Horses Still Learn While Tranquilized

You can teach a tranquilized horse, concluded Samantha Griffith, a graduate student in the Department of Animal Science at Auburn University, in a study she presented at the Equine Science Society Symposium May 31-June 3 in Tucson, Ariz.

She found that horses tranquilized with acepromazine maleate, or Ace, perform similarly to non-tranquilized horses when asked to perform a series of spatial and discrimination tests. "The spatial test was a one-choice 'T' maze in which only one side was rewarded with feed," said Griffith. "The discrimination test was a choice between a white bucket and a black bucket, in which only one color was rewarded with feed."

Forty adult horses were used in the study to compare learning performance. On the test day, the horses were deprived of their usual morning concentrate to ensure proper motivation during the test, noted Griffith. Tranquilized horses received an intramuscular injection of 0.044 mg/kg acepromazine maleate; the control group received 0.9% saline intramuscularly.

Concluded Griffith, "Because tranquilization (with Ace) makes the horse more tractable without significantly affecting learning performance, it is a tool that can be utilized to teach a horse to tolerate a new procedure."

About the Author

Marcella M. Reca Zipp, MS

Marcella Reca Zipp, M.S., is a former staff writer for The Horse. She is completing her doctorate in Environmental Education and researching adolescent relationships with horses and nature. She lives with her family, senior horse, and flock of chickens on an island in the Chain O'Lakes.

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