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LED lighting eases and secures the loading of horses and appeases them during confinement in a stationary horse trailer

Authors:
  • S2E2 - Smart Electricity Cluster

Abstract

Transport, especially the loading phase, is known to be a stressful situation for horses and particularly for naïve horses. This usual management practice could also be a source of injuries to horses and handlers. A previous study on the effect of halogen lighting on horses loading showed that behaviours that might indicate negative emotions (i.e. head lowering, turning the head away from the ramp, sniff the ground) were shown when horses loaded from a lit area, especially when they were entering a dark trailer. Lighting is also known to play an important role in the biological and physiological mechanisms, and coloured lights were showed to have a calming effect on horses. In order to investigate the effect of LED lighting on loading and stationary phases, specific tunable-white LED luminaires were positioned on the ceiling of a two horse facing trailer providing homogeneous lighting. 22 young trotter horses (16 two-year old and 6 three-year old) all in the early stages of training with little experience of loading and travelling were tested in their home environment (breeding facility). Each horse was loaded in the trailer under 3 different lighting conditions (Group 1, n=11: natural lighting and 2 different white temperature from 2700 K to 6300 K): Group 2 n=11: natural lighting and 2 different light intensity), randomly assigned and with 3 weeks ± days, using negative reinforcement (from stage 1: slight pull on the rope to stage 6: second person waving arms behind the horse). Before loading, the lighting conditions were adjusted inside the trailer and full parameters including Illuminance, Luminance, Correlated Colour Temperature (CCT), Colour Rendering Index (CRI). Spectral distribution was measured for both inside and outside the trailer. Behaviours (such as locomotion, exploration, vigilance or defence), duration (sec) and heart rate (bpm) were recorded during the approach, loading and stationary phases (ramp closed) as well as resting phases in the stable before and after loading. Heart rate during resting and loading/stationary phases were then compared to determine post-stress heart rate recovery, i.e. the heart's ability to recover after exposure to stress. Horses loaded for their first loading on a high illuminance level inside the trailer (>4500 lx) took significantly less time to approach (average time of loading : ±36 sec vs ±83 sec; Mann-Whitney, n1=n2=11, U=29,5, p<0.05) and expressed significantly less stress-related behaviours (i.e. stops, startling, vigilance) during the approach phase than those loaded in a low/moderate illuminance level (<3000 lx) (Mann-Whitney, n1=n2=11, U=30, p<0.05) for the first trial/loading. No significant heart rate difference was shown between the groups. Once loaded and kept in a stationary horse trailer under various ranges of CCT through artificial LED lighting, horses’ post-stress heart rate recovery was significantly faster compared to natural lighting (Wilcoxon, colour: average HR stationary ±63 vs box ±46 bpm, n1=10, z1=-2,38, p<0,05; natural: average HR stationary ±60 vs box ±51 bpm, n2=9, z2=-1,35, p>0.05). Specific LED lighting providing a homogeneous lighting with high illuminance level could reduce horses stress during the loading and accelerate the loading process. Similarly horses heart rate recovery time could be significantly reduced after stationary confinement in artificially LED lighted trailers within certain ranges of colour temperatures than under natural lighting condition only. Managing light levels and type could be used to improve horse welfare during transport
... Lighting the interior of the vehicle can help loading as, similarly to other livestock species, horses have a tendency to move from a darker to a brighter area (Grandin, 1989), provided that the light does not shine directly in their eyes. Neveux et al. (2017) found that if the LED light inside the trailer was stronger than outside, the horses needed significantly less time to enter the trailer. Cross et al. (2008) noticed that horses loading from a lit arena to a dark trailer sniffed the ground more, showing increased exploration of their environment. ...
... Cross et al. (2008) noticed that horses loading from a lit arena to a dark trailer sniffed the ground more, showing increased exploration of their environment. According to the findings of Neveux et al. (2017), on non-cloudy days a light intensity above 4,500 lx would be needed to load the horses into the trailer. There are no specific recommendations for lighting to inspect horses. ...
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