Have you ever wondered exactly what horses stabled to a stall (box) do with their 24-hour day? One study presented at the International Society for Equitation Science (2016) set out to video record every moment for six consecutive days in the lives of 16 show jumping horses of Selle Francais or Anglo-Arabs breeding [Berthier J, Lansade L, Faustin M, and Cressent M. 24h-time-budget of sport horses housed in boxes].
Their box stall arrangement was typical of many living conditions. The horses were bedded in straw and fed 5 kg hay twice daily and concentrate three times daily. They could interact with adjacent horses through partitions. They received exercise an hour a day but otherwise were confined to their stall.
Video recorded how much time they spent eating, moving, standing still, standing at rest, and in both sternal and lateral recumbency. Also recorded was the time spent out of the box or in the box with a person.
The results showed (average and approximate percentages):
- 45% eating
- 10% standing still
- 21% sternal recumbency
- 5% lateral recumbency
- 1% moving
As expected, the horses spent more resting time at night (between 9 p.m. and 6 a.m.) and less time eating or standing still relative to these behaviors during the day.
The investigators concluded: “Although box housing does not allow horses to walk or socialize as much as in more natural housing, the time-budget of sport horses housed in boxes shows an activity rhythm similar to free-living horses.”
Alteration in these normal behavior patterns has the potential to signal the presence of health issues.