Young horses fed sweets difficult to train
Young horses might be easier to train if they
temporarily lay off the sweets, according to a Montana State University (MSU)
study that tracked behaviour of 2-year-olds in training and compared it to their
The extra energy provided by sweet feed during the early stages of training
made the horses in MSU's study more disobedient and fearful than horses that
only ate hay, said Jan Bowman, an animal nutritionist at MSU.
involved 12 closely-related Quarter Horses that came from one Idaho ranch,
Bowman said. Wade Black, instructor of the MSU Colt Starting class and one of
Bowman's graduate students, trained the horses for three weeks, five days a week
at MSU's Miller Livestock Pavilion.
Half the horses ate only hay, which
was a mixture of grass and alfalfa. The other horses ate 2.5 kg of sweet grain a
day in addition to the hay. Hay and water was supplied ad
Each horse wore a pedometer a combination
wristwatch-heart monitor hanging from their saddles. The watch displayed
minimum, maximum, and mean heart rates detected by an electrode
Black trained the animals for 30 or 40 minutes a day without
knowing which animals had eaten grain and which ones hadn't, Bowman
She and Black also recorded heart rates and the number of steps the
horses took during training. They assigned scores for behaviours displayed,
including obedience, get-up-and-go, and separation anxiety.
suggest that trainers under time constraints could increase their training
effectiveness during the early stages of training by not feeding excess dietary
energy," Black wrote.
He is still analyzing some of the data to see how
the grain affected the horses' adrenaline during training.
doesn't mean that trainers should keep grain away from horses forever, Bowman
said. They might consider withholding it just during the early weeks of
Bowman noted that all of the horses in MSU's study gained
weight during the study. It didn't matter if they ate hay alone or hay with
Their paper will be submitted to the Journal of Animal
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