Dietary management of horses and ponies in New Zealand

Worldwide, a large population of horses and ponies are used for pleasure riding and companionship. Recent studies in the USA, Canada, UK and Australia, have provided information on the feeding practices, management and health of recreational horses and ponies. Little is known about the health and management of these pleasure riding horses and ponies in New Zealand. It is believed that stable hindgut microbe population is desirable in horses. However, we have limited data on the change in horses' hindgut microflora under normal pasture management in New Zealand. 

This project consists of a series of studies conducted to examine dietary management of horses and ponies in New Zealand. The first part of the project aims to collect data on the health, nutrition and management practices of pony club horses and ponies in New Zealand. The second part of the project aims to investigate the effect of different types of diet on the microbial population in the hindgut of horses.

Project update

A cross-sectional survey on the health and management of horses and ponies at Pony Clubs throughout New Zealand was conducted. The survey was available online between November 2012 and January 2013 and received over 500 responses. Overall the results of this study showed that pony club horses in New Zealand were predominantly healthy and proactively managed by experienced owners. To follow on from this survey, a field study involving rider interviews and physical examination of horses and ponies located in the Manawatu region was carried out during late spring 2012 and autumn 2013. The study identified that horses and ponies kept on pasture maintained body weight and condition from spring to autumn. 

The second part of the project involved an investigation of the effects of abrupt dietary transition on the faecal microbiota of forage-fed horses over a 3-week period. Yearlings were exclusively fed either an ensiled conserved forage-grain diet or pasture for three weeks prior to the study. After the Day 0 faecal samples were collected, half of the horses  were abruptly transitioned to pasture.  The initial differences observed appeared to be linked to recent dietary history, with the bacterial community of the forage-fed horses responding rapidly to abrupt dietary change.



Pasture horses

Want to know more?

Contact David Thomas for more information on this project, which is co-supervised by Chris Rogers and Erica Gee.


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