Evaluation of Stress Before, During, and After Transport in Naive Yearling Horses
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Recently, the European Union published regulations regarding the welfare of horses during transport requiring that horses be transported in individual stalls separated by partitions. The objective of this study was to determine if concentrations of cortisol, corticosterone, or dehydroepiandrosterone (DHEA) differed among horses with no prior transport experience when transported in individual stalls versus loose groups. Twenty na�ve yearlings were assigned to either individual stalls or a loose group, then transported for 6 hours. Ten horses were transported per day (5 in stalls and 5 in a loose group) over a two day trial. The experiment was replicated with a second trial 35 days later, and utilized a switchback design where the horses exchanged treatments between trials. Blood samples were collected and analyzed for cortisol, corticosterone, and DHEA concentrations at pre-transport, 2, 4, and 6 h of transport, and at 2 and 4 h after unloading. After Trial 2, the horses? changed housing from group paddocks to stalls and a follow-up experiment was conducted. The data were analyzed using a mixed model repeated measures ANOVA with the animal as the subject, with trial, treatment, sample time, and treatment-sample time interaction in the model with unstructured covariance (SAS 9.1). Differences between sample times within each trial, and pre-transport concentrations between trials, were analyzed using paired t-tests (SPSS 12.0.1). No significant differences were found in hormone concentrations for horses transported in individual stalls versus in loose groups. Horses exhibited a significant elevation in cortisol and corticosterone during transport which returned to pre-transport concentrations by 2 hr after transport (P < 0.01). Mean pre-transport cortisol concentrations rose significantly in Trial 3 (7.87 ng/ml) from Trials 1 (2.71 ng/ml) and 2 (2.84 ng/ml) (P < 0.001). Pre-transport concentrations of DHEA in Trials 1 (482 pg/ml) and 2 (392 pg/ml) also rose significantly in Trial 3 (1607 pg/ml) (P < 0.01). Changes in cortisol and DHEA indicated that transportation was a significant stressor for horses, however, being transported in a loose group versus individual stalls was not different. Also, housing changes from paddocks to stalls resulted in significant increases in pre-transport concentrations of stress-related compounds.
Garey, Shannon M. (2009). Evaluation of Stress Before, During, and After Transport in Naive Yearling Horses. Master's thesis, Texas A&M University. Available electronically from