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Every horse owner wants what is best for their horse, and recent research led by the University of Liverpool in collaboration with Redwings and other major equine charities in the UK examined the many ways that horse owners are now thinking “outside the box” to manage their horses’ grazing needs.
The past century has seen dramatic changes in horse ownership; rather than being working animals, most of the UK’s horses are now kept as leisure animals, simply for their owners’ enjoyment.
We now have a better scientific understanding of horses’ ethological behaviour and needs, and what domestic horses need in order have a good quality of life. These developments are at the heart of some owners’ decisions to try and find new ways to manage their horses and their land.
The idea of track systems, the use of tracks around the edge of fields with resources distributed across the space to encourage movement, have become increasingly popular in recent decade. These systems allow horses to live in groups and usually have free choice about whether to seek shelter or be outside.
However, they are not the only option used by horse owners who are looking to manage their horses in non-traditional ways: other schools of thought involve focussing on soil and pasture health in order to ensure horse health is maximised (the principles of the Equicentral system), “rewilding” land in order to encourage the creation of natural ecosystems, and turnout in woodland or moorland.
As part of the study, over 750 horse owners described their use of these non-traditional management options, with the aim of finding out why they use them, and their opinions on their pros and cons.
Until now, the use of these approaches had not been studied or documented in this way, and the researchers hope that the report will help horse owners learn from each other’s experiences to find the best way to manage their horses’ needs.
You can read the full report by clicking here.