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Browsing by Subject "oksitosiini"

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  • Niittynen, Taru (2022)
    Domesticated horses have been used for various tasks over their thousands of years of shared history with humans. To be able to perform these tasks every horse needs to learn the needed skills, and this requires systematic training. Training of adult horses has been studied for a long time and comparisons between the efficacy of different training methods have been done. There have also been some studies comparing how much and when young foals need to be handled for them to grow into easily trainable adults. From adult horses it is known that emotional state affects cognitive processes and with that also their learning efficiency and speed. The early stages of training young horses have not been studied very well. There is no clear picture about how young horses feel during training and how that affects their learning. In my thesis I studied young horses’ emotional states while learning new tasks and how that affects their learning. I followed the early training of 19 young horses (11 one-year-olds and 8 two- and three-year-olds) by videotaping five training sessions and collecting saliva samples before and after three of those sessions to analyse cortisol and oxytocin. From the videos I analysed how fast horses responded to trainer’s asks and how unfocused they were. From the hormone samples I measure the change in cortisol and oxytocin levels during training. Salivary cortisol has been widely used to measure acute stress. Oxytocin on the other hand is a newer indicator for positive emotions. To the best of my knowledge salivary oxytocin has never been used in horses. My data showed that the horses learned the required tasks: they became quicker at their responses and focused better during the course of training. Because my data was quite small and individual variation in the hormone levels was high, the results might have been affected by these factors. Linear mixed effect models showed that higher oxytocin levels before training session predicted quicker responses during training and lower levels after training predicted lower focusedness. Bigger increase in cortisol levels during training compared to the before level explained quicker responses and better focusedness, but higher levels before training resulted to lower focusedness and slower responses. This is in line with previous studies of adult horses, that showed that horses in a better emotional state and with less stress learn faster and are more interested in working with humans. This shows that it is important to not only focus on physical wellbeing but also mental wellbeing from early on in horses’ life.