The feeding and management practices of Australian horse owners

Claudia Macleay

Research output: ThesisHonours Thesis

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The horse’s anatomy, physiology and behaviours have evolved as a grazing animal on open grassland plains. Domestication has removed the horse from the environments in which they evolved so that horses could be managed in conditions that are convenient to people. Today in Australia horses are now used primarily for recreational riding, sport, competition and as companion animals, yet many feeding and management practices are often based on tradition, folklore, and misinformation. Inappropriate feeding practices have been linked to a number of
health and welfare problems in horses.
The aim of this study is to investigate whether the current feeding and management practices of Australian horse owners are following the current scientific literature and recommendations. An online survey was designed to ascertain the following information: demographics, current feeding and management practices, and perceptions and knowledge of equine nutrition. Quantitative analytical methods included descriptive statistics, Pearson’s
chi-square test and a multivariable analysis performed in IBM SPSS.
There were 4265 eligible surveys used in the statistical analysis; the majority of participants were female, aged between 18-54. Participants reported that most horses (58.5 %) were kept in paddocks that were overgrazed. Over half of all horses (57.8 %) were recorded by participants to be currently in work and/or training, with most horses in light work and used for pleasure riding. While only 20.4 % of participants recorded their horses to be obese when pasture intake estimates and reported rations were combined, the results of NRC (2007)
nutritional analysis showed that 96.8 % of horses were receiving digestible energy above the recommendation and it is likely that many more animals were overweight. Australian horse owners are underestimating the nutritional content of pastures and overestimating the nutritional requirements of their horses, placing horses at risk of nutritional health problems.
Australian horse owners need to recognise that well-managed pastures can provide horses with their daily nutritional requirements and is a long-term, cost-effective way of feeding horses, that also reduces health and behavioural problems.
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • Charles Sturt University
  • Buckley, Petra, Principal Supervisor
Publication statusPublished - Aug 2018


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