With a muddy start and a few thunder storms but on the whole Gatecombe was a very exciting show. The rain kept us on our toes with Burley beds coming to our rescue soaking up the mud around our stands. The highlight of the weekend was being there with Velegro Sunday, the sun came out he looked as stunning as ever. We had a great time and thank you to everyone who popped in to see us.
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We all want to know how to tell if our horse is getting frustrated in the stable.
Hartpury College recently carried out some initial research on small holed haynets and the HayGazer Play. They found that horses eating from a small holed hay nets had much higher frustration than a horse eating from the ground and in some cases brought about unwanted behaviours.
The same study showed that eating from a HayGrazer Play decreased the frustration more than eating from the floor. But why? Its is thought the horses use their lips to find the holes then eat between the webbing on a HayGrazer Play which is similar behavior to how they would graze naturally. Using a small holed haynet the horse tries to take a large clump of hay and the string stops the hay coming out which increases chew rates, frustration and doesn’t slow the horses eating time down significantly.
How do you measure the frustration of your horse? This is done by counting the number of blinks per minute, using a clicker which can be downloaded to your phone. Previous work by Karson et al., (1980) has shown that blink rates alter according to dopamine production by the central nervous system, therefore measuring blink rate is a good way to assess stress levels in stabled horses.
Horses can vary on their relaxed blink rate but the average horse is around 15-18 blinks per minute while weaving horse or horses showing stress related coping mechanisms tend to be about 24-27 blinks per min.
Research from several universities across the UK have been showing small holed hay nets do not significantly slow horses eating down more than from the floor and increase frustration which may be causing unwanted behavioural issues.
So how do I slow my horses eating down?
Research from Writtle college showed the horse slowed down more by placing haynets around the stable this slowed the horse down and encouraged movement more like natural grazing. You never see a horse eat from one part of the field they move around foraging.
Hartpury College found the small holed hay nets slowed their horses down a little bit but not as much as a HayGrazer Play. This is because the horse uses their lips to find the holes again more like natural grazing , but what was most interesting was the small holed hay nets increased chew rate and increased frustration and in some cases brought about unwanted behaviours. Eating from the floor lowered the frustration but the HayGrazer Play had the lowest frustration rate from all methods.
Why is the Play so good?
- The horse searches for the different shaped and sized holes keeping them mentally stimulated and more natural
- Teaches the horse to eat in between the webbing rather than string from stopping the hay coming out, this makes them search more and much kinder on their teeth and lips whilst reducing snatching.
- Top half is slow feed so the horse can get the initial bit of hay out quicker when they are hungry and as the play empties it turns to a trickle feeder.
- Hang two up for optimum stable boredom relief and slow feeding methods.
- Safer to hand much lower, deceases frustration and kinder on the muscles.
HayGrazer and Haygrazer E-Rider are at The Festival of British Eventing at Gatcombe Park with new stock
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