Longitudinal stretching, a training method for horses: effect on behaviour, gait quality, mechanical nociceptive threshold, and pain sensitivity
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- Master's theses (IHA) 
Many of today’s horses have physiological problems such as tendon injuries and muscle pain in the neck and back, many times as a result of wrongful sub-optimal training, overtraining or lack of variation in the training. To maintain a healthy and sound horse during training at all levels of riding it is important to develop a training method that promotes relaxation, muscle function, and positive effect on welfare The objective of this project was to study the effects of longitudinal stretching while riding (LSR) on behavioural scores (i.e. for eye, ear, mouth, head and neck, willingness to work and collaborate with the rider) indicating positive or negative behaviour, gait quality, mechanical nociceptive threshold (MNT), and pain sensitivity. The study was conducted on 12 horses, during a 1-month period. All horses had the same training regime, that included three days of 30 minutes LSR sessions and lunging. Sessions included 5 min lunging in the beginning and end, 20 min LSR with an experimental rider and 10 min with control rider. Before and after treatment all horses underwent a veterinary examination to evaluate their physical state. During training sessions horses were videotaped and scored after a ethogram on different behaviours and gait quality. Before and after LSR mechanical nociceptive threshold and pain sensitivity was measured on 8 locations, these measurements were done both in the beginning and end of the treatment period. Time (before to after treatment) increased scores for all behaviours, except head and neck position. Most of the behaviours were affected by activity, and only eyes and willingness to work were unaffected. Head and neck position were significant regarding gait, and there were higher scores for walk than for trot. Higher scores were seen after treatment for all activities, except control rider. MNT measurements showed significant changes in pressure from before and after LSR, before and after treatment. No significance was found regarding pain sensitivity. Conclusion is that longitudinal stretching has a positive impact on behaviour during riding, regardless of the rider. And that gait quality increased during all activities, both in walk and trot, this shows that a positive mental state effects the gait quality. But additional studies are needed to enhance the reliability of this training method.