The effect of
addition of corn or oats to a forage–based based ration on reactivity and trainability of young Mustang horses.
The relationship between ration
and behavior in horses has not been extensively studied though it is widely
thought that the type of feed fed can have a strong influence on how a horse
behaves (W.R. Black et al., 2008 ). For instance rations high in sugar and/or
starch have been documented to increase reactivity to novel stimuli (W.R. Black et al., 2008). Since the
temperament of a horse has been linked to the ease with which it can be
trained, documenting how a horse’s behavior can be altered by its ration would
be of interest to the equine industry (Mader and Price, 1980). Therefore a
study of the effect of ration type on behavior was conducted using 8 recently
tamed mustangs. The mustangs were divided into two groups and fed rations of
forage-based Total Mixed Ration (TMR) cubes with or without 10% added corn
(Exp. 1, Fall, 2010), or TMR cubes alone versus TMR cubes and a meal of corn
(Exp. 2 Spring, 2011) or TMR cubes and a meal of oats (Exp. 3, Spring 2011).
The purpose was to see if the different ration types influenced the horses’
trainability and reactivity to stimuli, which were evaluated through
standardized behavior tests. The tests were conducted before the experimental
rations were given and again after 2 to 2.5 weeks adaptation to the feeds.
Treatments were then switched and the horses were re-tested, so that each horse
was tested on each feed type in all 3 experiments. Each horse’s performance was scored by 2
judges (Trainers J Romero-Bosch and R. Rivello) as the tests were done. Each
test was videotaped for further evaluation by a third judge (D. Ramnath) who
reviewed the recordings as an impartial, unbiased observer, who was not
familiar with the horses used in the trials and did not know which horse was on
which diet. The performances were scored using a numerical scale of 0-5, with
0=total noncompliance and 5=perfect execution of the tasks asked of the horse.
We are currently working on statistical analysis of the results. We had
hypothesized that the horses fed corn or oats would be more reactive and less
amenable to training than the horses fed solely TMR cubes, however preliminary
analyses of the data are proving this hypothesis to be false. Results from
these trials have the potential to provide more information on what horse
owners should feed their young horses when they are trying to train them, which
can result in more efficient training.
To see samples of the tests conducted using horses from
2009-2010, click here.
The videos upon which this research was based will be posted
in this repository in the near future.
Black, W. R., et al. (2008). Feeding Grain Decreases
Training Effectiveness in 2-Year-Old Quarter Horses. American Society of
Animal Science, 59.
Mader, D. R., & Price, E. O. (1980).
Discrimination Learning in Horses: Effects of Breed,
Age and Social Dominance. Journal of
Animal Science, 50, 962-965.