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Kettunen, Hanna, 2024. How group turnout in grass pasture affects horse activity and behaviour : in comparison with individual stables. Second cycle, A2E. Uppsala: SLU, Dept. of Animal Environment and Health



Equine management systems significantly differ from those of other livestock, as they have a more anthropological and individualistic approach. Horses require full physical contact with conspecifics for good welfare, yet conventionally, they are housed alone in stalls where the opportunity for social contact is often limited to visual interactions only. When given the opportunity, horses will graze and travel great distances throughout the day. However, in many housing systems, they are fed high-energy concentrates and have little to no time on a pasture or paddock where they can move freely. These management factors can raise various animal welfare concerns, emphasizing the need for more knowledge on horse behavior and a review of current practices to improve management systems and ensure better animal welfare.
The aim of this study was to measure how access to a pasture would affect horses' activity and behavior compared to when they were housed in individual stalls, and whether turnout in a pasture would reduce behaviors indicative of reduced welfare. The activity of twenty individual horses was tracked using an activity tracker for 24 hours when they were stabled in single stalls and again for 24 hours when they were turned out in a pasture in a group. During both treatments, their behavior was assessed for 15 minutes based on an ethogram of discomfort behaviors. The findings indicated that after only three weeks, a short two to four-hour period in a pasture increased the horses' daily total distance moved by an average of 89% (Paired t-test: P < 0.001) and slightly reduced stress-related behaviors in most horses, although not statistically significantly (Paired t-test: P = 0.188). The results suggest that turnout in a pasture with conspecifics has a positive impact on horse welfare and should be encouraged in management practices.

Main title:How group turnout in grass pasture affects horse activity and behaviour
Subtitle:in comparison with individual stables
Authors:Kettunen, Hanna
Supervisor:Yngvesson, Jenny
Examiner:Andersson, Maria
Volume/Sequential designation:UNSPECIFIED
Year of Publication:2024
Level and depth descriptor:Second cycle, A2E
Student's programme affiliation:VM006 Animal Science - Master's Programme
Supervising department:(VH) > Dept. of Animal Environment and Health
Keywords:Horse welfare, turnout, activity, stable management, horse behaviour, pasture, Horse management, group turnout, natural behaviour, grazing
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Deposited On:25 Apr 2024 10:26
Metadata Last Modified:26 Apr 2024 01:00

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