Most people agree that horses are better off when allowed to ‘be horses’ but competition and convenience often gets in the way of allowing that. This study may encourage people to try and keep their horses more naturally.
Researchers conducted a study to compare the fitness levels and bone density of horses who are kept on pasture, stalled, or stalled and exercised. They found:
The team concluded that horses on stall rest for 14 weeks lost fitness, as indicated by the increase in heart rate and blood lactate levels after the final SET. But more importantly, they noted, pastured horses were able to maintain a similar level of fitness as the stalled, exercised horses in addition to having greater bone mineral content at the end of the study.
Graham-Thiers concluded, “Letting horses be horses—as in putting them in their natural setting—allows them to maintain fitness better, which may make their transition back to competition easier and likely more successful.”
One of the more interesting findings was that the horses on pasture exercised themselves more than the horses that were stalled and exercised one or two hours a day (as determined by GPS units).
Here is the link to the abstract, published in the August issue of Journal of Equine Veterinary Science.