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Give Your Horse A Tune

Give your horse a tune
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Beyond my blogpost Horse Calmers Explained, here is a something that you may not have thought of… give your horse a tune! The positive effect music can have on animals is proven. A study conducted in 1996 assessed the impact of music on cows’ behaviour in a dairy with an Automated Milking System (i.e. the cows herd themselves to the milking machines). This study showed that, when music was played specifically during the milking period for a period of a few months, more cows showed up to the AMS than when music wasn’t played. A further study in 2001 showed that the tempo of music affects milk production in dairy cows. In this study, slow tempo music, like Beethoven’s Pastoral Symphony and Simon & Garfunkel’s Bridge Over Troubled Water, increased milk production by 3%. A 3 percent increase in milk over a year is an easy financial gain for the dairy farm — no investment needed, just change your radio station to Classic FM, Spotify easy listening or smooth jazz. Might a 3% performance increase be attractive for your equine competitions?

Give Your Horse A Tune

Researchers from Poland[1] set out to determine the effect of music played in stables on the emotional state of race horses. Many horse owners have found that music has an apparent calming effect on fear, aggression and overall stress. Racehorses in particular, have demands of increased cardiac activity and speed that may be improved through music exposure.

Forty 3-year-old Arabian horses were placed in a stable where they listened to specifically composed music[2] for five hours each day. Their emotional state was assessed by measuring heart rates at rest, saddling, and warm-up walking. Racing performance and number of wins were also recorded. At the end of each month, for three months, data were compared to a control group of horses subjected to the same activity, without having listened to music.

The music positively impacted the emotional state and performance of treated horses, compared to the control group. What was so remarkable was that the effect was noticeable throughout every activity, even during the heightened excitement of being ridden at a gallop. Even more noteworthy was the positive influence the music had after the second and third months, improving with each subsequent month, exhibited by the number of races won. Beyond three months, however, the impact leveled off, presumably because the horses became accustomed to the music.

Implications for your horses

Horses are individuals and respond to stress in a variety of ways. This study offers one approach toward helping your horse calm down and better respond to performance demands. But all horses, not just athletes, can benefit from a relaxed, stress-free environment. Increased amount of box confinement, often seen with the onset of winter weather, can agitate many horses. Soft music, such as was used in this study, can be a useful tool in helping your horse cope with being indoors, as well as veterinary and farrier visits, travel, and other stressors. It complements what Aloeride does for horses as explained in Horse Calmers Explained and we would add that our suggestion to give your horse a tune means NOT playing Radio 2 or Radio 1 or suchlike ‘exciting ditties’.

[1] Stachurska, A., Janczarek, I., Wilk, I., and Kedzierski, W., 2015. Does music influence emotional state in race horses? Journal of Equine Veterinary Science, 35(5), 650-656.

[2] Composed by Janet Marlow of Pet Acoustics, a specialist in music for animals (CD is called Relaxation Music for Horses).

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