Young Horses Fair Better With a Friend

Horses undergo a lot of stress if they're suddenly left alone in a stall, research confirms. Scientists reached this conclusion after observing two-year-old Dutch warmblood geldings and mares while the horses contended with living in stalls for the first time.

Those horses that were stabled alone in stalls showed significant signs of stress throughout the three-month study. Stress symptoms didn't appear to nearly the same extent among horses who were housed in pairs.

The young horses that were kept alone in stalls spent much of their time standing vigilant or sleeping. In contrast, horses living with a companion in somewhat larger stalls spent more of their time eating.

two horses share a stall

Young horses feel more relaxed when they have a roommate.

The warmblood horses left on their own also displayed their anxiety by neighing, pawing, nibbling and snorting more often than did horses who had company. By the end of 12 weeks, two-thirds of the horses in single stalls had also developed stable vices that involve abnormal, repetitious behavior such as weaving and cribbing.

These behavioral observations all indicate that a sudden shift to being stabled in isolation is quite traumatic for young, inexperienced horses.


Kathalijne Visser, Andrea D. Ellis and Cornelis G. Van Reenen. 2008. The effect of two different housing conditions on the welfare of young horses stabled for the first time. Applied Animal Behaviour Science. 114(3-4): 521-533.

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