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Foraging opportunity: a crucial criterion for horse welfare?

Abstract : This study aimed at determining the effect of the increase of foraging opportunities on the behaviour and welfare of breeding mares housed in individual boxes but allowed outside 6 h a day in a bare paddock. One hundred Arab breeding mares were divided into two groups of 50 according to the treatment and allowed outside in two bare paddocks at the same density (115 mare/ha) where water and shelter were provided. The treatment consisted in providing the opportunity to forage on hay. Twenty-minute animal focal samplings and scan samplings were used to determine the time budget of the mares during the period from 0900 to 1500 h and study their social behaviour. A total of 300 focal sampling (6000 min), 3300 individual scan sampling (6000 min) and 62 group observations (1240 min) corresponding to the 100 mares were recorded. Non-parametric tests were used to analyse data. Results showed that experimental mares spent more time feeding (65.12% ± 2.40% v. 29.75% ± 2.45%, P < 0.01) and less time in locomotion (11.70% ± 1.31% v. 23.56% ± 1.34%, P < 0.01), stand resting (11.76% ± 2.57% v. 27.52% ± 2.62%, P < 0.01) and alert standing (5.23% ± 1.2% v. 14.71% ± 1.23%, P < 0.01). There was more bonding among experimental mares than control ones (26 v. 14, P < 0.05). Experimental mares showed more positive social interactions (P < 0.01) and less aggression (P < 0.01). These results suggest that giving densely housed mares foraging opportunities improves their welfare.
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Submitted on : Friday, May 20, 2016 - 2:03:51 PM
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Haïfa Benhajali, Marie-Annick Richard-Yris, Mohammed Ezzaouia, Faouzia Charfi, Martine Hausberger. Foraging opportunity: a crucial criterion for horse welfare?. animal, Cambridge University Press (CUP), 2009, 3 (9), pp.1308--1312. ⟨10.1017/S1751731109004820⟩. ⟨hal-01319142⟩

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