Slow feeding systems for horses: feeding times and lying behaviour

Free-living equids spend the greater part of the day grazing – roughly sixteen hours out of every twenty four. With two to three rationed portions of roughage a day, the behaviour of conventionally fed domestic horses is strongly affected. The aim of the present paper was to examine whether a different number of feeds influenced the feeding and lying behavior of horses. To this end, twelve mares were housed in a multi-room group stabling system, and given access to roughage either five, eight or 12 times a day with a maximum of 300 minutes access to roughage within 24 hours. The three different feeding programs resulted in a slight increase in total feeding duration per day, but had no significant effect on lying behavior. The influence of rank position on duration and frequency of lying was, however, significant, with high-ranking horses lying more frequently and for longer periods than low-ranking ones. When horses are housed in groups, low-ranking animals in particular must be observed carefully, both when feeding and with regard to their lying behavior.

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