Sabrina Briefer

Research interest


Characterizing stereotypies in horses

I am a behavioural biologist interested in the personality, learning capacity and coping strategy of horses in relation to welfare.

I obtained my Master’s degree at the University of Lausanne, by studying influence of the mother on the human-foal relationship at weaning time. I am now working since 2008 at the Agroscope, Swiss National Stud Farm, in Avenches. I carried out many different projects on horses (about social behaviour of stallions, emotions, mood, horse vocalization, etc…)

My current research aims at developing personality tests and behavioural measures that can be used as selection tools in the breeding program of the Franches-Montagnes and also to improve welfare by matching horses to particular owners. For my PhD thesis, I am interested in characterizing the crib-biting stereotypies in horses. These repetitive and relatively in-variant patterns of behaviour, apparently functionless, occur when a situation exceeds the natural regulatory capacity of the organism, and particularly in situations that include unpredictability and uncontrollability (chronic stress).
I am investigating the stress physiology, the personality and learning capacity of crib-biters horses, in order to understand if this behaviour is a coping strategy and its effect on horse welfare.



Briefer, S., Zuberbühler, K., Bardou, D., Briefer, E., Bruckmaier, R., Fouché, N., Fleury, J., Maigrot, A., & Ramseyer, A.(2015, 14 July). The physiological consequences of crib-biting horses in response to an ACTH challenge test. Physiol Behav, 151, 121-128.



Sabrina Briefer