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Out of the Darkness

Would you know if your horse was depressed? Horses can’t talk to psychologists – or their owners – about how they’re feeling, but they can give us important information based on how they behave. Researchers are now trying to clarify what those behaviours mean. Dr. Carole Fureix, working with Dr. Georgia Mason from the Ontario Veterinary College, has been investigating the clues that might point to what she describes as “a depression-like condition” in horses. It started by chance, she says. Fureix was studying other aspects of equine welfare when she noticed that some horses tended to spend time in an unusual posture. “They had times when they were totally motionless, with unblinking open eyes and a fixed gaze, with a flat-necked posture and backwards-pointing ears,” Fureix notes. This was not the same as the relaxed posture of a horse that is sleeping or resting. As she observed these horses further,…

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