New management techniques should be considered to manage noise anxiety in horses, according to a new study. The research found that noise anxiety was a growing issue for equines and had welfare implications for those affected.

Horse owners completed a survey as part of the research and 409 respondents reported their horse had shown unusual behaviour during a “noise event”. Management strategies included providing hay through the night and the horse in or out, or moving it to a new paddock.

“Noise anxiety is an over-reaction to loud noises commonly detected among pets and can greatly impact on their welfare and on their management,” said the researchers. “When exposed to noisy events, horses can show intense escape attempts, which may cause severe accidents for the horse and the rider or handler.”

The aim of the study was to investigate UK and US owners’ perception of noise anxiety severity in their horses and their management strategies. The questionnaire was shared via social media, titled “What is your horse afraid of?”

Two groups of horses were established of those who experienced noise anxiety, very anxious and slightly anxious. The former were reported to have a higher frequency of anxious behaviours and signs of noise reactivity, and their anxiety did not improve with time.

“Our results confirmed that noise anxiety is a growing behavioural problem that can lead to important welfare concerns for horses,” they said. “New management strategies, including the use of medicinal products, should be considered to reduce behavioural and physiological signs and help horses to cope with noisy events.”

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