Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Bend or stretch? How stressful is hyperflexion of horses' necks?

Date:
July 24, 2012
Source:
Veterinärmedizinische Universität Wien
Summary:
Arguments over how best to train horses have raged for centuries.  Two years ago, the International Equestrian Federation (FEI) was even moved to ban the practice of hyperflexion as a result of a petition signed by over 40,000 people claiming that it caused the animals unnecessary discomfort.  The FEI did make a distinction between hyperflexion by the use of extreme force and what it termed “low, deep and round” (LDR), which essentially achieves the same position without force.  How forceful hyperflexion should be distinguished from permissible LDR training was not clearly stated – instead, a working group has been established to come up with an acceptable definition.

Temperature of a horse's skin surface (thermography) with its head held in hyperflexion.
Credit: Vetmeduni Vienna/Aurich

Arguments over how best to train horses have raged for centuries. Two years ago, the International Equestrian Federation (FEI) was even moved to ban the practice of hyperflexion as a result of a petition signed by over 40,000 people claiming that it caused the animals unnecessary discomfort. The FEI did make a distinction between hyperflexion by the use of extreme force and what it termed "low, deep and round" (LDR), which essentially achieves the same position without force. How forceful hyperflexion should be distinguished from permissible LDR training was not clearly stated -- instead, a working group has been established to come up with an acceptable definition.

The debate between the proponents and the opponents of hyperflexion has given rise to considerable emotions on both sides but has unfortunately been characterized by a lack of scientific evidence. Mareike Becker-Birck in the group of Christine Aurich at the University of Veterinary Medicine, Vienna (Vetmeduni Vienna) has attempted to fill the void by comparing the levels of stress shown by horses trained on the lunge with their necks either extended forwards or fixed in hyperflexion. Stress was assessed by monitoring the levels of stress hormones in the animals' saliva and by following the heart rate and the fluctuations in heart rate exhibited before, during and after training. In addition, the surface body temperature was measured before and after the experiment. None of the horses suffered any obvious discomfort during the training, which was undertaken without the use of a whip.

The horses showed an increase in stress hormones in their saliva, an increase in heart rate and a decrease in heart rate variability when they were trained. The changes presumably stem from a combination of physical activity and the normal stress responses. The level of stress incurred by the animals was not particularly high -- the change in hormones in the saliva was actually less than when horses are transported by road or ridden for the first time. And importantly, the effects were the same irrespective of whether the animals were lunged under hyperflexion or under "classical" conditions with their necks extended. The only significant difference observed related to the temperature of the front (cranial) part of the animals' necks, possibly indicating that the blood flow was not quite even when the horses were lunged in hyperflexion.

Apart from this one minor difference, then, the results show that hyperflexion in horses lunged at moderate speed and not touched with the whip does not elicit a pronounced stress response. In other words, there appears to be no scientific reason to ban the use of hyperflexion. Aurich nevertheless remains cautious. "Our results show that hyperflexion does not itself harm the animals but some trainers combine it with forceful and aggressive intervention of the rider over prolonged periods of time. This is a different situation from the one we investigated so our study should not be interpreted to mean that hyperflexion never has any stressful or negative effects."

The paper Cortisol release, heart rate and heart rate variability, and superficial body temperature, in horses lunged either with hyperflexion of the neck or with an extended head and neck position by Mareike Becker-Birck, Alice Schmidt, Manuela Wulf, Jörg Aurich, Armgard von der Wense, Erich Möstl, Reinhold Berz and Christine Aurich is published in the current issue of the Journal of Animal Physiology and Animal Nutrition. The work was carried out at the Graf Lehndorff Institute for Equine Science, a joint research unit of the University of Veterinary Medicine, Vienna, Austria, and the Brandenburg State Stud at Neustadt (Dosse), Germany.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Veterinärmedizinische Universität Wien. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. M. Becker-Birck, A. Schmidt, M. Wulf, J. Aurich, A. von der Wense, E. Möstl, R. Berz, C. Aurich. Cortisol release, heart rate and heart rate variability, and superficial body temperature, in horses lunged either with hyperflexion of the neck or with an extended head and neck position. Journal of Animal Physiology and Animal Nutrition, 2012; DOI: 10.1111/j.1439-0396.2012.01274.x

Cite This Page:

Veterinärmedizinische Universität Wien. "Bend or stretch? How stressful is hyperflexion of horses' necks?." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 24 July 2012. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/07/120724104131.htm>.
Veterinärmedizinische Universität Wien. (2012, July 24). Bend or stretch? How stressful is hyperflexion of horses' necks?. ScienceDaily. Retrieved August 29, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/07/120724104131.htm
Veterinärmedizinische Universität Wien. "Bend or stretch? How stressful is hyperflexion of horses' necks?." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/07/120724104131.htm (accessed August 29, 2014).

Share This




More Plants & Animals News

Friday, August 29, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Killer Amoeba Found in Louisiana Water System

Killer Amoeba Found in Louisiana Water System

AP (Aug. 28, 2014) — State health officials say testing has confirmed the presence of a killer amoeba in a water system serving three St. John the Baptist Parish towns. (Aug. 28) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Raw: Australian Sheep Gets Long Overdue Haircut

Raw: Australian Sheep Gets Long Overdue Haircut

AP (Aug. 28, 2014) — Hoping to break the record for world's wooliest, Shaun the sheep came up 10 pounds shy with his fleece weighing over 50 pounds after being shorn for the first time in years. (Aug. 28) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Minds Blown: Scientists Develop Fish That Walk On Land

Minds Blown: Scientists Develop Fish That Walk On Land

Newsy (Aug. 28, 2014) — Canadian scientists looking into the very first land animals took a fish out of water and forced it to walk. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Fake Dogs Scare Real Geese from Wis. Park

Fake Dogs Scare Real Geese from Wis. Park

AP (Aug. 28, 2014) — Parks officials in Stevens Point, Wisconsin had a fowl problem. Canadian Geese were making a mess of a park, so officials enlisted cardboard versions of man's best friend. (Aug. 28) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
 
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:  

Breaking News:
from the past week

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:  

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile iPhone Android Web
Follow Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins