Study: Stabled Horses Don’t Have Better Hooves Than Their Semi-Feral Counterparts  - Horse Racing News | Paulick Report

Study: Stabled Horses Don’t Have Better Hooves Than Their Semi-Feral Counterparts 

A recent study using 20 Marajoara and Puruca horses, which are semi-feral breeds that live on Marajó, an island in Brazil. These horses eat only native grasses grown in low-fertility soils; they have no mineral supplementation and their hooves are not cared for by humans in any manner. 

Dr. Bruno Dondoni Malacarne, from the Marion DuPont Equine Medical Center at Virginia Tech, and other researchers were curious how the weather cycles on the island affected the horse's hooves. During the rainy season, the horse's hooves are often submerged and don't get worn down; as the season transitions to summer and the dry season comes on, the soil becomes hard and wears down the hooves. The scientists were interested to learn whether the cyclical weather allows the horse's hooves to maintain themselves in a healthy manner.

They compared 12 semi-feral horse hooves to the archived lamellar tissue of eight Mangalara Marchador horses that were stalled and fed high-energy diets with lots of non-structural carbohydrates. The semi-feral horses had body condition scores of between 5 and 6; the domesticated horses had body condition scores of between 8 and 9. 

The domesticated horses received twice their maintenance requirement in digestible energy over 5 months. Half their daily energy requirements came from concentrate and the other half from forage. The scientists fed at this ratio as excess feed and confinement are common in domestic equine management in Brazil. 

Preliminary findings revealed that the semi-feral horses had healthier hooves than the horses managed in stalls and overfed; the domesticated horses had lesions in their lamellar tissue, which is consistent with the initial stages of laminitis. 

The scientists said that although the sample size was small, the results show that semi-feral horses have very different lamellar characteristics than the horses that were stalled and intensely managed. 

Read more at HorseTalk

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