Hormones and Behavior 58: 628-636,

Schmidt, A., Aurich, J., Möstl, E., Müller, J. and Aurich, C., 2010


Based on cortisol release, a variety of situations to which domestic horses are exposed have been classified as stressors but studies on the stress during equestrian training are limited. In the present study, Warmblood stallions (n = 9) and mares (n = 7) were followed through a 9 respective 12-week initial training program in order to determine potentially stressful training steps. Salivary cortisol concentrations, beat-to-beat (RR) interval and heart rate variability (HRV) were determined. The HRV variables standard deviation of the RR interval (SDRR), RMSSD (root mean square of successive RR differences) and the geometric means standard deviation 1 (SD1) and 2 (SD2) were calculated. Nearly each training unit was associated with an increase in salivary cortisol concentrations (p < 0.01). Cortisol release varied between training units and occasionally was more pronounced in mares than in stallions (p < 0.05). The RR interval decreased slightly in response to lunging before mounting of the rider.