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Pre-feeding behaviour in UK leisure horses and associated feeding routine risk factors

By J. Hockenhull, E. Creighton

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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
Volume 23
Issue 3
Pages 297-308
ISBN/ISSN 0962-7286
Publisher Universities Federation for Animal Welfare
DOI 10.7120/09627286.23.3.297
Language English
Author Address School of Veterinary Sciences, University of Bristol, Langford House, Langford, Bristol BS40 5DU,
Cite this work

Researchers should cite this work as follows:

  1. Aggression
  2. Animal behavior
  3. Animal nutrition
  4. Animals
  5. Animal welfare
  6. British Isles
  7. Commonwealth of Nations
  8. Concentrates
  9. Developed countries
  10. Diets
  11. Documentation
  12. Europe
  13. Exercise
  14. Feed additives
  15. Feeding
  16. Feeds
  17. Feet
  18. Fodder
  19. Foraging
  20. Horses
  21. Humans
  22. Incidence
  23. Infants
  24. Information
  25. Internet
  26. Mammals
  27. Men
  28. Methodologies
  29. Nutrition
  30. OECD countries
  31. Primates
  32. risk factors
  33. supplements
  34. Techniques
  35. ungulates
  36. United Kingdom
  37. vertebrates
  38. welfare