Wednesday, April 8, 2015

New York City Carriage Horses are Stress-Free Even After Long Day of Trotting, Academic Says

You're probably more stressed than a New York City carriage horse, according to a new study.

A California academic who specializes in equine medicine conducted an intensive study of stress levels on Big Apple carriage horses and found them completely angst-free — even after a long day trotting in Central Park.

Joe Bertone, who teaches at Western University of Health Sciences, said he became intrigued with the carriage-horse debate after visiting New York several years ago.

“Vets I know and respected were telling me (the horses) were having a pretty darn good life, but I wanted to put some science behind it,” he said.

In a study sponsored by the horse-carriage industry, which provided a $5,000 grant, he and his team analyzed the levels of cortisol — a hormone produced during stress in humans and animals — in 13 carriage horses at the Clinton Park Stables on W. 52nd St. over a three-day period in August.

The animals were examined four times a day — mostly by taking saliva samples and checking their body temps — including right before they left for work and right after they got home.

“I couldn’t find more content animals,” said Bertone, who is board-certified in internal medicine for large animals, with a specialty in horses. “They were very relaxed.” 

He sent one of his students to Pennsylvania to check on carriage horses on their five-week furlough, which the city requires as a rest for the animals.

Some of those horses had elevated cortisol levels, possibly because they were in an unfamiliar environment, according to Bertone.

Bertone said he came up with the idea for the study himself.

“My No. 1 concern is animal welfare,” he said.

The research was presented at the Interdisciplinary Forum for Applied Animal Behavior in Texas in February, and will be featured at several other science gatherings this year. 

It remains to be seen if it can influence the horse-carriage debate here in New York.

A spokesman said the administration was looking for a “humane and equitable solution that moves the horses off our streets” while protecting jobs.

Bertone said he noticed another sign that the horses were happy with city living — their sleep habits. In prior studies, he found horses won’t sleep when they’re stressed, no matter how tired they are.

But during his visits to the Clinton Park Stables, “in the mornings, we heard them snoring,” he said.

Source : Jennifer Fermino, New York Daily News

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