- Horses ruin pastures faster than any other animal.
- They can graze much closer than ruminants as they have both top and bottom teeth.
- They overgraze areas that end up like lawns, and dung in other areas which they will not graze because of the smell.
- Pastures under continual grazing become “horse sick” - i.e. heavily contaminated with internal parasites, and the dunging areas grow weeds.
- Horses tend to dung and urinate on areas where other horses have done the same as it’s an important means of communication. Stallions regularly dung and urinate where mares have done so.
- Horses (especially feral horses) get a lot of information from dung and urine heaps about what is going on in the territory.
- Horses eat for long periods averaging about 12 hours a day and when feed is short they’ll graze for up to 18 hours.
- Overfeeding is a major problem leading to founder of the foot causing lameness and general obesity.
- But horses kept bare paddocks all day and yarded at night to control their feed intake can become very bored creating other problems.
- Horses dung every 3-4 hours and can defaecate while moving but have to stop to urinate as this requires muscle relaxation of the pelvis and hind legs.
- Horses can be trained to urinate by whistling ( a conditioned response). When you see the horse urinating naturally, start to whistle so it will build an association between the whistle and the behaviour. With continual practice, the horse will learn to urinate on the signal.
- Horses need to sleep, and most is done standing but they do sleep lying down.
- They drowse during the day but truly sleep at night.
- Their sleep cycle is short - 15 minutes sleep then 45 minutes awake.
- A horse that is forced to stand continuously, e.g. on long air flights, will be sleep deprived so must be rested on arrival.
- Group behaviour affects sleep. Dominant animals lie down first and set the pattern.
- Young horses need more sleep than the old.
- Horses prefer to lie on dry earth or sand and not in cold wet areas.
Written by: Dr Clive Dalton