Ask Horse Journal - April 2012

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Do Horses Like The Radio'

Last year I read somewhere about a study that discovered that horses don't like the sound of a radio constantly playing in the barn.? As I remember, they really didn't like talk radio, but music wasn?t as bad.? However, as I remember it, they didn't actually like the music either.

My horse is in a boarding stable, and the radio plays loudly (usually old rock music) all the time.? I am forever turning it down or unplugging it, but someone else keeps turning it back on loud.? Can you help me with this' If it is true, I want to post it on the bulletin board in giant type and stop the problem for good.

Performance Editor John Strassburger responds: Unfortunately, I couldn?t find any study specifically on horses? musical taste to answer your question. I did find mention of studies on dogs and cats, as well as studies of equine hearing, so I'll answer using those and adding a bit of my own observation.

let's start by looking at how horses hear, recognizing that, like most mammals, their hearing is considerably keener than ours. Horses can hear low-frequency to very high-frequency sound, in the range of 14 Hz to 25 kHz. The human range is 20 Hz to 20 kHz, meaning they can hear sounds and tones that we can't. Horses can also move their ears 180 degrees using 10 different muscles (humans can use only three muscles), so they can single out a specific area to listen to. This allows the horse to orient itself toward sounds and then determine what's making the noise. Horses become anxious or scared if they think the sound is a threat or if they can't recognize the sound.

A 2010 study on the effect of music on dogs, by the Good Dog Foundation, was probably the most helpful thing I found. It showed that ?calming music played through the My Pet Speaker by Pet Acoustics, Inc. is beneficial not only to the canine participants, but the owners as well. Eighty percent of participants reported that they felt that the music playing calmed their dogs as well as themselves.?

The study continued: ?Listening to certain types of music may actually help with the welfare of dogs in animal shelters, as these types of music have soothing qualities. On the contrary, there are also certain types of music that agitate dogs and should not be played in kennels.?

The study found that the dogs became agitated and nervous when listening to heavy metal, regardless of breed or age. It could even make them bark.

But classical music soothed and calmed the dogs. Another study in Ireland found that Vivaldi?s ?Four Seasons,? and other classical works, could even cause them to lie down. The study even suggested that playing classical music could be used in an owner?s absence to help deal with separation anxiety.

Pop music, though, seemed to have no noticeable effect. So perhaps the horses in your barn don't feel as strongly about the classic rock as you do.

The Good Dog study advised, ?The key to having your pet enjoy music is to limit the frequency spectrum and the volume. Use simple, melodious tracks, like soft classical, ecclesiastic music, Gregorian chants or New Age music.?

I suspect that the radio?s effect depends largely on the volume and the horses? personality. Some horses will probably find it relaxing to have music muting or blocking out sounds that disturb them (traffic, barking dogs, the wind), similar to the effect white noise has on people trying to sleep. But other horses will find it disconcerting to not be able to hear these sounds if the music is loud or hard-driving, because the sounds they can't hear could be an approaching threat.

Music can affect our own mood and stress level, both consciously and unconsciously. Music can help us feel happy, relaxed, irritable, tense or sad.

So I think the second half of the question is how does the music playing on the radio affect the people in the stable, especially you' Does the music make them or you tense or anxious, or does it simply induce people to move more quickly than the horses like' The human moods and actions influenced by the music will probably affect the horses even more than the sounds coming from the radio.

Maybe you can ask them to keep the volume lower, citing horses? sensitivity to noise as the reason, or where an iPod with ear buds yourself, so you don't hear the music.

Pergolide Costs

My horse has been on compounded pergolide for a few years now for $16/month.? Since Prascend came out, my vet sells it for $130/month.? He refuses to renew my prescription for compounded pergolide. I've heard that FDA approval for Prascend makes compounded pergolide illegal. Is it really illegal or is my vet just generating income'? Online, I can find Prascend at $107 for a 60-day supply.? My compounding pharmacist suggests that I find a new veterinarian. Will all veterinarians refuse to compound pergolide as well now'

Contributing Veterinary Editor Grant Miller DVM responds: The FDA rules pertaining to drug prescriptions state that if an FDA-approved formulation of a pharmaceutical product is available commercially, then veterinarians should not prescribe compounded formulations of the same FDA drug.

There are a number of other FDA regulations regarding compounding drugs, but monetary considerations of the client isn?t one of them. In this case, I suggest obtaining a written prescription from your veterinarian.? According to many state laws, a veterinarian must provide you a written prescription in lieu of the medication should you request it. At that point, you can take it to whichever pharmacy you choose.

Just keep in mind that when the prescription that he writes runs out, the pharmacy may call him to refill it and he can refuse. He can also refuse to continue seeing your horse. Also, you're assuming responsibility for any negative events that may occur due to your pharmacy choice.

Honestly, I am not a fan of compounding pharmacies (see December 2011). There are a lot of gaps in the law when it comes to their business practices that worry me. However, I recognize that times are tough economically, and if an owner chooses to take on the risks associated with giving their animal compounded drugs, I don't stand in the way.

Feeding Hay

I've heard a lot about ?slow feeding? for both insulin-resistant horses and just to avoid letting your horse go too long without something to eat. I read that they should always have hay to eat in front of them. that's nearly impossible for me.? Am I supposed to return to the barn late at night to replenish their hay' they're just going to get fat and eat me out of house and home.

Contributing Veterinary Editor Grant Miller DVM responds: Slow feeding, sometimes called ?liberty feeding,? is gaining popularity because it allows horses to eat little bits on a continual basis at will.? This keeps the horse busy and can also help regulate their digestion.?? Equine behavior and physiology do suggest that horses are designed to eat on an ongoing basis.

In terms of ?always having hay in front of them,? keep in mind a few things:

1. The amount of hay a horse receives can vary tremendously, depending on the type of hay, the metabolic status of the horse, the time of year, and the overall weight of the horse.

2. They can have small amounts of hay (such as through a liberty hay bag or an automatic feeder) and benefit vs. having piles of hay at all times, becoming fat and having serious consequences.? Certainly, there are instances in which a horse does not need to have hay in front of it at all times, for instance, if the horse is morbidly obese and getting close to problems.

Generally, if a horse can eat three to four times per day, that is a big PLUS.? In most situations, horses are fed twice daily and maybe get to graze on some pasture if they're lucky.? That can work, too.

So, ultimately, you should create a feeding program that is affordable for you, logistically feasible, and suitable for your horse's needs.? If you can't return to the barn late at night to give your horses a third or a fourth feeding, don't worry. Just make sure that you feed your horses a decent amount of feed during their evening meal (most horses consume 1.5% to 2% of their bodyweight in hay per day, or 15 to 20 lbs. for a 1,000-lb. horse).? Whether that is broken up into two, three, or four is up to you.