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Horses Snort When They Are Happy

A new study carried out by French researchers shows that horses that snort more are happier.
 
A team of researchers led by Mathilde Stomp looked at measurable positive responses in horses that could lead to improved welfare practices.
 
Often, ‘snorts’ were thought of as a means of clearing the nose of debris, but have now been identified as a positive behavioural reaction in horses.
 
The ‘snort’ is a pulsed sound produced from nostril vibrations whilst exhaling.
 
The study took place in Brittany and involved 48 horses in four groups. There were two from riding schools and two from private owners.    
 
One experimenter recorded the snorts and at the same time data was recorded on behavioural and postural signals such as the position of the horse’s ears.  
 
The results collected show that the horses kept in more natural conditions snort the most when they are grazing (68.9%) or when taking a slow exploratory walk (20.1%) and in some cases, snorts were also produced after rolling (5.4%)
 
The horses that are from the riding school also snorted the most while grazing (67.3%) and when they were eating hay in their stables (69.6%) 
 
“This study, which aimed at testing the potential interest of snorts as indicators of positive emotions, has revealed that snort production is associated with more positive contexts (in pasture, while feeding) and states (with ears in forward position) and is less frequent in horses showing an altered welfare.” 
 
“It is clear that snorts cannot be merely considered as having a simple hygienic function of clearing the nostrils, expressed during no particular context nor in a specific arousal state.
“To conclude, this study calls snort function into question. We propose that it would be indicating of a relaxation phase associated with positive emotions of low intensity and thus expressed even more by horses in a chronic good welfare state.”