Zollinger, A., Wyss, C., Bardou, D. et al. 2016. The ‘social box’ offers stallions the possibility to have increased social interactions. Journal of Veterinary Behavior 15, 84. (12th International Society of Equitation Science (ISES) Conference Abstract)

In order to give individually housed stallions the opportunity to have more social interactions, the Swiss national stud farm investigated a separation wall called ‘social box’. Sixteen adult Franches-Montagnes breeding stallions were housed for 3 weeks in conventional boxes (CB) and for 3 weeks in social boxes (SB). The separation wall of the SB consisted of one part with vertical metal bars spaced at 30 cm allowing the horses to pass the head, the neck and the legs into the adjacent boxes. The separation wall of the CB consisted of a lower solid wooden part and an upper part with vertical metal bars spaced at 5 cm strongly limiting tactile contact. After 3 weeks of habituation, the social interactions of the horses were video recorded for 24h and analysed. Injuries were recorded weekly. Statistical analyses were conducted in R using linear mixed-effects. The stallions had longer social interactions in the SB than in the CB (F1,22 = 78.6, P < 0.0001). The mean total duration of the social interactions per day was 51 min in the SB vs. 5 min in the CB. No grievous injuries were recorded. Skin damage was mainly situated above the eyes and was caused when the horses bumped their head against the metal bars during social interactions. The stallions had increased physical contact without expressing potentially dangerous aggressive behaviors. Provided that a solution can be found to pad the metal bars to prevent skin damage, the implementation of SB will improve housing conditions of individually housed horses.

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