Promoting natural foraging behaviour in stabled horses

Goodwin, Deborah, Davidson, Nell and Harris, Pat (2002) Promoting natural foraging behaviour in stabled horses. In, Koene, Paul and Scientific Committee of the 36th ISAE Congress, (eds.) Proceedings of the 36th Internaltional Congress of the ISAE. Wageningen, The Netherlands, Paul Koene for the Organising Committee of the 36th ISAE Congress, P.40.


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Four preliminary trials investigated foraging behaviour in stabled horses provided with
multiple forages (in press Equine Veterinary Journal). These trials suggested that
stabled horses were using foraging behaviour strategies previously recorded in freeranging
and feral horses, and other large grazing herbivores. Patch grazing strategies
allow herbivores to select a better than average diet from a heterogeneous resource.
The preliminary trials also compared the behaviour of horses in a single stable with an
otherwise identical stable containing six forages. Horses exhibited less searching
behaviour and less stereotypical behaviour in the multiple forage environment than the
same horses in an identical stable containing a single forage.
In the four replicated choice trials reported here, up to 12 competition horses were
allowed 5 minutes access to two otherwise identical stables containing single or
multiple forages. Horses were subsequently allowed to choose between the stables
during a 5 minute liberty test. In two of the trials the single forage presented was hay
and in two the single forage was a previously preferred forage. In Trial 1 and 3 (single
forage=hay), the horses showed a strong preference for the multiple forage stable (Chisquared
S/S, S/M, M/M: Chi-squared=16.4 (Trial 1) and 22.00 (Trial 3), df=2,
p<0.0001). In Trials 2 and 4 (single forage=preferred) the horses also showed a
preference, though less significant, for the multiple forage environment (S/S, S/M, M/M
(Trial 2) Chi-squared=4.7, df=2, p=0.09 and (Trial 4) Chi-squared=5.6, df=2, p=0.06).
The preliminary trials indicated that foraging enrichment prompted exhibition of wildtype
foraging behaviour in stabled horses. The four choice trials showed these stabled
horses selected an enriched over a restricted forage environment through a locational
choice. This provides further evidence to support foraging enrichment of the stable
environment to facilitate highly motivated behaviour in a restricted domestic

Item Type: Book Section
Related URLs:
Keywords: horse, foraging behaviour, environmental enrichment, domestication, feral
Subjects: Q Science > QL Zoology
B Philosophy. Psychology. Religion > BF Psychology
Divisions : University Structure - Pre August 2011 > School of Psychology > Division of Cognition
ePrint ID: 63505
Accepted Date and Publication Date:
7 August 2002Published
Date Deposited: 14 Oct 2008
Last Modified: 31 Mar 2016 12:47

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