Many horses display unwanted behaviour prior to receiving concentrate feed or forage. These behaviours have received relatively little scientific attention as a distinct group of equine behaviour problems and risk factors for their performance have not been quantified. The objective of this study was to generate data on the diet of UK leisure horses, the feeding practices employed by their carers, and the prevalence of behaviour problems seen prior to feeding. A convenience sample of leisure horse carers were surveyed via a self-administered internet survey. Each carer provided data for only one horse, and to minimise recall bias was asked to report details of their horse's feeding routine over the week prior to completing the survey. Recruitment was spread over twelve calendar months. The survey was completed by 1,324 respondents, each reporting data for an individual horse in their care. Pre-feeding behaviour problems were common within the sample and were reduced by Principal Components Analysis into three components labelled: aggression; frustration; and stereotypies. While the specific risk factors associated with these problems differed, they fell into four distinct themes: how the horse is fed; the use of nutritional supplements; exercise and stabling; and the performance of oral investigative behaviour. The risk factors for pre-feeding behaviour problems identified in this study raise concerns about the way domestic horses are currently fed and managed. In conjunction with published empirical evidence they indicate that the welfare of domestic horses may be improved by adopting a feeding regime and management system more suited to their physiological and behavioural needs.
|Publication Title||Animal Welfare|
|Publisher||Universities Federation for Animal Welfare|
|Author Address||School of Veterinary Sciences, University of Bristol, Langford House, Langford, Bristol BS40 5DU, UK.Jo.Hockenhull@bristol.ac.uk|
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