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Horse Behavior: The noise is too much!

Updated: Jul 3, 2023


horse behavior and noise pollution

I can already feel my blood pressure rising!


I absolutely hate when there's a noise, loud or not that keeps me from doing a task or just being!


AND I can only imagine what is going through a horse's mind when they do not even understand where the noise is coming from and they are feeling the vibrations of it through their body!

horses and fireworks

Absolutely terrifying!


Noise pollution is a growing problem all around the world with very few places left that are not affected.


It adversely affects both humans and animals in various ways.


Noise pollution causes stress related illnesses, high blood pressure, sleep issues and other health issues in humans.


For animals it can interfere with their communication, mating rituals, and spatial orientation on land and in the water.


A recent study from the University of Milan under Maria Giorgia Riva and her team looked into the impact noise has on horses.


They made an online questionnaire for horse owners in the US and UK to answer and to rank their horse's behavior to sounds.

horses and noises


They received 1836 responses and found fence/ stall walking, running, bucking/rearing and sweating were the most observed activities. (Riva, 2022)


With injury commonly occurring...


However noise can cause injury not only to the outside of the horse but on the inside too!


Gastrointestinal issues like diarrhea, and colic, along with decreased appetite and fever where also found to occur in horses. (Riva, 2022)


When asked about management strategies many owners tried giving more hay, turning in/out their horses or moving their horses to areas away from the noise. But their horses still had issues with anxiety. (Riva, 2022)


The horses that were categorized as very anxious showed signs of reactivity very frequently and did not improve over time.


More research on the effects of noise on horses still needs to be done.


But the research that is coming out is showing us noise is having a detrimental impact on our horse's health!


Well What Can We Do?!


When it is a noise that a horse hears a lot you can counter condition them with positive reinforcement and having that noise play on your phone or actually having whatever the source of the noise is go off!


But sometimes when it is a noise that is infrequent and random you cannot undo their fear since that long period between them hearing the noise can undo any confidence they may have had with it.


Giving more hay, turning them in/out and moving to paddocks away from the noise, using ear muffs/plugs and calming supplements are sadly the only other options we have right not.


If your horse is very anxious with certain sounds, like fireworks, that go off rarely and randomly you may want to talk to your vet and see if there are any options of medications that you can use short term when you know that noise is going to occur a certain day.


I truly hope as more research occurs, we can help them more!


Do not ignore noise anxiety! It is a problem for all animals including us!


All of us, horse people or not, need to think seriously about noise pollution and how we can lessen it for the betterment of the earth!


~Ashley



Citation


Riva MG, Dai F, Huhtinen M, Minero M, Barbieri S, Dalla Costa E. The Impact of Noise Anxiety on Behavior and Welfare of Horses from UK and US Owner's Perspective. Animals (Basel). 2022 May 21;12(10):1319. doi: 10.3390/ani12101319. PMID: 35625165; PMCID: PMC9138043.

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