Could posture reflect welfare state? A study using geometric morphometrics in riding school horses

Abstract : Despite the fact that animal posture is known to reflect emotional state, the presence of chronic postures associated with poor welfare has not been investigated with an objective tool for measuring, quantifying and comparing postures. The use of morphometric geomet-rics (GM) to describe horse posture (profile of the dorsum) has shown to be an effective method of distinguishing populations that are known to differ in terms of welfare states. Here we investigated photographs of 85 riding school horses differing in terms of welfare state, in order to determine if a specific posture (modelled by GM) is associated with altered welfare. The welfare state was estimated with the prevalence of stereotypic or abnormal repetitive behaviours, depressed-like posture and the ear positions. ANOVA results show that horses with stereotypic or abnormal behaviour, and to a lesser degree horses with depressed-like postures, tend to have a flatter, or even hollow, dorsal profile, especially at the neck and croup levels. These altered profiles could represent an additional indicator of poor welfare, easy to use in the field or by owners.
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Emilie Sénèque, Clémence Lesimple, Stéphane Morisset, Martine Hausberger. Could posture reflect welfare state? A study using geometric morphometrics in riding school horses. PLoS ONE, Public Library of Science, 2019, 14 (2), pp.e0211852. ⟨10.1371/journal.pone.0211852⟩. ⟨hal-02011062⟩

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