Stay-at-home horses abound in New Zealand – research

New Zealand research reveals the country has a significant number of stay-at-home horses.
New Zealand research reveals the country has a significant number of stay-at-home horses.

Researchers have taken a snapshot of horse movements on non-commercial equine properties in New Zealand, revealing that 38 percent had no horses leave the premises in the previous year.

Researchers from New Zealand’s Massey University set out to investigate property-level factors associated with the movement of horses from non-commercial horse properties, including the size and location of the property, the number of horses, and the reason for keeping them.

Sarah Rosanowski and her colleagues mailed 2912 questionnaires to randomly selected non-commercial horse properties listed in a rural property database.

Respondents were questioned on horse movements relating to the property in the previous 12 months.

In total, 791 people returned the survey, reporting on 5322 horses in all.

Sixty-two percent reported at least one movement event in the year prior to the survey, for a total of 22,050 movement events.

The researchers found that the number of movements from a property varied significantly by the number of horses on the property, while the median distance travelled per property varied significantly by both region and property size.

The region, property size, the number of horses kept, and the keeping of horses for competition, recreation, racing or as pets were all significantly associated with movements.

The researchers, whose findings were published in the New Zealand Veterinary Journal, said the study showed that there were clear characteristics of non-commercial horse properties that influenced movement behaviour.

“During an exotic disease outbreak the ability to identify properties with these characteristics for targeted control will enhance the effectiveness of control measures,” they wrote.

The researchers noted that, in contrast to food production industries, which have predominantly one-way stock movements, the movement of horses tended to be two-way, or return.

The questionnaire used in the study was sent to properties in November 2009.

For properties that reported a movement event, the greatest number were reported on small properties and the fewest on large properties.

Properties that kept horses for competition and recreation had the greatest number of movements, while properties keeping horses for work, or as pets, had the fewest.

The number of movements varied significantly depending on the number of horses on the property, with properties with one or two horses having the lowest median number of movement events, compared to those keeping more than two horses.

“There were significant differences in the number of movement events from properties that kept horses for competition, recreation, work, or as pets, compared with properties that did not keep horses for these reasons,” the researchers reported.

“Properties that kept horses for competition had a median of 34 movement events over the previous 12 months, compared with a median of six movement events for properties that did not keep horses for competition.”

The median distance travelled was highest for medium-sized properties and lowest for small properties.

A total of 62 percent of respondents indicated that horses had been moved off their property on at least one occasion during the past 12 months. This was in general agreement with overseas studies, the researchers noted.

The researchers defined a movement as the transportation of a horse off a property by truck or by trailer. It did not include ridden horses being hacked around the local roads.

SM Rosanowski , N Cogger , CW Rogers , CF Bolwell , J Benschop & MA Stevenson (2013): Analysis of horse movements from non-commercial horse properties in New Zealand, New Zealand Veterinary Journal, DOI:10.1080/00480169.2012.750571


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