Music Matters - Music's Effect on Horse Behaviour

It's been a busy few weeks down at the yard. I'm currently clearing and organising two more stables - one is for Setanta and one is for my new arrival ... but more about him soon :) Long hours at the yard can be lonely at the best of times so I tend to just blast out a few tunes on the radio to keep me going :)

Liath tends to look less than impressed when I'm having a sing song to myself. I'm not sure she genuinely doesn't appreciate my taste in music (not sure who does actually!) or if it could be, in fact, stressing her out? According to a study, researchers at Hartpury College discovered that music does play a role in a horse's stress behaviours.

Eight thoroughbred geldings were stabled for 3 hours and then played four different types of music - classical, rock, country and jazz - for 30 minutes each. The horses were then studied and their behaviour noted. They also observed the horses behaviour for 30 minutes without music.

They concluded that horses displayed the same balance of restfulness and alertness during classical and country music as they did when there was no music at all. The horses, in fact, tended to eat more quietly (a natural behaviour that reflects calmness) than they did with silence.

Jazz and rock music caused the horses to display stressful behaviours such as stamping, snorting, head tossing and vocalising when compared to silence alone. Not only were they visibly upset but their eating pattern became erratic and filled with nervousness - they began "snatching at food in short bursts".

Contrary to popular belief it was Jazz and not rock music that caused the most adverse reactions. This could be due in part to the "fast tempo and minor key".

In conclusion, the behaviours the horses showed while listening to classical and country music suggests that the music has an enriching effect on the environment of the stabled horse. It was also established that music should be played at only 21 decibels :)

I find this research really interesting. I usually leave the radio on all day and listen to whatever happens to be playing. I'm going to look into this subject a bit more and see if Liath does react to different types of music. I wonder if playing some classical or country music before a big competition might ease the nerves a little bit ...

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