Another ‘project’ of mine is to find better ways of providing a more natural environment for my horses to live in, that fulfils their physical and emotional needs. This led me to offering my two herds to be part of a study on how much movement a horse does in a typical daily domestic situation.
Brian Hampson is studying movement of domestic and feral horses to gather information for his PHD with the University of QLD. He provided the GPS collars which were fitted to one horse in each herd for a period of one week on a track around the perimiter of their pasture, and a second week in the centre of the track.
I fitted the collars to my youngest mare in the riding herd who was at the bottom of the pecking order, and to my rising 2 year old filly in the breeding herd, also at the bottom of the pecking order.
The results were interesting and correlated with other similar domestic situations which have found that the horses on the track move less or the same amount compared to being in the centre.
The riding herd were in a 5 acre pasture and the movement was a little over 5km per day both on the track and in the centre. The breeding herd were on a 2-3 acre pasture and the movement was 3.5km on the track and 4.13km in the open pasture where there was more opportunity for the horses to run and play (as young horses do).
This suprised me a little as I’ve always thought, like many others, that the track would surely cause them to move more – and I’m sure it would in different situations but all the variables would need to be tested to find this out.
Most of the research has been done with pastures and tracks that offer constant grazing and in my case, I was also strip grazing the track by moving the fence in a few metres in various places to offer a small amount of fresh pick each day.
More research would need to done on tracks that have little or no pick and hay placed in various places as the main source of food. Where the water was positioned in relation to the hay would also influence the amount of movement.
Even if the research shows that a track system offers no difference in the amount of movement, the big benefit of using a track is the ability to restrict the amount of grass intake, and that has to be a whole lot better than shutting a horse in a small yard or paddock to achieve the same.
Brian is continuing his research and presenting a paper on the findings so far at a conference in France in June. To keep up with the results you can register for updates on the web site at www.wildhorseresearch.com and to learn more about how you can provide a more natural living environment for your horse.