This study is a preliminary examination of the impact of seasonality on horse behaviour, body condition and hoof growth. The objective of this study is to “determine if season has an effect on body measurements, body condition scores, hoof growth, distance traveled and travel patterns”. Overall this study was interesting, but seemed more to prove information that anyone working with horses already knows. This study could have been improved by providing a few more answers to the “why” questions that came up in my mind when reading the paper.
The study examined nine horses at a lesson barn, four mares and five geldings. These horses were kept inside during the day and put out for ten hours at night. Their diet included concentrates with 10% protein as well as grass pasture in the summer and supplemental hay in the winter. All horses wore shoes for the duration of the study. The study used GPS collars to determine the travel distance and patterns. Visual body scores were given and hoof measurements were taken at toe length, medial heel height, lateral heel height, width and length of distal surface and hoof wall growth.
The study found that seasonality did impact the body condition of the horses. The horses were the skinniest in the fall followed by the winter then spring they tended to begin gaining weight again and were the most full bodied in the summer months. The hooves were found to grow the most in the fall and spring, followed by the summer and were slowest growing in the winter months. The travel patterns found that no matter the season the horses walked about the same distance, but in the colder months tended to stay closer to the shelter and barn area.
Regarding the travel patterns, the paper gave some credit but minimal attention to the role in how food was fed in changing travel patterns. In the summer months the horse’s food source was the grass that is in the whole pasture, encouraging them to move around the entire field during their time outside. The hay was fed close to the shelter and barn area in the winter months which was likely a large factor in the travel patterns. At the start of the study the researches expected distance travelled to change significantly throughout the seasons; however this was not the case, distance travelled remained the same over the seasons.
Although it is interesting to know that hoof growth does change over the seasons, this study left me curious about why this was happening. What are the chemical differences in the horses body that alter horn growth, is there a difference in hoof quality and so many other questions that I hope are studied sooner than later!
Lewis, C., Nadeau, J. (2014). of “Effect of season on travel patterns and hoof growth of domestic horses”. Journal of equine Veterinary Science, 34, 918 – 922.