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Horses 'can communicate their preferences with humans'
Horses preferred to remain without a blanket in nice weather, but to have a blanket on in wet, windy or cold weather.
Study finds horses can indicate whether they want a blanket on or off

A new study suggests horses can learn to communicate with humans by touching different symbols to indicate whether they want a blanket on or off.

Reward based operant conditioning was used to teach a group of horses to approach and touch a board, and to understand symbols on three boards, which indicated either 'no change', 'blanket off' or 'blanket on'.

Scientists from the Norwegian Veterinary Institute found that horses preferred to remain without a blanket in nice weather, but to have a blanket on in wet, windy or cold weather.

When 22 horses were tested on one of two sunny days (20-23ºC) all 10 wearing the blanket touched the 'blanket off' board. The remaining 12 who did not have a blanket on touched the board meaning 'no change'.

The same 22 horses were tested again in colder weather (5-9ºC). In these conditions, all 10 wearing the blanket indicated 'no change' while 10 that were not wearing a blanket touched the 'blanket on' board and the remaining two without a blanket indicated 'no change'. However, the same two gave the 'blanket on' signal on two different test days when temperatures were -12ºC and 1ºC with sleet respectively.

Writing in the journal Applied Animal Behaviour Science, researchers summarised the findings: 'Horses chose to stay without a blanket in nice weather, and they chose to have a blanket on when the weather was wet, windy and cold. This indicates that horses both had an understanding of the consequence of their choice on their own thermal comfort, and that they successfully had learned to communicate their preference by using the symbols.'

The team believe their novel method could pave the way for further research on horse preferences regarding management and training routines.

Read the full study here: http://www.appliedanimalbehaviour.com/article/S0168-1591(16)30219-2/fulltext

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Webinar to focus on equine worm control

News Story 1
 Vets, veterinary nurses and RAMAs are being invited to join a free CPD webinar on late winter and early spring equine worm control.

Hosted by Zoetis vet Dr Wendy Talbot, the webinar aims to help prescribers understand which parasites are of most concern at this time of year. It will also cover how to assess parasite risk, selecting a suitable wormer and spring wormer plans, concluding with a Q&A session.

The webinar takes place on Thursday, 18 March at 10 am and will be repeated at 7 pm for those unable to listen during the day. To book the 10 am webinar, click here, and to register for the 7 pm webinar, click here

Click here for more...
News Shorts
Avian influenza confirmed in Lancashire

A case of highly pathogenic (HPAI H5N8) avian influenza has been confirmed in two captive peregrine falcons on a non-commercial, non-poultry premises near Skelmersdale, West Lancashire.

Following a risk assessment, APHA has declared that no disease control zones have been put in place surrounding this non-commercial, non-poultry premises.

Eighteen cases of HPAI H5N8 have now been identified in poultry and other captive birds in England. A housing order for poultry and captive birds introduced by Defra to control the spread of the disease expired on 31 March, although bird keepers in England are still required by law to comply with biosecurity measures.

For more information, please click here.