In this study some aspects of the behaviour of domestic horses which
had previously received little attention were investigated.
Documentation on the behaviour of horses falls into two broad
categories; there are studies on populations of free -ranging horses
and studies on domestic horses. The latter usually concentrate on
one particular behaviour pattern whereas the former cover all
aspects of the horses' behaviour. In the literature on domestic
horses there was a lack of information on grazing behaviour and on
the behaviour of mares and foals after the perinatal period and as
a result it was decided to concentrate on these two aspects. In
addition since most recordings are made by visual observation and
experimental numbers are usually small it was felt that if a suitable grazing recorder could be designed it would improve the
scope of studies on grazing behaviour.
Mares and foals were observed from the first day after parturition
until the foals were weaned. It was found that although the mares
are very attentive towards their foals during the first few days
after birth by the second week they showed little interest in their
foals. The foals were responsible for maintaining contact with
their dams and they also initiated all nursing activity. They
nursed frequently but nursing time decreased as the foals grew
older. All the foals ate their dams' faeces during the first few
weeks of life and it was thought that by doing this the foals
obtained bacteria necessary for the digestion of fibre. Weaning
was a stressful event from which the foals appeared to recover
Horses were observed at grass and while stalled. The feeding of
supplementary hay to horses at grass was found to affect their
eliminative behaviour patterns and caused them to excrete randomly in the
field. In contrast, during the summer months, unsupplemented
horses consistently excreted on the area; of ungrazed grass (roughs) and
grazed areas of short grass (lawns) in preference to the roughs.
Studies during periods of 24 hr. indicated that horses spend most
of the day eating and that continuous periods of grazing behaviour
lasting 6 hr are not unusual. Horses in a group grazed and rested
at the same time as one another and resting behaviour was more
likely to occur during the hours of darkness than during daylight.
An electronic grazing recorder was designed and used successfully.
This was the first serious attempt to invent a grazing recorder
for horses and it is felt that it will have an important effect on
The results obtained and their implications for the management of
horses and for future research are discussed.