horse or moving it to a paddock. A binomial logistic regression identified that horses that have reported injuries during noise events were more likely to be clustered as VA (OR = 0.24, 95% CI: 0.08-0.76); while providing hay throughout the night was more likely to be very effective management strategy in SA horses (OR = 0.41, 95% CI: 0.16-1.01). Our results confirmed that noise anxiety is a growing behavioral problem that can lead to important welfare concerns for horses. New management strategies, including the use of medicinal products, should be considered to reduce behavioral and physiological signs and help horses to cope with noisy events.