Social buffering in horses is influenced by context but not by the familiarity and habituation of a companion

Ricci‑Bonot, Claire, Romero, Teresa, Nicol, Christine and Mills, Daniel (2021) Social buffering in horses is influenced by context but not by the familiarity and habituation of a companion. Scientific Reports, 11 . p. 8862. ISSN 2045-2322

Full content URL: https://doi.org/10.1038/s41598-021-88319-z

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Social buffering in horses is influenced by context but not by the familiarity and habituation of a companion
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Abstract

Social buffering occurs when the presence of one animal attenuates another’s stress response during
a stressful event and/or helps the subject to recover more quickly after a stressful event. Inconsistent
previous results might reflect previously unrecognised contextual influences, such as the nature of the
stimulus presented or social factors. We addressed these issues in a two-part study of horses paired
with familiar (16 subjects) or unfamiliar (16 subjects) companions. Each subject performed 4 tests
in a counterbalanced order: novel object test (static ball)—alone or with companion; and umbrella
opening test—alone or with companion. Social buffering was significantly influenced by the nature
of the stimulus presented, but not by companion’s habituation status or familiarity. Importantly, the
stimulus used produced differential effects on behavioural and physiological measures of buffering. A
companion significantly reduced behavioural response (reactivity) in the novel object test but not in
the umbrella test. However, heart rate recovered more quickly for subjects with a companion in the
umbrella test but not in the novel object test. We propose that circumstances which permit greater
contextual processing may facilitate demonstration of behavioural effects of social buffering, whereas
buffering in response to startling events may be manifest only during post-event physiological
recovery

Keywords:Social buffering, Horse, Familiarity, Heart Rate
Subjects:C Biological Sciences > C120 Behavioural Biology
Divisions:College of Science > School of Life Sciences
ID Code:45235
Deposited On:17 Jun 2021 14:12

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