Episode 11: Dr. Sheryl King

Listen to Episode 11

This is Episode 11 of Season three and in it, Jec interviews Dr. Sheryl King, this year’s keynote speaker at the Best Horse Practices Summit in Kentucky.

In this conversation, Jec and Dr. King discuss a few myth-busting ideas around horse management. It’s a good segue from last week’s introduction to the anti-warm and fuzzies campaign– maybe we should call it the cool and clearzees dialogue.

Cool and clear are what nights are like lately, here in Colorado. Mmm, maybe not just cool. Downright cold. Single digits.

My guess is that a lot of folks want to put their horses in when it’s cold like this. I don’t know if this makes sense to me. For starters, stalls aren’t that much warmer than run-in shelters. Secondly, horses need to move and be with buddies. They need to move to help their digestion. Moving helps keep them warm. Moving is what prey animals like to do. In my observation, moving helps lower their stress.

Years ago, when my horses and I were living in Maine, we had a hurricane come through. I had big stalls without doors and watched them choose to be out in that weather, rather than in.

Jec and Dr. King talk a lot about the need to check ourselves when we consider horse habits versus human inclinations. “Tucking in for the night” is not a thing for horses. I mean, it IS a thing because some of us make it so, but it’s not a thing for horses left to their own devices.

Also, blankets.

Dr. Sheryl King delivers keynote address

Putting blankets on horses takes away horses’ natural ability to thermoregulate. Except in very few specific cases, horses are decidedly not better off with blankets, even for part of the day. As Dr. King noted, research shows that it can take much longer than we imagine for horses’ coats to recover (and do the job of thermoregulating) after having a blanket on. Save your money, listeners. Yes, they will benefit from extra hay in the winter. But spare them the “storm shield” or “viking extreme weather” garments. Please. Read more about blanketing here.

Our title sponsor is Lucerne Farms, producers of quality forage feeds.  Lucerne is a small company in Aroostock County in northern Maine. They make forage, from timothy and alfalfa, a great option if you are looking to add calories to your horses’ diet this winter. Check them out at lucerne farms.com or at your local feed story.

Here is the abstract of the research Dr. King conducted with her students:

Daily Horse Behavior Patterns Depend on Management
S.S. King*, K.L. Jones, M. Schwarm, E.L. Oberhaus
Southern Illinois University, Carbondale, IL

As human populations increasingly divorce from their agrarian roots, their intimate connection with the essential nature of the horse is being lost. Confined human lifestyles translate into increased confinement management of horses. We hypothesized that natural behavior patterns are altered as horses spend increasing amounts of time in confinement. This study compared 24-hour behavior patterns of horses between several confined states and unconfined pasture. A 24-hour time budget was constructed for 35 different horses observed for 24 consecutive hours. Horses were managed under zero confinement (24P), daytime confinement/night turnout (12CD), daytime turnout/night confinement (12CN), or 24h/day confinement (24C). The 24P group was considered the “control”. All horses had ad libitum access to roughage. Behavioral observations were made 10 times/h for 24h. Each 24h period was divided into 3h segments for analysis of time/treatment interactions. The 93 possible behaviors were ultimately grouped into 5 categories representing >91% of all behaviors (ingestion, movement, inactivity, socialization, investigative) for statistical evaluation. Percent time spent in each behavior was compared by confinement type and time of day using multiple ANOVA. The 24P time budget consisted of 44.9% ingestion, 24.2% movement, 21% inactivity, 3.4% socializing and 3.0 investigative. By comparison, the most frequent behavior of the 24C groups was inactivity (42.2%); ingestion (30.9%) and movement (11.3%) were all changed (P<0.01) compared to unconfined horses. Ingestion was the most frequent behavior (36.6%) in 12h-confined horses, although lower (P<0.05) than in the 24P group. Daytime confinement affected overall ingestion frequency, however other behaviors were not different between 24P and 12CD. 12CN horses were inactive more frequently compared with 24P and 12CD groups. Diurnal behavior patterns were affected by both degree and time of confinement. 24P horses foraged throughout their day with no difference (P>0.05) in ingestion frequency between time periods. The highest frequency of ingestion occurred during 06:00-21:00h and was lowest at 03:00-06:00h in 24C horses. Ingestion was highly influenced by time of pasture access in partially confined horses; lowest ingestion was 18:00-06:00h in 12CN and 06:00-18:00h in 12CD. The greatest compensatory ingestion occurred in 12CN horses immediately following turnout (06:00 to 09:00h). 12CD nighttime ingestion patterns were not different (P>0.05) from 24P horses, although 12CD horses did not display the 24P pattern of ingestion decline at 03:00-06:00h. Movement was higher at 15:00-24:00h in 24P compared with 24C. Movement frequency did not differ between 24P and 12CD, although inactivity was higher (P<0.05) in12CD; inactivity increasing at the expense of ingestion. 12CN horses displayed the greatest difference in movement and inactivity patterns compared to 24P, with lowest movement at 18:00-03:00h. Confinement affects behavioral repertoire in horses, with increasing disruption as duration of confinement increases. Half-day confinement during daylight preserves a greater degree of unconfined repertoire compared with nighttime confinement. Movement and ingestion behaviors were the most disturbed under confinement. Disruption in these activities may be related to increased incidence of digestive disorders and stereotypies documented in confined horses.

We thank Redmond Equine and Pharm Aloe – two sponsors with no-nonsense products for your horses.

Don’t forget to check out the great selection of books at Cayuse Communications and on Jec’s store page. There is still time to order books for Christmas and Cayuse has a Buy one get one free offer going on.

That’s it. Another episode in the can and out of the barn. Thanks for listening, y’all!

Listen to Episode 11

Posted in Podcast, Research.

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