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Reducing Equine Stereotypies Using an Equiball

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It is believed that environmental enrichment techniques can play an important part in creating suitable captive environments for horses. There has, however, been little scientific investigation into the effectiveness of 'stable-toys' which claim to reduce the performance of equine stereotypies. This study investigated the effect of a foraging device known as 'The Equiball' on equine stereotypies. Six horses were given their evening feed in an Equiball, and the occurence of stereotypic behaviour recorded using scan sampling of video observations. Pre-enrichment, horses spent a mean(± SD) of 5.27 ± 8.17 per cent of their time in the stable performing stereotypies; and significant individual variation in mean time performing stereotypic behaviour was found (P < 0.05). Several peaks in stereotypy over the day were found, the two main ones corresponding to the times before feeding. A reduction in stereotypic behaviour in five horses, and a small increase in stereotypic behaviour in one horse was observed during enrichment. During enrichment, there was an overall trend for stereotypic behaviour to decrease (P < 0.1). When used in conjunction with other measures such as behaviour therapy, companionship, increased exercise, and so on, the Equiball may help to create an environment less likely to lead to the development of stereotypic behaviours.
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Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: February 1, 2001

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