We think it provides them with a warm and cosy sanctuary – but apparently horses hate being saddled with stables.
The beasts find them a miserable and stressful experience, research reveals.
As a herd animal, horses prefer to be in groups and stables prevent them interacting with their neighbours, according to a study by Nottingham Trent University.
Scientists found animals that were isolated had higher levels of stress hormones and became difficult to manage.
The findings, published in the journal Physiology and Behaviour, showed that horses are at their happiest in a paddock.
Scientists found the animals’ stress levels – measured by the hormone corticosterone – rose and they became difficult to manage as they became increasingly isolated.
These stress levels could also lead to sickness and disease, the study published in the journal Physiology and Behaviour found.
Equine welfare expert Kelly Yarnell told the Daily Telegraph: ‘To the human eye, the stable appears safe and inviting and is based on the belief of what the horse finds comfortable.
Research: The study by Nottingham Trent University (above) found that as a herd animal, horses prefer to be in groups and stables prevent them interacting with their neighbours.
‘However, for a social animal that spends most of its time in close contact with other horses, the isolation brought about by single housing could activate an equine stress response.’
She said equine welfare would be improved by shared housing. In the wild, horses live in herds that move over up to 30 sq miles while domestic horses often spend most of the day inside.
Lee Hackett, director of equine policy at The British Horse Society, said the study should change the way we keep horses.
He said: ‘It is fairly obvious that keeping any animal in a domestic setting could potentially compromise it, whether that be a hamster in a cage or a lion in a zoo.’