Horses are frequently transported and exposed to a new environment for sport competition or working tasks and must readapt to their original conditions after a temporary relocation. The objective of this study was to determine if a temporary relocation, and multiple factors associated with a rest period, affect the adrenal response through the analysis of hair cortisol concentrations (HCCs) in horses. Cortisol is a glucocorticoid released after the activation of the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis and its assessment is being increasingly used as a bioindicator of stress response. Results showed that changes in the daily routine of the animals, including a supposed rest period, increased the HCCs. However, the risk of using low statistical power due to the small sample size cannot be completely ruled out. The elevation in HCCs could be a consequence of the change in the horses' environmental and routine conditions, which could, in turn, have an impact on their welfare. Horse transportation for temporary relocation during rest periods is a common and widespread practice among horse owners, either from sport competition or working tasks. This study aimed to determine the effect of a relocation period and the multiple factors associated with a rest period on hair cortisol concentrations (HCCs) in horses. Additionally, this study reports the seasonal effect on HCCs and hair growth over a year. Thirteen police horses, Pure Spanish stallions of various ages (5-13 y), were selected to participate in this study. Hair sample collection was carried out approximately every 30 d for seven months (Study 1) and a year (Study 2). Cortisol determinations were performed by enzyme immunoassay. Interestingly, Study 1 revealed that relocated horses (n = 4) exhibited elevated HCCs compared with control horses (n = 4) after the relocation period (p < 0.05). Study 2 (n = 5) showed higher HCCs during summer compared with autumn and winter, and higher hair growth rates in winter compared with the other seasons (p < 0.05). Relocated horses had higher HCCs, suggesting a change in their welfare status, probably related to the sudden change in their surrounding conditions. However, these results should be interpreted cautiously due to the low sample size used. The nature of the relationship between HCCs and horse welfare needs to be further examined.
|Number of pages||11|
|Publication status||Published - 8 Apr 2020|
- Hair cortisol
- Rest period