PhD thesis : Music diffusion: a tool for horse’s stress management and a help at work?
Directed by : Odile Petit and Olivier Adam
Domestic horses are daily exposed to various stressful situations such as veterinary and farrier care or even the transport that are inherent to their human-controlled environment. From an evolutive point of view, physiological and behavioral reactions associated to a stress response are useful by allowing individuals to quickly respond to a potential threat. However, the expression of these reactions in a constraining domestic environment can lead to major incidents involving both humans and horses. Improving management of these acute stress episodes for improving human and equine welfare is therefore a major scientific challenge. Several studies have shown that classical music played continuously in horses’ living environment may have a relaxing effect. Our team aimed to test if the use of music diffusion may also improve the management of acute stressors (punctual and short-time stress). To do so, our previous studies were conducted in social isolation, new environment, transport and farrier care and showed that music diffusion leads to a calming effect. This relaxing effect might contribute to compensate for the negative impact of acute stressors. My thesis project aims to characterize the impact of music from emotional and cognitive point of view. Since music presents a set of intrinsic characteristics, we will first seek to identify the acoustic and musical parameters that could explain the soothing effect of music. Then, in a second step, we will explore how the use of music can be daily implemented (e.g. ideal duration of exposure to music depending on the situation). Finally, we will expand the exploration of the properties of music in a context of training to determine if it can improve or otherwise disrupt the performances of horses.