E.K. Visser

Groupe ISA, Lille, Nord-Pas-de-Calais, France

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Publications (24)15.49 Total impact

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    ABSTRACT: Horses are used for a wide variety of purposes from being used for recreational purposes to competing at an international level. With these different uses, horses have to adapt to numerous challenges and changes in their environment, which can be a challenge itself in continuously safeguarding their welfare. The objective of this study was to assess the prevalence of health disorders with clinical examination and identify possible risk factors of health disorders affecting horse welfare in professional husbandry systems in the Netherlands. With the use of fixed protocols for recording health aspects in horses, 150 horse farms voluntarily participating in the study were assessed by trained assessors. On each farm 20 horses were clinically examined, in total almost 3000 animals. This study recorded on basis of the clinical examinations: the respiratory system (i.e. abnormal breathing (1%), coughing (1%), nasal discharge (1.9%)), body condition (i.e. 18.8% fat body condition and 6.4% poor body condition), locomotion (14.5% exhibited irregularity of locomotion and 4.8% were lame), back palpation (a light response 22.6% and moderate to severe response 8.4%), mouth (i.e. irregularities on mouth corners (3.4 %) and bars (3.4 %)), and ocular discharge (12%). Risk factor analysis, stepwise using mixed model regression, demonstrated several risk factors for health aspects. Horses used for instruction (riding lessons) were almost two times more at risk to develop moderate to severe back pain compared to horses used for recreation (OR = 0.54) or for competition (OR = 0.61). Horses used for instruction (riding school lessons), breeding or recreation all had a higher risk for irregular locomotion or lameness compared to competition horses (OR = 0.42, OR = 0.55, OR = 2.14 respectively). Horses used for recreation were more prone to have a higher Body Condition Score compared to horses used for breeding (OR = 3.07) and instruction (OR = 2.06). The prevalences of health problems and the identified risk factors are valid for the horses in the present study in which farms voluntarily participated. Furthermore, the results may provide the basis for horse welfare and health programs on farm and horse industry levels. With the development of a valid welfare monitoring system for the horse industry, the welfare of horses can be increased through improving awareness and stimulating changes in management.
    Journal of Animal Science 12/2013; · 2.09 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: The presence and severity of lung lesions recorded post-mortem is commonly used as an indicator to assess the prevalence of respiratory problems in batches of bovines. In the context of a welfare monitoring based on on-farm measures, the recording of clinical signs on calves at the farm would be more convenient than the recording of lung lesions at slaughter. The aim of the present study was to investigate the relationship between clinical respiratory signs at farm and post-mortem analyses of lung lesions observed at slaughter in veal calves. If clinical signs were a good predictor of lung lesions it could be possible to integrate only those measures in a welfare monitoring system. One-hundred-and-seventy-four batches of calves were observed 3 times: at 3 and 13 weeks after arrival of the calves at the unit and at 2 weeks before slaughter. For each batch a maximum of 300 calves was observed and the proportions of calves showing abnormal breathing, nasal discharge and coughing were recorded. Post-mortem inspection was carried out on a sample of lungs belonging to calves from the observed batches. Each examined lung was classified according to a 4-point scale for pneumonia from healthy lung (score 0) to severe lesions (score 3). The clinical signs recorded infra vitam were significantly correlated with moderate and severe lung lesions for observations at 13 weeks and 2 weeks before slaughter and the level of the correlation was highly variable (r(sp) from 0.16 to 0.40). Receiver operating characteristic (ROC) curves were created and the area under the curves showed that batches with a high proportion of lungs with moderate or severe lesions could not be accurately detected by the three clinical signs of respiratory disorders. These results suggest that both clinical signs and post-mortem inspection of lung lesions must be included in a welfare monitoring schemes for veal calves.
    Preventive Veterinary Medicine 02/2012; 105(1-2):93-100. · 2.39 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: The study aimed at assessing the prevalence of poor rumen development, presence of rumen plaques, rumen papillae hyperkeratinization, and abomasal lesions in veal calves and to investigate risk factors for their occurrence at the farm level. Within a wide cross-sectional study, a sample of 170 veal farms representative of the European veal meat production systems was considered in the 3 major producing countries (99 in the Netherlands, 47 in France, and 24 in Italy). An average of 59 ± 10 (SD) rumens and abomasa belonging to calves from a single batch per farm were inspected at the abattoir by trained observers to assess the incidence of these gastrointestinal disorders. Potential risk factors for their occurrence related to farm management, housing, and to the feeding plan were obtained by a questionnaire submitted to the stockperson. Prevalence of poor rumen development (almost no papillae present), rumen plaques, and hyperkeratinization were 60.4, 31.4, and 6.1% of rumens, respectively, whereas abomasal lesions in the pyloric area were recorded in 74.1% of abomasa. Independent variables related to the feeding system confirmed to be the main risk factors for the occurrence of gastrointestinal disorders in veal calves. However, additional risk sources for each given problem were identified among housing and management variables. The provision of a low amount of solid feed (≤ 50kg of dry matter/head per cycle) was a relevant risk for rumen underdevelopment. Rumen wall alterations (plaques and hyperkeratinization) and abomasal lesions were instead associated with the administration of large quantities of solids (151-300 kg of dry matter/head per cycle) in calves receiving milk replacer during the entire fattening cycle. Among the types of solid feed, cereal grain acted as a preventive measure for low rumen development, whereas it was a risk factor for the occurrence of rumen plaques, papillae hyperkeratinization, and abomasal lesions. Some housing and management options adopted to improve veal calf welfare (i.e., higher space allowance and use of heating) were associated with lower risk for gastrointestinal disorders.
    Journal of Dairy Science 02/2011; 94(2):853-63. · 2.57 Impact Factor
  • Livestock Science - LIVEST SCI. 01/2011;
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    ABSTRACT: Concentrations of tryptophan (TRP) and serotonin (5-HT) in plasma were measured in 36 moderately trained Dutch warmblood horses after eight weeks on a high fibre (n=18) or high starch (n=18) diet. Samples were taken three hours after feeding, when the horse was at rest, either at 11.00 or 14.00 hours. Plasma 5-HT and pH were significantly higher in horses fed a high fibre diet than those fed a high starch diet (P<0.05 and P<0.01, respectively), and significantly higher levels of TRP were found in mares than geldings (P<0.05). Plasma 5-HT may therefore be a good marker of serotonergic activity.
    The Veterinary record. 01/2010; 166(5):133-6.
  • E.K. Visser, K. Karlas, Deurzen, Reenen, C.G
  • E.K. Visser, A.D. Ellis, Reenen, C.G
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    ABSTRACT: The effect of stabling for the first time on the behaviour and welfare of young and naïve horses has not yet been studied in detail. In this study we examined the effect of two typical housing systems on their subsequent behavioural and physiological responses upon first time stabling. Thirty-six 2-year-old Dutch warmbloods, 18 geldings and 18 mares were included in the study. Half of the horses were stabled in individual stables (10.5 m2) and the other half in pair housing (48 m2 for two horses). The study lasted 12 weeks. At the end of the study the physiological and temperamental responses of the horses on the different treatments was tested using a CRF challenge test (to test the HPA-axis function) and a Novel Object test (to test temperamental differences) respectively. Especially in the first week after stabling pair housed horses spent more time eating whereas individually housed horses spent more time either standing vigilant or sleeping. Stress-related behaviours like neighing, pawing, nibbling and snorting were all displayed significantly more frequently in the individually housed horses (P < 0.01). At the end of the study 67% of the individually housed horses was seen performing one or more stereotypies (P < 0.01). The cortisol response and ACTH response on the CRF challenge test were lower for horses in the individually housed boxes. It is suggested that this depression in socially isolated animals is caused by a desensitisation of the HPA axis in response to stress-induced elevations in ACTH and cortisol. In general there was no effect of the treatment on the reactivity of the horses during the Novel Object test. However, there were significant relations between the responses of horses in the Novel Object test and in the stable environment. It is concluded that sudden isolated stabling is stressful to young and naïve horses, resulting in a high prevalence of stereotypies and abnormal behaviours. This study also provided some support for the notion that social stress in horses may be associated with a blunted adrenocortical response to CRF challenge. The finding that responses of horses to a behavioural test are correlated with home environment behaviours suggests that individual horses exhibit consistent behavioural traits across different contexts, and opens the possibility of using behavioural tests in horses to predict more general underlying behavioural characteristics.
    Applied Animal Behaviour Science 114 (2008) 3-4. 01/2008;
  • 01/2007;
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    ABSTRACT: Behavioural tests as well as observers' ratings have been used to study horses' temperament. However, the relationship between the ratings and the responses in behavioural tests has not yet been studied in detail. The aim of the present study was to examine this relationship between ratings and responses. Eighteen mature Swedish Warmblood horses were subjected to 2 behavioural tests, one relating to novelty (novel object test) and one to handling (handling test). Subsequently, 16 of these horses were ridden by 16 equally experienced students, having no former experience with the horses. Immediately after each ride, the students scored the horse for 10 temperamental traits using a line rating method. It was shown that for each temperamental trait all 16 riders agreed on the ranking of the horses (0.212<W<0.505, P < 0.001). Correlations between behavioural and heart rate variables in the behavioural tests revealed that horses with a high level of locomotion or much restlessness behaviour exhibited high mean heart rate and low heart rate variability. In particular, heart rate variables in the behavioural tests were found to correlate with riders' rating scores. Furthermore, the underlying components of the handling test, retrieved with a principal component analysis (PCA) correlated with riders' rating scores while the underlying components of the novel object test did not. It is concluded that it is possible for a large panel of assessors to agree upon a horse's temperament and that objective measures from behavioural tests correlate significantly with temperamental traits assessed by a panel of assessors.
    Equine Veterinary Journal 03/2003; 35(2):176-83. · 2.29 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: To achieve optimal performance in equine sports as well as in leisure not only the physical abilities of the horse should be considered, but also the horse's personality. Besides temperamental aspects, like emotionality, or the horse's reactivity towards humans in handling situations, the learning ability of the horse is another relevant personality trait. To study whether differences in learning performance are consistent over time and whether individual learning performance differs between learning tests or is affected by emotionality, 39 young horses (Dutch Warmblood) were tested repeatedly in two learning tests. An aversive stimulus (AS) was used in one learning test (the avoidance learning test) and a reward was used in the other learning test (the reward learning test). During both learning tests behaviour as well as heart rate were measured. Each test was executed four times, twice when horses were 1 year of age, and twice when they were 2 years of age. Half of the horses received additional physical training from 6 months onwards. In both tests horses could be classified as either performers, i.e. completing the daily session, or as non-performers, i.e. returning to the home environment without having completed the daily session. There were some indications that emotionality might have caused non-performing behaviour, but these indications are not convincing enough to exclude other causes. Furthermore, there seem to be no simple relationships between measures of heart rate, behavioural responses putatively related to emotionality and learning performance. Horses revealed consistent individual learning performances within years in both tests, and in the avoidance learning test also between years. There was no significant correlation between learning performances in the avoidance learning test and the learning performances in the reward learning test. It is concluded that individual learning abilities are consistent over a short time interval for an avoidance learning test and a reward learning test and over a longer time for the avoidance learning test. Furthermore, results indicate that some horses perform better when they have to learn to avoid an aversive stimulus while others perform better when they are rewarded after a correct response. It is suggested that these differences may be relevant to design optimal individual training programmes and methods.
    Applied Animal Behaviour Science 03/2003; · 1.50 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: For a horse to succeed in a show-jumping career, the individual has to possess both excellent physical abilities as well as a suitable personality to perform under challenging conditions. Forty-one Dutch Warmblood horses were used to develop personality tests and correlations between test variables and early training performances in jumping were studied. In behavioural tests, during the first 2 years of the horses¿ lives, personality aspects like emotionality, reactivity to human and learning abilities were quantified. At the age of 3, horses were broken and received early training in show-jumping. The inter-relationship between several performance variables measured during this early training phase were studied using principal component analysis (PCA). Variables measured in the different personality tests (novel-object test, handling test, avoidance-learning test and a reward-learning test) showed no correlations, suggesting that these tests all triggered different aspects of a horse¿s personality. This study indicates that it is possible to predict a substantial part of the show-jumping performance of an individual horse later in life by personality traits earlier in life.
    Applied Animal Behaviour Science 82 (2003) 4. 01/2003;
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    ABSTRACT: Forty-one Dutch Warmblood immature horses were used in a study to quantify temperamental traits on the basis of heart rate (HR) and heart rate variability (HRV) measures. Half of the horses received additional training from the age of 5 months onwards; the other half did not. Horses were tested at 9, 10, 21 and 22 months of age in a novel object and a handling test. During the tests, mean HR and two heart variability indices, e.g. standard deviation of beat-to-beat intervals (SDRR) and root mean square of successive beat-to-beat differences (rMSSD), were calculated and expressed as response values to baseline measures. In both tests, horses showed at all ages a significant increase in mean HR and decrease in HRV measures, which suggests a marked shift of the balance of the autonomic nervous system towards a sympathetic dominance. In the novel object test, this shift was more pronounced in horses that had not been trained. Furthermore, statistical analysis showed that the increase in mean HR could not be entirely explained by the physical activity. The additional increase in HR, the nonmotor HR, was more pronounced in the untrained horses compared to the trained. Hence, it is suggested that this nonmotor HR might be due to the level of emotionality. HR variables showed consistency between years, as well as within the second year. These tests bring about a HR response in horses, part of which may indicate a higher level of emotionality; and horses show individual consistency of these HR variables over ages. Therefore, it is concluded that mean HR and HRV measures used with these tests quantify certain aspects of a horse's temperament.
    Physiology & Behavior 07/2002; 76(2):289-96. · 3.16 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: Performance of horses, whether in sports or in leisure, depends on both physical abilities as well as temperament. The aim of the present work was to measure individual variation and consistency of behavioural variables, related to temperament, in young horses of the same breed and age, and reared under controlled housing conditions and management. A total of 41 Dutch Warmblood horses were tested at 9, 10, 21 and 22 months of age in two behavioural tests, i.e. the novel object test and the handling test. In the novel object test horses were confronted with an open umbrella that was lowered from the ceiling. In the handling test horses were led by a human to cross a bridge. Per test, behavioural variables in the following behavioural classes were observed: locomotor activity, latency times, postural expressions and vocalisations.Within years, all behavioural variables in the handling test, and all but two in the novel object test were positively correlated (0.36
    Applied Animal Behaviour Science 12/2001; · 1.50 Impact Factor
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    Journal of Applied Animal Welfare Science 11 (2008) 3.
  • E.K. Visser, Dierendonck, P. McGreevy
  • In "Proceedings Workshop, Potsdam, 23 May 2002".
  • E.K. Visser, A. Ellis, Reenen, C.G, Dierendonck

Publication Stats

290 Citations
15.49 Total Impact Points


  • 2012
    • Groupe ISA
      Lille, Nord-Pas-de-Calais, France
    • Wageningen University
      Wageningen, Gelderland, Netherlands
  • 2011
    • University of Padova
      • Department of Animal Medicine, Production and Health MAPS
      Padova, Veneto, Italy
  • 2002–2003
    • Universiteit Utrecht
      • • Gezondheidszorg Paard (DGP)
      • • Faculty of Veterinary Medicine
      Utrecht, Provincie Utrecht, Netherlands