New study links weight with behaviour

By: Horse Deals

New study links weight with behaviour
New study links weight with behaviour

A new study titled Misbehaviour in Pony Club Horses: Incidence and risk factors1, published recently by The Equine Veterinary Journal (EVJ) has found evidence to suggest that overweight equines are more likely to suffer from behavioural problems.

The research conducted by Petra Buckley, senior lecturer in Equine Science at Charles Sturt University, New South Wales, involved 84 Pony Club equines from seven different branches in rural Australia.

Owners were asked to keep daily management records for a year, including nutrition, healthcare and exercise recording any misbehaviour. The horses were checked by a vet every month to investigate any relationship between pain, such as lameness and back pain.

59% of the horses studied misbehaved at least once during the study year, either during handling or when ridden.

While the occurrence of misbehaviour during riding was low, 3% of horses in each month, in more than half of these cases the misbehaviour posed a serious injury risk to horse and rider.

The study found that the risk of misbehaviour was higher in horses that were fat or obese and in those that were ridden infrequently.

Horses exercised more than three times each week had lower odds of misbehaviour. The odds of misbehaviour during riding were more than twice as high when horses were fed daily supplements, such as roughage, concentrates and/or grain.

Access to "good grass" was also associated with increased risk of misbehaviour, independent of any supplementary feed provided and horses and ponies that were excessively fat were roughly three times more likely to misbehave.
Misbehaviour was more likely to occur when horses were competing -- a time when riders may have higher expectations of their horses and subject them to greater physical and mental challenges than during leisure riding.
The study includes recommendations to help prevent misbehaviour such as exercising at least three times a week and maintaining an optimal physique by more closely matching pasture and supplementary feeding to horses’ exercise levels and resulting energy requirements.

"Our day-to-day management lays the foundations for healthy horses and highlights the important role and responsibility of every horse owner," said Petra Buckley.