The effects of transport, riot control training and night patrols on the workload and stress of mounted police horses

Publication Type:
Journal Article
Year of Publication:
Carolien C. B. M. Munsters, Jan van den Broek, René van Weeren, Marianne M. Sloet van Oldruitenborgh-Oosterbaan
Applied Animal Behaviour Science
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Quantifying and evaluating police work is essential to avoid behavioural problems, minimise wastage and maximise welfare of police horses. Behavioural and physiological measures were used to assess the workload and/or stress police horses experience during police work. Further, the influence of the rider on the fear response and heart rate of the horse was studied. Nine police horses were evaluated during transport, riot control training and night patrols. Outcome parameters were mean and peak heart rates (HR, beats/min), plasma lactate concentration (LA, mmol/L) and behaviour score (BS, 0–10). Data were analysed using a linear mixed model test (P < 0.05). During transport, peak HR differed between horses that were indicated as ‘stressed’ (116 ± 25 beats/min) and ‘non-stressed’ (79 ± 16 beats/min, P = 0.032) during transport. Riot control training workload was 348 ± 30 min at a mean HR of 80 ± 11 beats/min and LA < 0.8 mmol/L and night patrols workload was 198 ± 48 min at a mean HR of 51 ± 7 beats/min. Horses experienced fire exercise (mean HR, 104 ± 18) and individual seclusion exercise (mean HR, 151 ± 17) as the most stressful events. During individual seclusion mean HR was significantly lower when the rider could control a horse’s fear responses (146 ± 14 beats/min) than when not (170 ± 16 beats/min, P = 0.004). BS differences were too small to discriminate between training scenarios. However, individual horses differed significantly (mean HR, P < 0.001; mean BS, P < 0.001) and consistently between scenarios. The workload and stress of police horses are low compared with those of horses in equine sports and probably do not cause behavioural problems and wastage. However, the rider’s control over a horse’s fear response seems to be important in the stress, ridden horses experience during challenging situations.


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