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Science Corner

Horse Transportation in Australia Survey Preliminary Results

November 2015

Almost 1,000 Australian horse owners participated in a recent survey to help improve our understanding of issues and practices related to transporting horses and reducing transport associated disease... And, the preliminary results are in.  The survey was open to anyone who has transported horses in Australia during the last two years, and contained questions about horse transport practices and related illnesses.

Study into Horse Facial Expressions Will Benefit Welfare Research

September 2015

Researchers of the University of Sussex have developed a system that allows for an objective assessment and recording of all facial expressions, and could help future research into both negative and positive welfare states in horses.   The findings of this new study, which were published in the open source journal PLOS ONE this month, suggest evolutionary parallels in different species in how the face is used for communication.

Do Hay Nets Extend Feed Consumption?

September 2015

Researchers explore the effects of four types of hay nets on feed intake as part of an ongoing project to increase and spread feeding time more across the day and night in stabled horses.  Horses naturally have a high motivation to eat and are genetically programmed to chew. In the wild, this trait is necessary for survival. It enables horses to eat sufficient amounts of forage in spring and summer, allowing them to store enough energy (fat) reserves to survive harsh winters when feed may be less nutritious or accessible. 

Silicon as a Bone and Joint Supplement for Horses

July 2015

Silicon plays a key role in the formation of new bone, and also a significant component in cartilage, connective tissue and hyaluronic acid (joint lubricant). Most of what we know about silicon comes from research in humans. For example, it is reportedly the third most abundant trace mineral in the human body and is found, to some extent, in all tissues of the body. As humans age, bone mineral density decreases and research has shown that administration of silicon to osteoporotic women leads to small, but significant increases in femoral bone mineral density.

The Trouble with Cobalt

July 2015

 For the last couple of years, the ‘buzzword’ in racing has been cobalt, a naturally ocurring trace-mineral that should be present in horses in very small (trace) amounts. Earlier this year, the Australian Racing Board introduced a threshold or maximum level allowed across all codes. Although the threshold is considered ‘generous’ at 200 micrograms per litre of urine, positive tests have revealed horses with levels exceeding 3,500 mcg/L.

Shetland Ponies' Immune Responses Helping Scientists Understand Allergies

June 2015

The horse immune system can respond to midge bites in a way that prevents - rather than triggers - allergic reactions, researchers say. The ponies' immune response to midge bites is similar to what happens in people with allergies, the team says. Understanding what triggers allergic reactions could help researchers come up with ways to stop people developing sensitivities. It was previously thought that ponies which do not suffer an allergic reaction to bites do so because their immune system does not recognize allergens carried by the insects, and as a result does not respond.

The Mystery of the Missing Lamellae

May 2015

This article explains there are significant variations in the nuchal ligament lamellae which do not match conventional anatomic descriptions. It explains the possible affect on horse’s health and performance.  It is based on the presentation at the 2015 Bowker Lectures in Victoria. Since that time, Dr May-Davis has added to her findings and published in the Journal of Equine Veterinary Science. It is open access and can be found here.

Myth Busters: Part 1

March 2015

Charles Sturt University students explore some of the key areas of research into equine health and performance. While they demonstrate that further research is needed, their reviews show how the relationship between horses and people can work towards a deeper understanding of equine science and doing the best for the horse. Do bitted bridles cause pain and misbehaviour?  By Judith Matusiewicz, Charles Sturt University 

Foraging behaviour in pastured horses: Is variety the spice of life?

February 2015

Australian researchers investigating the behaviour of domestic horses at pasture have found that, given the opportunity, horses will seek and consume a range of non-pasture species (e.g., parts of trees, woody plants and shrubs). This is the first published data on the behaviour of domesticated horses at pasture and their interaction with the available vegetation.

Welfare of riding school horses

October 2014

A better understanding of how horses are managed in different countries and in the various sectors of the horse industry is of great interest to equitation and welfare scientists around the globe. To this effect, researchers from the University of Copenhagen, Denmark, set to investigate the management of riding schools in their country, to estimate the time horses are absent from work due to health issues, the frequency and type of health issues and to make any associations between management and time absent from work.  

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