Placci, M., Marliani, G., Sabioni, S. et al. 2020. Natural horse boarding vs traditional stable: A comparison of hormonal, hematological and immunological parameters. Journal of Applied Animal Welfare Science 23(3), 366-377.
In the equestrian world, two different types of management can be distinguished: traditional management and natural boarding. The aim of this research was to compare hormonal, hematological and immunological parameters of 47 horses kept in these two different managements. Blood and horsehair of the horses were sampled to determine DHEA (dehydroepiandrosterone) and cortisol concentration through RIA. Moreover, blood count was conducted, and flow cytometry was employed to phenotype lymphocyte subpopulations. Results showed that, in horsehair, DHEA concentration was significantly higher in natural horses, whereas cortisol concentration and cortisol/DEHA ratio significantly lower. These hormonal parameters are used to assess the stress condition and the welfare of animals. The most favorable endocrine framework found in horses kept in natural boarding suggests that this management conveys most with ethological and physiological needs of the species. The research underlines the need of a modification of horses’ husbandry systems. For the first time, this study validates the assay of DHEA in horsehair.