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Titill
en

Social characteristics of a stable and a temporary group of Icelandic horses. How do horses cope in new social circumstances?

Útdráttur
en

The social characteristics of one stable and one temporary group of Icelandic horses were studied altogether for 85 hours during autumn and winter 2009 - 2010. Seven horses were moved from the stable group (at Bær) to the temporary and special attention was paid to their behaviour. Two of those horses (22 and 20 years old geldings) had spent seven previous win-ters in the pasture where the temporary group was held (at Fell) and were familiar with some of the horses there. Two elderly geldings (20 and 19 years old) who had a long relationship were there for the first time and so were two of three young mares – the third had been born in the pasture and stayed there for the first 4 months of her life. Also, time budgets were esti-mated in the temporary group in order to study individual variation.
In both groups the dominance hierarchy was significantly linear and rank was positively correlated with age and aggression. In general the results support former findings of horses bonding more with familiar individuals, within the same sex and between horses of similar rank.
Analyses of the seven focal horses that were transferred between groups showed some interesting results. During the first two hours the leader (Lilli) protected his group, especially the geldings from the other horses and another gelding protected the young mares. Lilli was one of the two horses who had been in the temporary group earlier and was the highest ranking horse in the stable group and the second highest in the temporary group. These two horses were staying close to each other and were otherwise mainly socialising with quite high ranking horses in the temporary group. Being close to Lilli seemed to help two of the three geldings from Bær to gain a higher position in the hierarchy when moved to the new group. Lilli tolerated the presence of the six that came with him much better in Fell than he did at Bær. One gelding did not seek his company and the three young mares did so only rarely. The mares bonded strongly, and also created new bonds with individuals in the temporary group.
Aggression and allogrooming rates were both higher in the temporary group. Higher ranking individuals spent more time eating hay than those ranking lower. This has been reported earlier (Ingólfsdóttir and Sigurjónsdóttir, 2008) and shows how important it is to secure access for all horses to hay.

Birting
7.6.2010


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