Stress is known to have a negative impact on the health and well-being of animals. Physiological and behavioral changes offer objective and easy to use methods of evaluating stress in horses. However, there are limited studies showing a relationship between changes in stress-related behavior and stress-related serum cortisol concentrations in horses. This study evaluated the relationship between stress-related behavior and cortisol concentration changes in horses used in a university equine program and a therapeutic riding program. Behavior was evaluated by two trained observers during multiple riding sessions. Audio recordings were made during direct observation, and video recordings were used to later confirm audio observations. Serum samples were collected before, immediately after, and 30 minutes after riding, and were evaluated for cortisol concentrations. Results showed no change in behavior scores in either group of horses, but serum cortisol concentrations increased in university riding horses as the semester progressed. However, all serum cortisol concentrations remained within or below normal ranges. A relationship between stress related behavior and cortisol concentration changes was not shown clearly, suggesting horses were in a low-stress environment.
Year manuscript completed
Year degree awarded
serum cortisol, horse behavior, stress, university riding program, therapeutic riding program
Dissertation Committee Chair
Co-Director of Dissertation
chen, shikun, "SERUM CORTISOL CONCENTRATIONS AND BEHAVIOR ASSESSMENT AS TOOLS FOR EVALUATING STRESS IN HORSES USED IN THERAPEUTIC OR UNIVERSITY RIDING PROGRAMS" (2017). Murray State Theses and Dissertations. 64.