The use of mirrors for the control of stereotypic weaving behaviour in the stabled horse

McAfee, Lynn M. and Mills, Daniel S. and Cooper, Jonathan J. (2002) The use of mirrors for the control of stereotypic weaving behaviour in the stabled horse. Applied animal behaviour science, 78 (2-4). pp. 159-173. ISSN 0168-1591

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Official URL: http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/S0168-1591(02)00086-2

Abstract

Weaving, a common locomotor stereotypy, has been associated with social isolation in stabled horses. In this study we investigated the effect of provision of mirrors on weaving as this may have a similar effect to access to conspecifics. The behaviour of six known weavers, each in one of three locations within a working equine yard, was recorded, 5 days a week for 12 weeks. After a pre-trial period of a week, one horse in each of the three locations was provided with a 1 m×1.5 m mirror for 5 weeks, after which time the mirrors were removed and placed in the stables of the other three subjects for the next 5 weeks. All mirrors were then removed and the horses observed for a final week (post-trial period). The provision of a mirror significantly reduced the incidence of both stereotypic weaving (P<0.001) and nodding (P<0.05) for the 5 weeks of treatment but did not affect the time the horses spent standing active, dozing or ingesting. The mirror may mimic visual contact with conspecifics (minimising the social isolation of the stable) and/or provide environmental distraction or additional visual stimuli, altering the horses’ perception of the environment and their resultant responses to it. The use of mirrors in the stable appears to be a more effective treatment of weaving than many current popular treatments, including weaving bars.

Item Type:Article
Additional Information:Weaving, a common locomotor stereotypy, has been associated with social isolation in stabled horses. In this study we investigated the effect of provision of mirrors on weaving as this may have a similar effect to access to conspecifics. The behaviour of six known weavers, each in one of three locations within a working equine yard, was recorded, 5 days a week for 12 weeks. After a pre-trial period of a week, one horse in each of the three locations was provided with a 1 m×1.5 m mirror for 5 weeks, after which time the mirrors were removed and placed in the stables of the other three subjects for the next 5 weeks. All mirrors were then removed and the horses observed for a final week (post-trial period). The provision of a mirror significantly reduced the incidence of both stereotypic weaving (P<0.001) and nodding (P<0.05) for the 5 weeks of treatment but did not affect the time the horses spent standing active, dozing or ingesting. The mirror may mimic visual contact with conspecifics (minimising the social isolation of the stable) and/or provide environmental distraction or additional visual stimuli, altering the horses’ perception of the environment and their resultant responses to it. The use of mirrors in the stable appears to be a more effective treatment of weaving than many current popular treatments, including weaving bars.
Keywords:horse, housing, mirror, stereotypy, weaving
Subjects:D Veterinary Sciences, Agriculture and related subjects > D422 Equine studies
D Veterinary Sciences, Agriculture and related subjects > D328 Animal Welfare
Divisions:College of Science > School of Life Sciences
ID Code:513
Deposited By: Bev Jones
Deposited On:22 Jun 2007
Last Modified:16 May 2012 20:55

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