Horses show preference for rolling areas – research

Up and at em! Horses love a good roll in the dirt, Japanese researchers say.
Up and at 'em! Horses love a good roll in the dirt, Japanese researchers say.

Japanese researchers have found horses have a definite preference for a good roll in soil.

Their findings, published in the Journal of Equine Veterinary Science, indicate that horses are likely to use an area for rolling should their owners choose to develop one.

Kanji Matsui and his colleagues investigated the benefits of providing specific rolling areas for grazing horses.

Their work was carried out at the Education and Research Centre of Alpine Field Science, Faculty of Agriculture, at Shinshu university.

Four native Japanese Kiso horses were included in the study, the latest Equine Science Update reports.

The researchers observed the horses’ behaviour in paddocks with and without rolling areas made of different substrates.

Two experimental paddocks were available for grazing, each 120 metres by 60 metres.

One paddock, the control, contained pasture only; the other contained three rolling areas, each 5 metres by 5 metres and made from different materials – dry soil, sand or straw.

The researchers found that horses tended to roll more often, but for less time overall, in the rolling paddock compared with the control paddock. The difference, however, was not significant.

Horses spent significantly less time rolling in the rolling paddock than they did in the control paddock. Most of the rolling took place in the constructed rolling areas.

The researchers said this indicated the absolute preference of horses for rolling areas.

The horses appeared to prefer rolling on the dry soil area, rather than on either the sand or straw.

The researchers concluded that “offering a rolling area encourages horses to roll in these areas and keeps the pasture in good condition.”

They recommended that rolling areas be provided in pasture for horses and that these rolling areas be constructed of soil.


Do horses prefer certain substrates for rolling in grazing pasture?
K Matsui, AM Khalil, K-i Takeda
J Equine Vet Sci (2009) 29, 590-594

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