• Norway's news in English

Horses asked how they prefer to stay warm

The Local · 4 Feb 2014, 15:25

Published: 04 Feb 2014 15:25 GMT+01:00

Grete Jørgensen, a researcher with the Norwegian Institute for Agricultural and Environmental Research, told The Local how her joint Norwegian-Swedish research project had hired a professional trainer to teach 13 horses, based at Nypan outside Trondheim, to request or refuse a warm, dry blanket.
"The horses soon learned, using positive reinforcement techniques, that if they want to change their situation -- either to remove a blanket or have one put on -- they should tap one symbol with their muzzle.  If they want to remain the same, they tapped on another,"  Jørgensen said. 
Most horses chose to keep their blankets on during days with wind, rain or sleet, with the number of horses requesting the removal of their blankets increasing as the temperature rose and spring brought sunny weather.
Jørgensen said her colleagues Knut Bøe and Cecilie Mejdell, who ran the Nypan project, aimed "to ask horses whether they really need these blankets and rugs or whether they preferred to use their own coats to regulate their body temperature in different weather."
Meanwhile, at a local horse farm on Alstahaug, an island off the coast of north west Norway, Jørgensen offered 16 horses the choice of a heated shelter, an unheated shelter, or staying outside.
"We wanted to investigate how horses from several different breeds would tackle different winter weather conditions," she explained. 
She found that the horses did not want to come inside the shelters when the weather was dry, even at very low winter temperatures. When there was rain or sleet, however, the horses were more likely to start muscle shivering or move inside. 
"The weather here up on the northern Norwegian coast is quite changeable, so you can have three seasons in one day, and rain and maybe sleet, which is really challenging for the horses to keep up their core body temperature," she said.
Certain Nordic breeds appeared capable of withstanding extreme cold even when it was wet.
"We actually have horses that even in the worst conditions never chose to go inside because the water never gets close to the skin," she explained. "Coat condition is very important and maybe even more important than breed. If the coat is really good, like on a Norwegian breed, then the coat has this cover layer which transports the water off the top of the coat so it never gets wet at the skin."
Jørgensen said that the project would help determine the extent to which the rugs and blankets commonly used in Norway and Sweden were actually helping the animals. 
Story continues below…
"Many owners have no clue whether their horses need rugs and blankets, so they dress them up both indoors and in the paddock," she said.  "Too much use of rugs over time may produce sores and chaffing. The horse is not able to scratch in itchy places and the coat will not develop to its full length."
The joint Swedish-Norwegian project is titled "Impact of Nordic climate and management practices on thermoregulation in the horse". 
The Norwegian Project Group comprises Grete Jørgensen and Lise Aanensen from Bioforsk Nord Tjøtta, Knut Bøe from The Norwegian University of Life Sciences (NMBU), and Cecilie Mejdell from The Norwegian Veterinary Institute. The Project is financed through the Swedish-Norwegian Horse Research fund and the Norwegian Research Council. 
Abstracts or the research can be found here and here

The Local (news@thelocal.no)

Your comments about this article

Today's headlines
Norway teacher sexually assaulted 108 children
Police prosecutor Julie Dalsveen and state attorney Jo Christian Jordet. Photo: Terje Bendiksby / NTB scanpix

Gjøvik District Court on Tuesday sentenced a former teacher to 12 years behind bars for sexually abusing 108 children.

Norway woman killed by cow in ‘natural’ act
The cow killed the woman when she tried to help with the birthing process. Photo: Yngve Brox Guldbjørnsen / NTB scanpix

A cow who attacked an 80-year-old woman in Rødøy Municipality in Nordland over the weekend will be put down, its owner said.

Kygo sets all-time Norway record on US Billboard chart
Kygo's debut album, 'Cloud Nine', will land at number 11 on the next Billboard chart. Photo: Jon Olav Nesvold / NTB scanpix

Bergen native Kyrre Gørvell-Dahll, better known as Kygo, is now the highest-ever placing Norwegian act on the Billboard 200 list.

Militants release ‘final message’ from Norwegian
Norwegian hostage Kjartan Seikkingstad and Canadian Robert Hall were forced to appeal to their governments for help. Photo: SITE Intelligence Group

Islamist extremists have released what they call a "final message" from three hostages including Norwegian Kjartan Sekkingstad.

Hillary Clinton wants to block Norwegian in US
Clinton's campaign said the candidate has urged President Obama to deny Norwegian's application. Photo: Spencer Platt/Scanpix

Likely Democratic nominee for president says "too many questions have been raised" about Norwegian's Irish subsidiary.

SAS cancels 40 flights over technical issue
Photo: Johan Nilsson/Scanpix

As of Monday morning, 17 departures and 22 arrivals at Copenhagen Airport had been cancelled, affecting departures out of Oslo and Stavanger.

Norway's most spectacular road opens for summer
Although parts of the road remain closed, the scenic overlook is open. Photo: Marianne Løvland / NTB scanpix

As of Friday, parts of the Trollstigen mountain road will open for the summer – see the amazing video of how it got ready.

Woman attempted to set fire to Oslo mosque
The World Islamic Mission in Oslo. Photo: Berit Roald/NTB Scanpix

The World Islamic Mission may change security procedures after the arson attempt.

Norway won't change plans for Utøya memorial
The 'Memory Wound' design has been bitterly opposed by some locals. Illustration: Jonas Dahlberg/NTB Scanpix

Despite the threat of a lawsuit from locals, the controversial 'Memory Wound' will go forward as planned.

Norway moves to reject Snowden lawsuit
Edward Snowden. File photo: Svein Ove Ekornesvåg / NTB scanpix

Norway’s state attorney has requested that Oslo District Court reject a lawsuit brought that would prevent US whistleblower Edward Snowden from being extradited during a visit to Oslo.

All 13 on board die in Norway helicopter crash
All 13 on board die in Norway helicopter crash
Norway violated mass murderer's human rights: court
Norway to allow gay church weddings
Church of Norway to allow same-sex weddings
Sponsored Article
Eat, learn, live: unforgettable holidays in France
For first time, majority in Norway don’t believe in God
For first time, majority in Norway don’t believe in God
Norway preps 'breakthrough' on gender change
Norway preps 'breakthrough' on gender change
Breivik says he'll fight 'to the death' for Nazism
Breivik says he'll fight 'to the death' for Nazism
Memo: Norway 'not mentally prepared' for refugees' impact
Norway is the world's fourth happiest country
Norway is the world's fourth happiest country
Norway moves closer to allowing dual citizenship
Norway moves closer to allowing dual citizenship
Norway's tough asylum plans face resistance
'Patriot' group Soldiers of Odin debut in Norway
Oslo is the real ‘Capital of Scandinavia’
Norway ads use Hitler teddy bear to scare parents... about dust
Migrants: Norway 'sending us to death' in Russia
Norway under fire over tough new asylum plans
jobs available