The impact of stress and other factors on horse behavior will be the focus of a series of studies. • Photo by D. Gibson via Unsplash.

Research Studies to Examine Horse Behavior

Several research equine research studies aimed at understanding horse behavior recently received funding from the Morris Animal Foundation.

The Foundation, which is based in Denver, Colorado, recently announced the recipients of its funding, which all fall under the umbrella of improving the well-being of horses.  This year’s studies will focus on the impact stress, as well as light and feeding techniques, have on the behavior of horses. 

Dr. Wendy Koch, a veterinarian who has supported the Foundation for 30 years, provided funding for awarded grants. She noted that “unwanted behaviors (from bucking to “zoning out”), “vices,” and other such problems are our horses’ only way of telling us that our behavior may be negatively affecting their welfare – and we often miss the subtler signals our horses send us.”

Dr. Koch has closely followed equine behavior and welfare research and wanted to address an unmet need for funding in these areas. She worked with Morris Animal Foundation to create a special fund, Equine Behavior/Welfare Research to support studies that will improve understanding of horses’ behavioral and psychological needs and challenges.

The Foundation’s Equine Behavior Scientific Advisory Board, made up of equine behavior and/or welfare experts, reviewed all submitted grant applications and selected the approved studies based on scientific merit and potential impact for improving the health and welfare of horses.

Studies Funded in 2022

Effect of touch in human-horse interactions

  • Researchers will measure stress in horses involved in human interactions to find ways to alleviate stress and improve the experience and strengthen relationships between humans and horses.

Study stress in mares during weaning time

  • Researchers will study mare behavior during weaning of foals to develop strategies designed to reduce chronic stress in mares.

Develop online educational tools for horse owners

  • Researchers will create online training tools to help horse owners recognize horse behavior and body language associated with health or welfare issues.

Effects of roughage availability on behavior

  • Researchers will evaluate three feeding techniques and determine which strategy improves feeding management and reduces abnormal behaviors in horses.

Impact of light on stabled horses

  • Researchers will study the effect of different types of indoor lighting on the behavior and well-being of horses in stables.

These studies are part of the Foundation’s Donor-Inspired Study program, which allows individual donors to directly support a research topic for which they have a passion, and for which there is a pressing need.

About Morris Animal Foundation

Morris Animal Foundation’s mission is to bridge science and resources to advance the health of animals. Founded in 1948 and headquartered in Denver, the Foundation has invested more than $142 million to date in nearly 3,000 studies to advance the health and well-being of animals around the world. Learn more at morrisanimalfoundation.org.