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Responses of horses offered a choice between stables containing single or multiple forages
  1. D. Goodwin, BSc, PhD1,
  2. H. P. B. Davidson, BSc2 and
  3. P. Harris, MA, VetMB, PhD, MRCVS2
  1. 1 Animal Behaviour Unit, School of Psychology, University of Southampton, New College Campus, Southampton SO17 1BG
  2. 2 Equine Studies Group, Waltham Centre for Pet Nutrition, Waltham-on-the-Wolds, Leicestershire LE14 4RT

Abstract

To investigate the choices of foraging location of horses, 10 to 12 horses were introduced for five minutes into each of two similar stables containing a single forage or six forages, in four replicated trials. The horses were then removed and released into the gangway between the stables, and allowed five minutes to choose between the stables. Their initial and final choices, mean duration in each stable and proportional frequency of change of location were compared. Most of the horses initially entered the closest stable on release (P<0·05); if the closest stable contained a single hay, most horses transferred to the stable containing multiple forages (P<0·001). The length of time spent by the horses in the two stables suggested that they preferred multiple forages in multiple locations (P<0·001). Eleven horses moved from one stable to the other on one or more occasions during trials when hay or a preferred forage was available in both stables, possibly indicating a motivation to move between foraging locations regardless of the palatability of the forages offered or the horses' preference for a forage.

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