Young Equine Researchers Show Heart and Intelligence

Taylor Kerr's essay submission won honorable mention

Each year in California, more than 900 middle and high school students compete in the California State Science Fair. It’s a two-day event that recognizes the state’s best student research projects.

In observance of Valentine’s Day, here’s a special research project that was presented at last year’s fair. Young researcher Taylor L. Kerr, an 8th grader from Kucera (Ethel M.) Middle School in Rialto, took home an honorable mention award in the Junior Division of the Mammalian Biology category for this heartfelt submission titled “How Does Grooming Affect a Horse’s Heart Rate?”

Research Objectives/Goals
To observe the effect grooming has on heart rate after exercise as compared to no grooming.

I took each horse’s heart rate before exercise using a stethoscope. I then exercised each horse for three minutes, waited one minute, and took the heart rate again. Next, I repeated the previous steps, but this time I worked each horse for 30 seconds and groomed each horse for one minute after exercising before taking their heart rate. I repeated this experiment with all horses three times. The materials I used were a stethoscope, eight horses, round pen, stopwatch, paper, pen/pencil, and a clipboard. For Trial 2, at the judges’ suggestion, I plan to repeat the experiment, but will exercise them for three minutes instead of 30 seconds.

The results of this project indicate that when a horse’s heart rate is high, and you groom it, the horse will relax and the heart rate will slow down more quickly than with rest alone. The average heart rate before grooming and exercise is 45.88. The average heart rate after exercise and grooming is 53.38, and the average heart rate after exercise and no grooming is 73.33, which gives a difference of 19.95 heart beats per minute. This data shows that grooming a horse after exercise acts as a way to cool them down faster than just rest alone.

My hypothesis was supported because grooming causes a horse to relax, which in turn causes the heart to beat less often. While this is common knowledge when grooming horses in general among most horse owners, these results show that it should also be applied as a method of cool down after exercising horses. In order to cool a horse down quicker it is better to groom them than letting them rest without grooming. Grooming horses after exercise is a much more efficient way to reduce heart rate, and cool a horse down.
Taylor’s research, while very compelling, was topped by Samantha Y. Lux, an 8th grader from Los Cerritos Middle School in Thousand Oaks, who took first place in the Junior Division of the Mammalian Biology category for her submission: “How Well Do Horses Learn?” Of the eight submissions that were honored in the category, only Samantha’s and Taylor’s research focused on equines.
To see Samantha’s research results, click here >>.  The 2008 California State Science Fair will be held May 19-20, 2008.




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