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Science Corner

Equitation Scientists Call for the Development of a Single Descriptive Ethogram

February 2018

Ask a veterinarian, a judge and a farrier to describe a particular horse and you might get three very different answers. Show them a set of behaviours, and ask them to name and characterise them, and you might well believe they were observing different horses altogether. This might be amusing as a party game, but when it comes to discussing behaviour at a scientific level or to comparing one behaviour study with another, it presents a unique set of problems.

Tight Nosebands Associated with Mouth Lesions

November 2017

A comprehensive Danish study on equipment and tack used by horse riders has found a very clear correlation between tight nosebands and mouth lesions. The findings have prompted the Danish Equestrian Federation to announce that, from January 1st 2018, competition stewards will measure noseband tightness using a standardised gauge to ensure a minimum spacing between the nasal bones and the noseband strap - in all disciplines. The new rule will specify there must be room for a certified measurement unit in between the nasal plane of the horse (nasal bones) and the noseband.

When we know better, we do better!

October 2017

Horses today live longer, healthier lives than ever before. We selectively breed horses to jump higher, run raster, move more flamboyantly... But the question many horse lovers would like to know the answer to is this: Are they happy? Are the domesticated lives we provide our horses fulfilling? How do we know what great quality of life means to the horse, and how can we measure it and, of course, could we do better?

Can regular mowing protect from laminitis?

September 2017

With Spring upon us in the Southern Hemisphere, many horse owners caring for sugar-sensitive horses will be frantically trying to adopt different management strategies to reduce the intake of sugary pastures to avoid weight gain and/or laminitis. The approaches used probably involve restricting and/or managing their horses’ access to grazing either strip grazing, fitting grazing muzzles and often, by locking horses out of pasture completely or during parts of the day.

Grazers or Browsers? Human Pressure Influenced the Diet of Wild Horses

September 2017

The Przewalski’s horse (Equus ferus przewalskii) - the only remaining wild horse within the equid family - is one of only a handful of species worldwide that went extinct in the wild, was saved by captive breeding and has been successfully returned to the wild.

Lessons From Ancient History: Iron Age Horses Reveal a Much Wider Genetic Variability

June 2017

Nomad Scythian herders roamed vast areas spanning the Central Asian steppes during the Iron Age, approximately from the 9th to the 1st Century BCE (Before Common Era). These livestock pastoralists, who lived on wagons covered by tents, left their mark in the history of warfare for their exceptional equestrian skills. They were among the first to master mounted riding and to make use of composite bows while riding.

Does Twitching Sedate Horses?

April 2017

During difficult veterinary procedures, like scoping and other invasive treatments, it is often necessary to physically restrain the horse for its own and the vet staff’s safety. But, do lip and ear twitches actually sedate the horse or do they restrain through pain? And does their use carry any negative consequences? In a recent study, Benjamin Flaköll and his team of researchers set themselves the task to find out by examining 12 geldings that hadn’t experienced twitching previously, and after examining the data, they warn that ear twitching should be actively discouraged.

How Horses Communicate with Humans For Help

March 2017

A new study has demonstrated when horses face unsolvable problems, they use visual and tactile signals to get human attention and ask for help. The study also suggests horses alter their communicative behaviour based on humans' knowledge of the situation. Research Fellow Monamie Ringhofer and Associate Professor Shinya Yamamoto from the Kobe University Graduate School of Intercultural Studies have led this study in horse behaviour and communication, with the findings published in the online version of Animal Cognition on 24 November, 2016.

History of Horse Coat Colour Preferences Revealed

February 2017

Human preferences for horse coat colours have changed greatly over time and across cultures. Spotted and diluted horses were more frequent from the beginning of domestication until the end of the Roman Empire, whereas solid colours (bay, black and chestnut) were predominant in the Middle Ages. These are the findings of an international research team under the direction of the Leibniz Institute for Zoo and Wildlife Research (IZW).  

New Guidelines for Feeding Forage

February 2017

Increasing research into conditions such as obesity, insulin resistance, metabolic syndrome, laminitis, colic, stomach ulcers, rhabdomyolysis, feed hygiene, as well as behavioural abnormalities, have often pointed towards one common important factor in their prevention and management: the correct feeding of forage.  This has led a number of top experts in equine nutrition and health in Europe to work together and review the large body of updated and new knowledge, which has come to light in the past 15 years. 


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