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Research article - Peer-reviewed, 2015

Daytime shelter use of individually kept horses during Swedish summer

Hartmann, Elke; Hopkins, Richard; Blomgren, E.; Ventorp, Michael; von Brömssen, Claudia; Dahlborn, Kristina


In Sweden, no provision for summer shelter to protect horses from heat and insects is required, although access to shelter for horses kept outdoors 24 h during winter is a requirement. This study investigated horses' daytime shelter-seeking behavior in relation to weather conditions and insect activity during a 2-wk period in summer. Eight Warmblood riding horses had access to 2 shelters of different design to test which shelter design is preferred by horses. Furthermore, rectal and skin temperatures and insect-defensive behavior were measured to test whether horses would benefit from the provision of shade. The horses were kept alone in paddocks for 4 d. During 2 d, horses had access to 2 shelters: 1) open shelter with roof and uncovered sides and 2) closed shelter with roof, wind nets on 2 sides, and opaque plastic opposite the entrance. Weather conditions (ambient temperature, relative humidity, solar radiation, wind speed) were recorded every 10 min. The number of insects (flies, mosquitos) was counted from insect traps placed in each shelter and outside. Behavior (shelter use, insect-defensive behavior, locomotion, grazing) was recorded at 5-min intervals between 0900 to 1200 h and 1300 to 1600 h and rectal and skin temperatures were measured at 0800 h, 1200 h, and 1600 h. Data were analyzed with PROC MIXED and GLIMMIX procedure for Generalized Linear Mixed Models. Ambient temperature ranged from 16 to 25 degrees C (average temperature humidity index 65.7 +/- 1.4). Five horses preferred the closed shelter and were observed inside up to 2.5 h continuously. Greater wind speed decreased the likelihood of observing horses inside the shelter (P < 0.001), as did lower numbers of flies (P < 0.001). The insect-defensive behaviors, skin shiver and ear flick, were performed less frequently when horses were using the closed shelter (P < 0.001), indicating that they were less disturbed by insects. Thirty-minute shelter use had no effect on rectal and skin temperatures (P > 0.05). Results showed that horses made use of shelters during the summer even when weather conditions were moderate. A shelter with roof and covers on 3 sides was preferred over a shelter with roof only and can reduce insect-defensive behavior.


equine; housing; insects; shelter; weather; welfare

Published in

Journal of Animal Science
2015, volume: 93, number: 2, pages: 802-810

Authors' information

Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences, Department of Anatomy, Physiology and Biochemistry (AFB)
Hopkins, Richard
University of Greenwich
Blomgren, E.
National Veterinary Institute (SVA)
Ventorp, Michael
Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences, Department of Biosystems and Technology
von Brömssen, Claudia (Von Brömssen, Claudia)
Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences, Department of Economics

UKÄ Subject classification

Animal and Dairy Science

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