A horse’s sense of hearing is very well developed. They can even hear sounds up to 4.5 km away. If the horse hears a loud or unfamiliar noise, they may suddenly come to a stop. Researchers in Poland wondered if sound could be used to create a virtual barrier.
Wiktoria Janicka and her fellow researchers have been looking for a way to create a virtual barrier with sound. An alternative method to the shock collars used on dogs. Horses are particularly sensitive to environmental stimuli, so an alarming sound may act as an invisible barrier for horses.
The researchers at the University of Life Sciences in Lublin investigated this by leading 30 adult warmblood horses individually through a 55-metre-long and 4-metre-wide corridor. The corridor was enclosed by plastic fence posts and two lines of electric fence with a reward in the form of food or another familiar horse at the end. At 30 meters, 15 meters or 5 meters, a futuristic sound was played for 20 seconds at 80 decibels at one meter from the wireless speaker. If the horses responded to the virtual barrier by fleeing, walking away or stopping, the barrier was recorded as effective.
The virtual barrier was effective in 80% of the cases with a food reward. The virtual barrier was much less effective when approaching a horse they knew. At that case, the barrier was only 20% effective. The distance at which the sound was played appeared to have little influence on the effectiveness of the virtual barrier. However, this turned out to have an influence on the stress level of the horse. When the horses were 5 meters apart when the sound was played, the stress level was highest.