EXPERIMENTAL AND BASIC RESEARCH STUDIES
Adaption of horses to a novel dynamic feeding system: Movement and behavioural responses
Article first published online: 6 DEC 2012
© 2012 EVJ Ltd
Equine Veterinary Journal
Volume 45, Issue 4, pages 481–484, July 2013
How to Cite
Hampson, B. A., de Laat, M. A., Monot, J., Bailliu, D. and Pollitt, C. C. (2013), Adaption of horses to a novel dynamic feeding system: Movement and behavioural responses. Equine Veterinary Journal, 45: 481–484. doi: 10.1111/evj.12002
- Issue published online: 6 JUN 2013
- Article first published online: 6 DEC 2012
- Accepted manuscript online: 11 OCT 2012 09:13PM EST
- Manuscript Accepted: 3 OCT 2012
- Manuscript Received: 1 FEB 2012
- Australian Brumby Research Unit
- The School of Veterinary Science
- The University of Queensland
- insulin resistance
Reasons for performing study
Many domestic horses and ponies are sedentary and obese due to confinement to small paddocks and stables and a diet of infrequent, high-energy rations. Severe health consequences can be associated with this altered lifestyle.
The aims of this study were to investigate the ability of horses to learn to use a dynamic feeder system and determine the movement and behavioural responses of horses to the novel system.
A dynamic feed station was developed to encourage horses to exercise in order to access ad libitum hay. Five pairs of horses (n = 10) were studied using a randomised crossover design with each pair studied in a control paddock containing a standard hay feeder and an experimental paddock containing the novel hay feeder. Horse movement was monitored by a global positioning system (GPS) and horses observed and their ability to learn to use the system and the behavioural responses to its use assessed.
With initial human intervention all horses used the novel feeder within 1 h. Some aggressive behaviour was observed between horses not well matched in dominance behaviour. The median distance walked by the horses was less (P = 0.002) during a 4 h period (117 [57–185] m) in the control paddock than in the experimental paddock (630 [509–719] m).
The use of an automated feeding system promotes increased activity levels in horses housed in small paddocks, compared with a stationary feeder.
The novel feeder system may have application in the husbandry of horses and ponies kept in small paddocks by encouraging a natural pattern of exercise without human intervention and an ad libitum diet of hay. This may improve the health and welfare of horses.