We all want to know how to tell if our horse is getting frustrated in the stable.
Hartpury College recently carried out some initial research on small holed haynets and the HayGazer Play. They found that horses eating from a small holed hay nets had much higher frustration than a horse eating from the ground and in some cases brought about unwanted behaviours.
The same study showed that eating from a HayGrazer Play decreased the frustration more than eating from the floor. But why? Its is thought the horses use their lips to find the holes then eat between the webbing on a HayGrazer Play which is similar behavior to how they would graze naturally. Using a small holed haynet the horse tries to take a large clump of hay and the string stops the hay coming out which increases chew rates, frustration and doesn’t slow the horses eating time down significantly.
How do you measure the frustration of your horse? This is done by counting the number of blinks per minute, using a clicker which can be downloaded to your phone. Previous work by Karson et al., (1980) has shown that blink rates alter according to dopamine production by the central nervous system, therefore measuring blink rate is a good way to assess stress levels in stabled horses.
Horses can vary on their relaxed blink rate but the average horse is around 15-18 blinks per minute while weaving horse or horses showing stress related coping mechanisms tend to be about 24-27 blinks per min.