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RU Rosie, RU Pardner with RU Glinda, RU Casanova, RU Brisa and RU Genesis

Divya Ramnath
GH Cook Scholar Candidate


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. 

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