ArticlePDF Available

Massage or music meant to be relaxing, result in lowering salivary cortisol concentration in race horses


Abstract and Figures

At the beginning of training routine, young race horses are exposed to stressful stimuli. The aim of the study was to evaluate the influence of a relaxing massage which the horses received in the stable, and the influence of music piped into the stable, on the longlasting stress level of the horses. 120 Purebred Arabian horses were studied. They were examined during first racing season, which lasted for six months. At the beginning of the study, the horses were 28-31 months old. The horses were brought to Słužewiec Horse Race Track (Warsaw, Poland) from their familiar studs and were randomly assigned to music (n = 48), massage (n = 48), or control (n = 24) groups. All horses were regularly trained and competed in official races. Once a month, saliva samples were collected from each horse to determine the cortisol concentration. Both music and massage resulted in significantly lower salivary Cortisol concentration compared to control treatment.
Content may be subject to copyright.
Pferdeheilkunde 33 (2017)
Pferdeheilkunde 33 (2017) 2 (March/April) 146-151 DOI 10.21836/PEM20170206
Massage or music meant to be relaxing, result
in lowering salivary cortisol concentration in race horses
Witold Kędzierski1, Iwona Janczarek2, Anna Stachurska2and Izabela Wilk1
1Department of Biochemistry, University of Life Sciences in Lublin, Lublin, Poland
2Department of Horse Breeding and Use, University of Life Sciences in Lublin, Lublin, Poland
Summary: At the beginning of training routine, young race horses are exposed to stressful stimuli. The aim of the study was to evaluate
the influence of a relaxing massage which the horses received in the stable, and the influence of music piped into the stable, on the long-
lasting stress level of the horses. 120 Purebred Arabian horses were studied. They were examined during first racing season, which lasted
for six months. At the beginning of the study, the horses were 28–31 months old. The horses were brought to Słužewiec Horse Race Track
(Warsaw, Poland) from their familiar studs and were randomly assigned to music (n = 48), massage (n=48), or control (n=24) groups.
All horses were regularly trained and competed in official races. Once a month, saliva samples were collected from each horse to deter-
mine the cortisol concentration. Both music and massage resulted in significantly lower salivary cortisol concentration compared to control
Keywords: animal welfare, cortisol, race horses, massage, music, stress
Citation: Kędzierski W., Janczarek I., Stachurska A., Wilk I. (2017) Massage or music meant to be relaxing, result in lowering salivary cor-
tisol concentration in race horses. Pferdeheilkunde 33, 146-151; DOI 10.21836/PEM20170206
Correspondence: Witold Kędzierski PhD, Department of Biochemistry, University of Life Sciences in Lublin, Akademicka 12, 20-033 Lublin,
Poland; e-mail:
Massage or music decrease salivary cortisol in race horses
W. Kędzierski et al
Young Purebred Arabian horses in Poland are routinely sub-
mitted to race training. At the age of 2.5 years, they are
moved from familiar studs to an unfamiliar race training cen-
tre. Much of the stimuli accumulated at the beginning of trai-
ning routine is associated with transport, change of residen-
ce, physical effort and participation in races, and can elicit
chronic stress in horses (
1998). Moreo-
ver, the commercialisation of race tracks alter the living con-
ditions towards circumstances inconsistent with the biology of
horses (
et al. 2010). Keeping a racehorse in a
box for most of the day, results in restricted freedom of move-
ment (
2007). An unfamiliar environment, isola-
tion, and short feed intake can also deepen the stress level
et al. 2002). It is known that long-lasting stress has a
negative influence on the organism. The factors generating
stress in trained horses, however, can only be partially elimi-
nated. Therefore, negative factors should be controlled and
their effects should be mitigated (
2003). Various rela-
xing methods may be used, e.g. free movement in the pad-
docks, massage and music. Massage promotes general body
relaxation and increases the sense of an animal well-being
2009). In horses, the heart rate measured
during and immediately after a massage was reduced, and
improved behavioural responses were noted (
et al.
2004). Horses are generally sensitive to music. The most visi-
ble sign of the influence of music on horses is the horse’s
ability to synchronise their movement to musical rhythm
et al. 2012). According to
(2012), the effect of the music on a horse’s behaviour
depends on the music genre.
et al. (2015) sho-
wed that relaxation music positively affected the emotional
state in race horses. However, little is known how these kinds
of relaxation methods reduce long-lasting stress in race hor-
ses (
The most common approach used to evaluate the stress level
in horses, is measuring cortisol release (
et al. 2010,
et al. 2010a, b). The cortisol is a natural glucocorti-
coid hormone synthetised by the adrenal cortex, which in turn,
is stimulated by sympathetic nervous system activity. The main
function of the hormone is to increase blood glucose level
during effort and stressful conditions. In horses, the blood
plasma cortisol concentration reflects not only the response to
exertion (
et al. 1996,
et al. 1999) but also
the mental stress level (
et al. 2006,
et al.
2008). In recent years, in cortisol determination, more atten-
tion has been devoted to saliva sampling. This form of sam-
pling is less stressful for the horse than blood sampling (
et al. 2010, 2011). The level of the saliva cortisol corre-
lates well with its level in the blood (
van der Kolk
et al. 2011,
et al. 2013). The salivary cortisol con-
centration was successfully used as an indicator of the stress
level in horses in response to stabling (
road transport (
et al. 2010a, b) and exercise (
et al. 2013, 2014a). A significant increase in the sali-
vary cortisol concentration was stated in naïve horses during
the initial training. The increase was particularly significant in
response to mounting by a rider (
et al. 2010a,
et al. 2014b). Thus, measuring the cortisol concentra-
tion in saliva samples was assumed to be a useful marker of
the mental stress in horses.
The aim of the study was to evaluate the influence of a rela-
xation massage, and music piped into the stable, on the hor-
se’s long-lasting stress level gauged with the salivary cortisol
Pferdeheilkunde 33 (2017) 147
Materials and methods
This article presents data collected within a larger research
project designed to determine the influence of chosen relaxa-
tion techniques on the emotional state of young race horses.
The study tested the hypothesis that relaxation techniques
such as massage and music used over a long period of time,
decrease the salivary cortisol concentration in race horses.
In the study, 120 Purebred Arabian horses were examined
over two years: 57 horses in the first year and 63 in the
second year. All the horses participated in the study during
their first racing season. Each horse was studied for six
months, which covered the full race season for three-year old
Purebred Arabian horses. At the beginning of the study, the
horses were 28–31 months old. The horses were brought to
Słužewiec Horse Race Track (Warsaw, Poland) from their fami-
liar studs about three months earlier to acclimatise to the new
conditions. After a month of acclimatisation, the horses
began the initial training. On the first few days, they were
bridled and saddled inside their boxes. Next, they were wal-
ked and trotted in an automated horse walker for 30 min a
day. After that, the horses were mounted. The caretaker held
the reins and another caretaker assisted the rider to first lay
over the back of the horse and then to move to a sitting posi-
tion in the saddle. This initial training lasted nine to twelve
days, depending on the horse behaviour. Finally, the riders
walked and trotted the horses in a paddock for 30 min a day
for about six weeks.
The horses were randomly divided into three groups: control
group (n=24), music group which listened to music meant to
be relaxing (n= 48), and massage group (n= 48) which
regularly received a relaxing massage for about 30 min, three
days a week. The only criterion of dividing the horses into the
groups was that the groups were to include a similar number
of mares and stallions. During the whole testing period, the
horses were housed in four stables under comparable social
and environmental conditions. Each horse was kept in a box
stall measuring 3.5m × 4m. Straw bedding allowed the horse
to comfortably lie down. To reduce the influence of nonspe-
cific factors on the animal’s emotional reaction, all the horses
were fed the same diet according to dietary guidelines and
cared for by the same caretakers in a manner which was typi-
cal for race horses. This means that all horses had equal
exposure to all the caretakers. To minimise the influence of
the year and stable factors, the experiment was arranged in a
manner shown in Table 1. For the first year of the study, the
massage was introduced in stables 1 and 2, and the music in
stables 3 and 4. The schedule was revised in the second year
of the study. The control group was also continued in respec-
tive stables in the consecutive years.
Massage or music decrease salivary cortisol in race horses
W. Kędzierski et al
Before the study, all of the horses were clinically sound accor-
ding to a veterinarian. All the horses showed normal beha-
viour according to the trainer. Not all of the horses remained
in training for the whole racing season because, in some
cases, the owners decided to end their horse’s career before
the end of the season. Thus, the number in the data for each
month was lower than the number of horses included in a
group, and amounted to 62.5% 89.6%.
Training and Racing
The experiment was performed according to the regular race-
training schedule, and for two race seasons. The training ses-
sions were performed for about one hour a day, six days a
week. The riders saddled the horses then walked the horses
for approximately 10 min as a warm-up exercise. The primary
race training was conducted on the sand track. The speed
and duration were individually adapted to the level of each
horse’s performance. An exception was made for the measu-
rement days. On the measurement days, each horse had to
cover a distance of 1800m at a speed of 6.4m/s. After the
exercise, the horses were put on an automatic horse walker
for 45min. At the end of the third month of the study, the hor-
ses started to compete in official races at least once a month.
A day before and two days after the race, the horses were
only given 60 minutes of exercise in the automatic walker. On
those days, they were not examined. All persons included in
the training and maintaining of studied horses didn’t know the
purpose of the study.
At the end of both race seasons, the horses’ performance was
estimated with four parameters based on official race
records: (1) number of races, in which a horse won; (2) prize
per race, i.e. sum of prizes won to the number of races a hor-
se took part; (3) success coefficient, i.e. sum of prizes won by
a horse to sum of prizes won by all horses at the same age in
respective race season; (4) general handicap, i.e. theoretical
weight (in kg) a horse should carry in a race to equal the hor-
se’s chance to win the race, with the chances of other horses
at the same age.
Listening to Music
For approximately five hours a day, music group listened to
music piped into their stalls. The music was played in the sta-
ble from 1 to 6 o’clock p.m. The music used was specifically
composed and recorded by J. Marlow, the specialist in the
music for animals. The rhythm and sound frequency of the
composition were intended to be within the sensitivity of the
equine hearing range (
2009). The rela-
xation music CD contains 10 movie-like soundtracks of New
Age genre, played with J. Marlow’s ten-string guitar. The
music was heard in the stable through a loudspeaker (My Pet
Table 1 Organization of the groups of horses
Year of the study
Stable 1
Stable 2
Stable 3
Stable 4
Massage n=14
Control n=6
Massage n=10
Control n=6
Music n=11
Music n=10
Music n=14
Music n=13
Massage n=14
Control n=6
Massage n=14
Control n=6
Pferdeheilkunde 33 (2017)
Speaker®, Pet Acoustic Inc, Washington, USA) also designed
to be within the range of horse-hearing. The tool limits sound
frequencies into 200Hz~ 12 KHz and features a soft bass
designed for listening comfort. The CD was played every day
in the “Repeat All” mode. The volume was set in the mid-ran-
ge; at about 65–70 decibels.
Massaging routine
In addition to the training routine, the horses from massage
group were subjected to special long-lasting, relaxing physio-
therapy. The horses received an overall-massage for
2530 min, three days a week. The horses were always mas-
saged after the training session and after collecting the saliva
samples. For one week prior to the actual study, the horses
were massaged to get them used to the technique. The pri-
mary massage session included: (1) laying hands on the hor-
se, which is not, in fact, a proper massage technique but was
used more to accustom the horse to contact; (2) friction, i.e.
massage with a circular stroking motion applied across the
horse's muscle, instead of restricting it to the direction of the
muscle, tendons and ligaments; (3) petrissage, i.e. kneading
some areas of the body to increase the circulation in the tis-
sues. Petrissage helps soften and prepare the horse's muscle
tissue for deeper equine therapy movements; (4) shaking
used for increasing the local circulation and for improving the
stretching of the horse’s limbs; (5) and tapotement applied for
stimulating the horses at the end of the massage session. The
massage focused on four body areas: (1) the neck area (M.
trapezius, M. rhomboideus, M. splenius, M. serratus ventralis
thoracis and M. brachiocephalicus); (2) the scapula, forearm
and back (M. supraspinatus, M. infraspinatus, M. triceps bra-
chii and M. latissimus dorsi); (3) the buttock (M. gluteus
superficjalis, M. gluteus medius, M. biceps femoris, M. semi-
tendinosus and M. semimembranosus); (4) the hind limb (M.
extensor digitorum longus and M. flexor digitorum superficja-
lis). The massage was performed by four masseurs. They were
well-trained specialists in the area of horse physiotherapy. The
masseurs did not massage only one horse each but rotated
amongst the horses.
Saliva Cortisol Measurement
The saliva samplings were conducted six times a year. The first
sampling took place in March, i.e. at the beginning of race
training, and just before introducing the music and massage
in the experimental groups. Samples were taken every 28–35
days. Two saliva samples were collected from each horse: (1)
in the early morning at rest - before the training session; (2)
and immediately after the return of the horse from the track.
The samples were collected with a small piece of sponge
which was inserted into the horse’s mouth and then, after
soaking in the saliva, the sponge was placed in a plastic tube
and stored at -20ºC until assayed, as described by
et al. (2011).
Before the laboratory analysis, the saliva samples were cen-
trifuged at 500×g for 15 min at room temperature. Next, the
sponge with the straw was removed and the saliva was trans-
ferred to test tubes. The concentrations of cortisol in the saliva
samples were measured by the enzyme-immunoassay method
Massage or music decrease salivary cortisol in race horses
W. Kędzierski et al
using the CORTISOL EIA kit (Diagnostic System Laboratories
Inc., Webster, TX, USA). All the samples were analysed in
duplicate. The absorbance was measured by a Multiscan
reader (Labsystem, Helsinki, Finland) using the GENESIS V
3.00 software program. The intra- and interassay CV for sali-
vary cortisol determined in the laboratory amounted to 9%
and 11%. The results were expressed in nmol/L.
In spite of complying with the strict procedures, in some
cases, the analysis of the cortisol level did not give any results
because the absorbance was about the maximal value of the
range of this method.
Statistical Analysis
The data were statistically analysed with the use of multivari-
ate analysis of variance (ANOVA GLM; SAS software packa-
ge, 2003) which considered the effect of the group (the con-
trol, music and massage groups), sex (stallions, mares), and
the year of the study (first year, second year) as well as the
interactions between those factors. The year of the study and
the sex factors turned out to be insignificant and were not the
subject of the study, hence only the group factor was discus-
sed. The results are presented as the means with the standard
deviations (SD). Tukey’s multiple comparison test was used to
identify the differences between the groups. Statistical signifi-
cance was accepted at the level of P< 0.05.
In the first measurement taken at rest, the groups did not dif-
fer with regard to the cortisol level. The salivary cortisol con-
centration determined at rest was significantly lower in music
and massage groups, as compared to control group, in the
second, third, fourth and sixth measurements (Figure 1). In
the fifth measurement, the cortisol level in massage group
was significantly lower than in music group. In the samples
collected after training sessions finished for the day, the
results of control and music groups did not differ significantly
(Figure 2). However, in massage group’s, the second and
sixth measurement results were significantly lower than the
results of control group. Moreover, the fifth and sixth measu-
Fig. 1 Salivary cortisol level determined at rest in studied groups
of horses during following months of the training season
(means±SD). 1, 2, 3 … = following months of the study; *= means
in Control Group differ significantly in comparison to other groups;
+= mean in massage group is significantly different than in music
Pferdeheilkunde 33 (2017) 149
rement results of massage group were significantly lower than
the results for music group. To simplify the graphs, in both
Figures, the values of SD are presented as only upper or
lower bars, nevertheless, each value of SD above the mean
was equal with those below the mean.
The race performance parameters are presented in Table 2.
Horses in massage group achieved better results than those
in control group with regard to the number of races won, pri-
ze per race and success coefficient. Music group had signifi-
cantly higher prize per race than control group. All the stu-
died performance parameters did not significantly differ bet-
ween music and massage groups.
The results of the present study clearly show that both stress-
coping methods (music meant to be relaxing in the stable and
relaxing massage), brought positive effects. Introducing those
methods significantly decreased the release of cortisol. The
amount of cortisol was estimated on the basis of the salivary
cortisol concentration. The use of this kind of stress-level esti-
mation is commonly accepted in current research (
al. 2010 a and b,
et al. 2010).
The most interesting results concerned the determination of
the cortisol level in saliva samples, taken at rest. The lack of
differences in the first measurement taken at rest, showed
that, as was expected, the three groups showed similar corti-
sol levels at the beginning of the study. The similarity of the
groups was in accordance with the trainer’s opinion on the
normal behaviour of all of the horses. Both of the relaxation
methods significantly decreased the cortisol release as com-
Massage or music decrease salivary cortisol in race horses
W. Kędzierski et al
pared to control group, during the whole racing season,
excluding the fifth month of the study. It is worth noticing that
the massage was performed after the training sessions, so the
horses were massaged at noon, and they listened to music in
the afternoon. The horses were investigated at rest, in the ear-
ly morning, hence the influence of the relaxation methods was
analysed many hours after the relaxation treatments. Our
results indicate the long lasting effect of the relaxation
methods on the salivary cortisol level in the race horses. The
positive effect the massage had on the salivary cortisol level
determined just after a treatment, was described earlier (
2009). In other study, massage reduced the
stress level which had been evaluated on the basis of heart
rate and behaviour of the horses also during a treatment
et al. 2004). In the fifth month of the study, the hor-
ses which listened to music had a significantly higher salivary
cortisol concentration than those horses which received a
massage. An analysis of heart rate variability in horses which
listened to relaxation music, also showed that the effective-
ness of this method decreased after some months of the tre-
atment (
et al. 2015). Perhaps animals get accu-
stomed to the music as time passes. Moreover, the horses in
general get accustomed to the training. A tendency to decre-
ase in resting cortisol values was seen in control group during
the study. Thus, probably, the salivary cortisol concentration
dropped in music group in sixth measurement in comparison
to the fifth measurement, because of a general tendency to
adapt to the environment. However, the adaptation effects of
long-lasting music treatment in humans and animals have
been studied less. In fact, many reports describe beneficial
effects of short-time use of relaxing music (
et al. 2013,
et al. 2015,
et al. 2015, 2016).
The analysis of those salivary cortisol samples taken after the
daily training sessions, and taken in the fifth and sixth month
of the study, showed the clear positive effect of the massage
treatment over the music treatment. Exercise performed by
race horses during training increases the salivary cortisol con-
centration (
et al. 2013, 2014a), however, enduran-
ce exercise has a stronger effect (
et al. 1996). Some
studies suggest that salivary cortisol level determined after
exercise, can indicate the relative intensity of exercise in race
horses (
et al. 2013). Generally, the intensity of exer-
cise increases with the duration of training. Therefore, the
values of salivary cortisol obtained after the end of training
sessions tended to increase, especially in control and music
groups. In the following months of the study, we compared
horses which were subjected to similar amounts of intensive
exercise. Thus, the differences in the salivary cortisol concen-
tration found between massage group and other groups were
the evident effect of the massage treatment. Listening to music
only appears to influence mental relaxation in the horses, whe-
reas massage has an effect on both the mental and muscle
Fig. 2 Salivary cortisol level determined after the end of training
sessions in studied groups of horses during following months of the
training season (means ± SD). 1, 2, 3 … = following months of the
study; *=means in Massage Group are significantly different than in
Control Group; += means in Massage Group differ significantly, in
comparison to Music Group.
Table 2 Race performance parameters of the studied horses (means ± SD)
Group of horses
Sum of prices to number
of starts ratio
Success coefficient
General handicap
301 ± 142 a
0.90 ± 0.09 a
55.9 ± 10.5 a
554 ± 141 b
1.36 ± 1.28 ab
61.1 ± 12.2 a
723 ± 95.9 b
1.26 ± 0.31 b
63.8 ± 11.5 a
Sum of prices is given in Euro. Success coefficient - the sum of prizes won by a horse, divided by the mean sum of prizes won by all horses at the same age
in current race season. Means in columns marked with the same letters do not differ significantly at p<0.05
Pferdeheilkunde 33 (2017)
relaxation (
2009). It is not surprising that the estima-
ted cortisol release after physical activity showed that massage
brought more beneficial effects than the music. From the eco-
nomic and management point of view, though, providing
music is much easier than providing a relaxing massage.
The horses were exposed to such stressful stimuli as: the trai-
ning routine, a restriction of movement during most of the
day, and taking part in strong competition during races. Tho-
se stimuli had an influence on all of the horse groups. Other
factors, like the conditions in the stables, the behaviour of the
caretakers and trainers, may also affect the stress level in the
horses. Horses are very sensitive to human behaviour (
et al. 2009,
et al. 2009,
et al. 2011). For this
reason, the study was arranged in a manner which minimali-
zed the influence of the stable and human factors and ena-
bled the researches to focus on the influence of the massage,
and music.
The benefits of the relaxing methods were also found in the
race records. The prize per race was significantly higher in the
experimental groups than in control group. Moreover, the
number of races won and the success coefficient were higher
in massage group. Hence, the performance of the horses tre-
ated with the relaxing methods was better which, in turn, had
the economic importance. This fact shows that applying the
relaxing methods is desired because of the race horse’s wel-
fare and performance.
In conclusion, both the relaxation massage and the music tre-
atment significantly decreased the cortisol release in Purebred
Arabian horses trained for racing. The massage treatment
gave better results than listening to music which meant to be
relaxing. Playing music, though, being easier to provide, may
be widely introduced to improve the welfare and performance
of race horses.
Funding statement
The Polish National Centre for Research and Development
(grant number 180061) sponsored this study.
Animal Welfare Statement
The animal care and experimental procedures were in accor-
dance with the European Committee regulations for the pro-
tection of experimental animals. The care and procedures
were approved by Local Ethics Review Committee for Animal
Experiments, the University of Life Sciences in Lublin, Poland
(reference number 78/2012).
Alexander S. L., Irvine C. H. G.
(1998) Stress in the racing horse:
Coping vs not coping. J. Equine Sci. 9, 77-81
Baragli P., Gazzano A., Martelli F., Sighieri C
. (2009) How do horses
appraise humans’ actions? A brief note over a practical way to
assess stimulus perception. J. Equine Vet. Sci. 29, 739-742
Massage or music decrease salivary cortisol in race horses
W. Kędzierski et al
Birke L., Hockenhull J., Creighton E., Pinno L., Mee J., Mills D
(2011) Horses’ responses to variation in human approach. Appl.
Anim. Behav. Sci. 134, 56-63
Bohák Z., Szabó F., Beckers J. F., Melo de Sousa N., Kutasi O., Nagy
K., Szenci O
. (2013) Monitoring the circadian rhythm of serum
and salivary cortisol concentrations in the horse. Domest. Anim.
Endocrinol. 45, 38-42
Bowman A., Scottish Spca, Dowell F. J., Evans N. P.
(2015) ‘Four Sea-
sons’ in an animal rescue centre; classical music reduces environ-
mental stress in kennelled dogs. Physiol. Behav. 143, 70-82
Bregman M. R., Iversen J. R., Lichman D., Reinhart M., Patel A. D.
(2012) A method for testing synchronization to a musical beat in
domestic horses (Equus ferus caballus). Empir. Musicol. Rev. 7,
Carter C., Greening L
. (2012) Auditory stimulation of the stabled
equine; the effect of different music genres on behaviour. Procee-
dings of the 8th International Equitation Science Conference, Royal
(Dick) Veterinary School, Edinburgh, 18th-20th July 2012 pp 167
Cayado P., Muoz-Escassi B., Dominguez C., Manley W., Olabarri
B., Sánchez de la Muela M., Castejon F., Maraon G., Vara E
(1996) Hormone response to training and competition in athletic
horses. Equine Vet. J. Suppl. 36, 274-278
Desmecht D., Linden A., Amory H., Art T., Lekeux P
. (1996) Rela-
tionship of plasma lactate production to cortisol release following
completion of different types of sporting events in horses. Vet. Res.
Commun. 20, 371-379
Evans D. L
. (2003) Welfare of the racehorse during exercise training
and racing. In: Waran N (ed) The Welfare of Horses, Springer,
Netherlands pp 181–201
Fazio B., Medica P., Cravana C., Ferlazzo A
. (2008) Effects of com-
petition experience and transportation on the adrenocortical and
thyroid responses of horses. Vet. Rec. 163, 713-716
Harewood E. J.
(2005) Behavioral and physiological responses to
stabling in naïve horses. J. Equine Vet. Sci. 25, 164-170
Haussler K. K
. (2009) Review of manual therapy techniques in equi-
ne practice. J. Equine Vet. Sci. 29, 849-869
Henderson A. J
. (2007) Don't Fence Me In: Managing Psychological
Well Being for Elite Performance Horses. J. Appl. Anim. Welf. Sci.
10, 309-329
Keeling L. J., Jonare L., Lanneborn L
. (2009) Investigating horse-
human interactions: the effect of a nervous human. Vet. J. 181,
Kędzierski W., Cywiska A., Strzelec K., Kowalik S.
(2014a) Changes
in salivary and plasma cortisol levels in Purebred Arabian horses
during race training session. Anim. Sci. J. 85, 313-317
Kędzierski W., Strzelec K., Cywiska A., Kowalik S
. (2013) Salivary
cortisol concentration in exercised Thoroughbred horses. J. Equine
Vet. Sci. 33, 1106-1109
Kędzierski W., Wilk I., Janczarek I.
(2014b) Physiological response to
the first saddling and first mounting in horses: comparison of two
sympathetic training methods. Anim. Sci. Pap. Rep. 32, 219-228
Kıyıcı J. M., Koçygt R., Tüzemen N
. (2013) The effect of classical
music on milk production, milk components and milking charac-
teristics of Holstein Friesian. J. Tekirdag Agric. Fac. 10, 74-81
Linnemann A., Ditzen B., Strahler J., Doerr J. M., Nater U. M
. (2015)
Music listening as a means of stress reduction in daily life. Psycho-
neuroendocrinology 60, 82-90
Linnemann A., Strahler J., Nater U. M
. (2016) The stress-reducing
effect of music listening varies depending on the social context.
Psychoneuroendocrinology 72, 97-105
MacTaggart G., McGreevy P., Waran N., Phillips C
. (2010) Develop-
ment of a thoroughbred racehorse welfare educational index and
associated programme for youth groups. In: 3rd Australasian
Equine Science Symposium, 3-5 June pp 66
McBride S. D., Hemmings A., Robinson K
. (2004) A preliminary study
on the effect of massage to reduce stress in the horse. J. Equine
Vet. Sci. 24, 76-81
Nagata S., Takeda F., Kurosawa M., Mima K., Hiraga A., Kai M.,
Taya K.
(1999) Plasma adrenocorticotropin, cortisol and catecho-
lamines response to various exercises. Equine Vet. J. Suppl. 30,
Pferdeheilkunde 33 (2017) 151
Peeters M., Sulon J., Beckers J. F., Ledoux D., Vandeheede M
. (2011)
Comparison between blood serum and salivary cortisol concen-
trations in horses using an adrenocorticotropic hormone challen-
ge. Equine Vet. J. 43, 487-493
Peeters M., Sulon J., Serteyn D., Vandeheede M.
(2010) Assessment
of stress level in horses during competition using salivary cortisol:
preliminary studies. J. Vet. Behav. 5, 216
Saslow C. A.
(2002) Understanding the perceptual world of horses.
Appl. Anim. Behav. Sci. 78, 209-224
Schmidt A., Aurich J., Möstl E., Müller J., Aurich C.
(2010a) Changes
in cortisol release and heart rate variability during the initial trai-
ning of 3-year-old sport horses. Horm. Behav. 58, 628-636
Schmidt A., Möstl E., Wehnert C., Aurich J., Müller J., Aurich C
(2010b) Cortisol release and heart rate variability in horses during
road transport. Horm. Behav. 57, 209-215
Scott M., Swenson L. A
. (2009) Evaluating the benefits of Equine
massage therapy: A review of the evidence and current practices.
J. Equine Vet. Sci. 29, 687-697
Stachurska A., Janczarek I., Wilk I., Kędzierski W.
(2015) Does music
influence emotional state in race horses? J. Equine Vet. Sci. 35,
Strzelec K., Kankofer M., Pietrzak S
. (2011) Cortisol concentration in
the saliva of horses subjected to different kinds of exercise. Acta
Vet. Brno 80, 101-105
van der Kolk J. H., Nachreiner R. F., Schott H. C., Refsal K. R., Zanel-
la A. J.
(2001) Salivary and plasma concentration of cortisol in
normal horses and horses with Cushing’s disease. Equine Vet. J.
33, 211-213
Waters A. J., Nicol C. J., French N. P.
(2002) Factors influencing the
development of stereotypic and redirected behaviours in young
horses: findings of a four year prospective epidemiological study.
Equine Vet. J. 34, 572-579
Wells D. L.
(2009) Sensory stimulation as environmental enrichment
for captive animals: A review. Appl. Anim. Behav. Sci. 118, 1-11
Erweiterte Zusammenfassung
Massage oder Musik führt beim Rennpferd zu einer Ver-
minderung der Speichel-Cortisolkonzentration
Junge Pferde werden zum Trainingsbeginn oft transportiert
und in einer neuen Umgebung aufgestallt. Dieser Transport,
die Umstallung, Beginn des Trainings sowie Teilnahme an
Rennen bedingt für Pferde chronischen Stress. Es ist bekannt,
dass langanhaltender Stress einen negativen Einfluss auf die
Gesundheit hat. Zur Reduzierung des Stresses gibt es unter-
schiedliche Ansätze wie Auslauf in einem Paddock, Musik
oder Massage. Beim Pferd konnte nachgewiesen werden,
dass unter Massage die Herzfrequenz sinkt. Musik beruhigt
Pferde ebenfalls wobei die Art der gewählten Musik durchaus
Einfluss hat. Allerdings ist wenig darüber bekannt, inwiefern
diese Methoden einen chronischen Stress bei Rennpferden
beeinflussen. Zur Erfassung von mentalem Stress stellt die
Erhebung des Kortisolspiegels im Speichel zurzeit eine einfach
durchzuführende und anerkannte Methode dar. Ziel dieser
Studie war es, den Einfluss einer entspannenden Massage
und von im Stall gespielter Musik auf den Stresspegel von
Pferden mit Hilfe der Kortisolkonzentration im Speichel zu
beurteilen. Die Studienpopulation umfasste 120 klinisch
gesunde Araber, die im Rahmen ihrer ersten Rennsaison über
zwei Jahre untersucht wurden, 57 Pferde im ersten und 63
Tiere im zweiten Jahr. Die Studiendauer betrug jeweils 6
Massage or music decrease salivary cortisol in race horses
W. Kędzierski et al
Monate. Zu Beginn waren die Araber 28–31 Monate alt. Die
Tiere wurden vom Gestüt zum Rennstall gebracht und dort
über einen Monat akklimatisiert, anschließend begann das
Training. Über die folgenden 9–12 Tage sollten die Pferde an
den Reiter gewöhnt werden, über die folgenden 6 Wochen
wurden die Tiere über 30 Minuten geritten, gefolgt kontinu-
ierlich gesteigertem Training. Die Pferde waren per Zufalls-
prinzip in drei Gruppen aufgeteilt worden: Musikgruppe,
Massage- und Kontrollgruppe. Alle Pferde waren auf Stroh
aufgestallt, erhielten die gleiche Futterration und dasselbe
Personal versorgte die Tiere. Die Pferde wurden 6 Tage in der
Woche über 1h trainiert, nach drei Trainingsmonaten starte-
ten sie das erste Rennen. Am Ende beider Rennsaisons wurde
die Leistung der Pferde beurteilt über Anzahl der gewonnenen
Rennen, Preisgeld pro Rennen, Erfolgskoeffizient sowie gene-
relles Handicap. In der Musikgruppe wurde an fünf Tagen die
Woche von 13 bis 18 Uhr eine speziell komponierte Musik
abgespielt. Die Pferde der Massagegruppe wurden an drei
Tagen in der Woche physiotherapeutisch über 25–30 Minu-
ten behandelt und zwar nach dem Training und nach Entnah-
me der Speichelproben. Die Massage umfasste 1. einfaches
Auflegen der Hände, 2. Massage der Muskulatur mit kreisför-
migen Bewegungen, 3. knetende Massage, 4. Schüttel sowie
Klopfmassage. Die spezifischen massierten Regionen waren
Genickregion, Scapula, Vorderbein, Rücken, Hintergliedma-
ße und Kruppe einschließlich M. semimembranosus, M. semi-
tendinosus. Die Speichelproben wurden über 6 Monate
monatlich genommen. Die erste Probennahme erfolgte zu
Beginn des Renntrainings, vor der Einführung der Musik und
Massage. Die Kortisolkonzentration wurde mittels Enzym-
Immunoassay analysiert.
Die ersten Messungen vor Beginn des Renntrainings unter-
schieden sich bezüglich der Gruppenzugehörigkeit nicht. Bei
der zweiten, dritten, vierten und sechsten Messung waren die
Konzentrationen bei Pferden der Musik- oder Massagegruppe
signifikant niedriger im Vergleich zu den Kontrolltieren. Bei
der fünften Messung waren die Werte bei Pferden der Massa-
gegruppe signifikant niedriger als bei Tieren der Musikgrup-
pe. Auch konnte festgestellt werden, dass Pferde der Massa-
gegruppe bessere Rennergebnisse erzielten als Pferde der
Kontrollgruppe und zwar in Hinblick auf Anzahl gewonnener
Rennen, Preisgeld pro Rennen und Erfolgskoeffizient. Somit
konnten beide Verfahren – mit Ausnahme des fünften Monats
in der Musikgruppe eine Stressreduzierung während der
Rennsaison erzielen. Letzteres Ergebnis könnte auf einem
Gewöhnungseffekt beruhen. Die Ergebnisse des fünften und
sechsten Monats deuten auf eine bessere Entspannung der
Pferde durch Massage hin. Da die Probenentnahme morgens
mehrere Stunden nach den Entspannungsmassage erfolgte,
hält der erzielte Effekt über längere Zeit an. Bei Pferden der
Kontrollgruppe und bei Tieren der Musikgruppe stiegen die
Kortisolwerte in den letzten zwei Untersuchungsmonaten wie-
der an, eventuell könnte dies auf dem zunehmend höheren
Trainingsniveau beruhen.
Schlüsselwörter: Tierschutz, Cortisol, Rennpferd, Massage,
Musik, Stress, Pferd
... Yet another issue is the use of healthy animals to study the effect of treatment of pain [25]. Some of the studies use non-validated outcome measures, such as visual movement examination or assessment of racing performance [21,22], which introduces yet another risk for bias. ...
... Effleurage on small areas of the animal at one time was conducted with no control group [23]. Friction, petrissage, shaking, and tapotement were used and compared to randomized control groups [21]. Effleurage and petrissage on proximal body and limbs were compared to non-randomized control groups, one ridden exercise and one non-active group [25]. ...
Full-text available
Soft tissue mobilization is frequently used in the treatment of sport and companion animals. There is, however, uncertainty regarding the efficacy and effectiveness of these methods. Therefore, the aim of this systematic literature review was to assess the evidence for clinical effects of massage and stretching in cats, dogs, and horses. A bibliographic search, restricted to studies in cats, dogs, and horses, was performed on Web of Science Core Collection, CABI, and PubMed. Relevant articles were assessed for scientific quality, and information was extracted on study characteristics, species, type of treatment, indication, and treatment effects. Of 1189 unique publications screened, 11 were eligible for inclusion. The risk of bias was assessed as high in eight of the studies and moderate in three of the studies, two of the latter indicating a decreased heart rate after massage. There was considerable heterogeneity in reported treatment effects. Therefore, the scientific evidence is not strong enough to define the clinical efficacy and effectiveness of massage and stretching in sport and companion animals.
This study aimed to determine whether the level of fearfulness and cortisol reactivity influenced spatial learning performance in primitive mountain Hucul horses. The Huculs had to overcome particularly difficult, sometimes dangerous conditions to survive over centuries. We hypothesized that they were familiar with danger and should learn easily. The study involved 22 mares. They were divided into groups of different fearfulness levels according to behavioral score and cortisol concentration increase in the saliva, both of which were determined in a test of a novel object. In the next step, the mares were subjected to a spatial learning test in a maze with food reward at the end, conducted in two trials, on consecutive days. Their spatial learning performance was assessed with an error score and time taken to complete the maze. The study found that both the level of fearfulness and cortisol concentration increase varied in the mares. The spatial learning performance of mares that had low, medium and high levels of fearfulness and cortisol increase was similar within a trial, although animals displaying a medium fearfulness level or moderate cortisol change achieved better results in the second trial than in the first trial. These results indicate a weak influence of the fearfulness and cortisol reactivity on spatial learning performance in Huculs which may suggest an effect of the origin and historical environment of the breed.
Full-text available
A common concern among horse owners is the stress their animals endure every time they transport their horses. Equine experts have found that vibration and noise inside a trailer can cause significant stress and fatigue to horses. This stress and discomfort leads to long recovery times before an animal is ready for a show, race or other event. Psychoacoustics describes psychological and physiological responses to sound. Horses associate music with comfort just as they do their owners’ voices. Reduction of noise or vibrations should benefit horses in transit. Anything we can do to make our animals more comfortable while traveling is a step in the right direction by EHOSS Trailer Platform.
Full-text available
There is not much research done on the influence of sympathetic training on the emotional reaction of horses. The aim of the present study was to evaluate the emotional response and the stress level in horses to two sympathetic training methods: (1) with the use of the "round pen technique" (RP), and (2) in which the RP was not applied (SH). Twenty two naive half-bred Anglo-Arab horses (2.5 years ±3 months of age) were subject to an initial training. Eleven horses were randomly included to the RP method and the other 11 horses for the SH method. Heart rate (HR) and saliva cortisol concentration were measured as indicators of horse emotional arousal and stress level, respectively. The HR values were analysed: at rest, during the habituation period, just after the first saddling and tightening of the girth, during the first time a human leaned over the horse's back, and during the mounting of the horse. Saliva samples were taken before and 15 min after each training session studied. After saddling, the HR occurred significantly higher when the RP technique was used. The significant increase in saliva cortisol concentration was observed only after the first mounting of the naïve horse. Generally, the use of the RP technique did not involve more important physiological reactions in the trained horses than did the SH method.
Full-text available
The behaviour of humans around horses is thought to have a substantial impact on how people are perceived in subsequent interactions and many horse trainers give detailed advice on how handlers should behave when initially approaching a loose horse. Here we report on three studies designed to explore the effect of different human approach styles on the behaviour of naïve and experienced horses.In the first study, the change in flight distance (distance at which horses started to avoid an approaching human) of twelve semi-feral Dartmoor ponies, undergoing training to allow handling, was assessed. Over the 10 handling sessions median flight distance decreased significantly (p
Objective: Given that music listening often occurs in a social context, and given that social support can be associated with a stress-reducing effect, it was tested whether the mere presence of others while listening to music enhances the stress-reducing effect of listening to music. Methods: A total of 53 participants responded to questions on stress, presence of others, and music listening five times per day (30min after awakening, 1100h, 1400h, 1800h, 2100h) for seven consecutive days. After each assessment, participants were asked to collect a saliva sample for the later analysis of salivary cortisol (as a marker for the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis) and salivary alpha-amylase (as a marker for the autonomic nervous system). Results: Hierarchical linear modeling revealed that music listening per se was not associated with a stress-reducing effect. However, listening to music in the presence of others led to decreased subjective stress levels, attenuated secretion of salivary cortisol, and higher activity of salivary alpha-amylase. When listening to music alone, music that was listened to for the reason of relaxation predicted lower subjective stress. Conclusion: The stress-reducing effect of music listening in daily life varies depending on the presence of others. Music listening in the presence of others enhanced the stress-reducing effect of music listening independently of reasons for music listening. Solitary music listening was stress-reducing when relaxation was stated as the reason for music listening. Thus, in daily life, music listening can be used for stress reduction purposes, with the greatest success when it occurs in the presence of others or when it is deliberately listened to for the reason of relaxation.
The aim of the study was to determine the effect of music featured in the barn, on the emotional state of racehorses. Seventy 3 yr-old Purebred Arabian horses in their first race season were divided into experimental group of 40 horses and control group of 30 horses, and placed in separate barns. The experimental group was subject to specifically composed music featured in the barn for five hours in the afternoon during the whole study. The emotional state in the horses was assessed at rest, saddling and warm-up walk under rider. Measurements were taken six times, every 30-35 days, starting from the beginning of featuring the music. The horse’s emotional state was assessed by cardiac activity variables. The music effect on the emotional state was also considered with regard to the horse’s performance estimated by race records. The cardiac activity variables were compared with repeated measures design, whereas race records were analyzed with ANOVA GLM. The music positively affected the emotional state in race horses. The influence was noticeable already after first month of featuring the music and increased in the second and third months. Despite the fact that later, the variables began to return to initial levels, a positive effect of the music on prizes won by the horses in the experimental group compared to the control group, was found (p<0.05). The results suggest that the music may be featured in the barn, preferably for two to three months as a means of improving the welfare of race horses.
The relation between music listening and stress is inconsistently reported across studies, with the major part of studies being set in experimental settings. Furthermore, the psychobiological mechanisms for a potential stress-reducing effect remain unclear. We examined the potential stress-reducing effect of music listening in everyday life using both subjective and objective indicators of stress. Fifty-five healthy university students were examined in an ambulatory assessment study, both during a regular term week (five days) and during an examination week (five days). Participants rated their current music-listening behavior and perceived stress levels four times per day, and a sub-sample (n=25) additionally provided saliva samples for the later analysis of cortisol and alpha-amylase on two consecutive days during both weeks. Results revealed that mere music listening was effective in reducing subjective stress levels (p=0.010). The most profound effects were found when 'relaxation' was stated as the reason for music listening, with subsequent decreases in subjective stress levels (p≤0.001) and lower cortisol concentrations (p≤0.001). Alpha-amylase varied as a function of the arousal of the selected music, with energizing music increasing and relaxing music decreasing alpha-amylase activity (p=0.025). These findings suggest that music listening can be considered a means of stress reduction in daily life, especially if it is listened to for the reason of relaxation. Furthermore, these results shed light on the physiological mechanisms underlying the stress-reducing effect of music, with music listening differentially affecting the physiological stress systems. Copyright © 2015 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.
On admission to rescue and rehoming centres dogs are faced with a variety of short- and long-term stressors including novelty, spatial/social restriction and increased noise levels. Animate and inanimate environmental enrichment techniques have been employed within the kennel environment in an attempt to minimise stress experienced by dogs. Previous studies have shown the potential physiological and psychological benefits of auditory stimulation, particularly classical music, within the kennel environment. This study determined the physiological/psychological changes that occur when kennelled dogs are exposed to long-term (7days) auditory stimulation in the form of classical music through assessment of effects on heart rate variability (HRV), salivary cortisol and behaviour. The study utilised a cross over design in which two groups were exposed to two consecutive 7day treatments; silence (control) and classical music (test). Group A was studied under silent conditions followed by 7days of test conditions during which a fixed classical music playlist was played from 10:00-16:30h. Group B received treatment in the reverse order. Results showed that auditory stimulation induced changes in HRV and behavioural data indicative of reduced stress levels in dogs in both groups (salivary cortisol data did not show any consistent patterns of change throughout the study). Specifically, there was a significant increase in HRV parameters such as μRR, STDRR, RMSSD, pNN50, RRTI, SD1 and SD2 and a significant decrease in μHR and LF/HF from the first day of silence (S1) to the first day of music (M1). Similarly, examination of behavioural data showed that dogs in both groups spent significantly more time sitting/lying and silent and less time standing and barking during auditory stimulation. General Regression Analysis (GRA) of the change in HRV parameters from S1 to M1 revealed that male dogs responded better to auditory stimulation relative to female. Interestingly, HRV and behavioural data collected on the seventh day of music (M2) was similar to that collected on S1 suggesting that the calming effects of music are lost within the 7days of exposure. A small '9-Day' study was conducted in attempt to determine the time-scale in which dogs become habituated to classical music and examination of the results suggests that this occurs within as soon as the second day of exposure. The results of this study show the potential of auditory stimulation as a highly effective environmental enrichment technique for kennelled dogs. However, the results also indicate the requirement for further investigations into the way in which auditory stimulation should be incorporated within the daily kennel management regime in order to harness the full physiological and psychological benefits of music. Copyright © 2015. Published by Elsevier Inc.
Both physical activity and stress result in an increase in plasma cortisol level. The measurement of cortisol in plasma requires taking blood samples, which is stressful itself. Therefore, the aim of this study was to evaluate the use of saliva sampling for the determination of cortisol concentrations, indicating the intensity of exercise in horses during race training. Twelve Thoroughbred horses aged 2-3 years were examined during their speed training sessions. The horses galloped on the 1,200-m sand track at a speed of 14.4-15.3 m/s. Three saliva samples and three blood samples were collected from each horse. Both types of samples were taken when the horse was at rest, immediately after returning from the track and 30 minutes after the end of exercise. Blood lactic acid (LA) concentration was determined using the enzymatic cuvette test. The concentrations of cortisol in saliva and plasma samples were measured by enzyme immunoassay methods. Statistically significant correlations were found between salivary cortisol level determined 30 minutes after the end of exercise and blood LA concentration obtained immediately after exercise (P = .003) and between salivary and plasma cortisol levels measured 30 minutes after the end of training session (P = .015). The measurement of cortisol concentration in saliva samples taken from race horses 30 minutes after the end of exercise can be recommended for use in practice under field conditions to estimate the level of relative intensity of exercise in race horses.
Physical activity and stress both cause an increase in cortisol release ratio. The aim of this study was to evaluate the use of saliva samples for the determination of cortisol concentrations indicating the work-load level in horses during race training. Twelve Purebred Arabian horses aged 3-5 years were studied during the routine training session. After the warm-up, the horses galloped on the 800 m sand track at a speed of 12.8 m/s. Three saliva samples, and three blood samples were collected from each horse. Both types of samples were taken at rest, immediately after return from the track and after 30 min restitution. The concentrations of blood lactic acid (LA), and cortisol in saliva and plasma samples were measured and analyzed. Blood LA, plasma and salivary cortisol levels increased significantly after exercise (P < 0.05). Salivary cortisol concentration determined 30 min after the exercise correlated significantly with plasma cortisol level obtained immediately after exercise (P < 0.05) as well as measured 30 min after the end of exercise (P < 0.05). The determination of cortisol concentration in saliva samples taken from racehorses 30 min after the end of exercise can be recommended to use in field conditions to estimate the work-load in racehorses.
Following the lead of human athletic training, equine massage therapy is becoming a more common part of the management of equine athletes and pleasure horses alike. The basic science rationale for massage is supported by research indicating that massage may affect a number of physiologic systems as well as cellular and fascial components of the muscular system. Equine therapeutic massage, or sports massage, employs a number of techniques first developed in humans and has been reported to increase range of motion and stride length, reduce activity of nociceptive pain receptors, and reduce physiologic stress responses. Additional preliminary research indicates that massage therapy also may improve some aspects of exercise recovery. Although important evidence has begun to document the potential benefits of massage therapy for equine athletes, the current review may say less about the true clinical effects of massage therapy than it does about the current state of research in this field. Additional prospective study of massage therapy using sufficient scientific rigor will be necessary to provide veterinarians, trainers, and owners with definitive data and scientifically based confidence in the use of equine massage. In the meantime, the preliminary research, anecdotal positive effects, and case studies indicating potential benefit are not to be ignored; equine massage therapy already plays a valuable practical role in the care and training of many equine athletes.