The argument over whether the horse is "livestock" or a "companion animal" is ongoing throughout the world, and for various reasons lawmakers are grappling with the issue. As an animal not involved directly with food production, the horse has perhaps been left behind in some research areas. But today, with the number of recreational equine enthusiasts growing, and the ongoing use of the horse in amateur and professional sport, the overall equine industry is benefiting from advanced research into health, husbandry, behaviour and biology of the horse.
In Emerging Equine Science, the first book from the BSAS involving horses, information from many research projects and studies are brought into one volume. There is something of interest for all horse owners, be they professional or pleasure enthusiasts.
There are 41 chapters on many topics, including behaviour and vices, nutrition, breeding, physiology, event sponsorship, progeny performance, and more. The below examples are just a cross-section.
Among the nutrition-related studies is: the relationship between crude protein intake and water intake in forage-based diets; reducing fecal output and increasing digestion; the feeding of oils and which may be more beneficial; feeding side preferences (which feed bucket the horse chooses); the relationship between crib-biting and stomach condition (ulcers) in foals; and equine forages and grassland management.
There are several behaviour-related chapters, including the causes of stereotypy (or vices); preventing or minimising vices; how odours affect the horse; the relationship between pre-weaning behaviour and race performance in thoroughbreds, and another interesting study is titled 'gender differences in cognition and perception may affect equine performance'. The authors noted "the majority of owners and riders ... to have a preference toward using male horses as the chosen competition animal". The study is still ongoing but the authors are attempting to ascertain whether male and female horses perceive objects differently - for example, showjumping fences. Thus far, with 62 subjects being put through their paces, the males are performing "significantly better".
The same trio of authors, from the University of Limerick in Ireland, also studied 'gender differences in equine visuo-spatial ability'. They noted that "superior visuo-spatial ability has been reported in males of all species investigated to date". In the horse study, the results were the same.
In the breeding area, the occurrence and outcome of twinning in thoroughbred mares is explored; factors influencing the selection of mares for embryo recipients; the grey gene in thoroughbred horses, and the development of modern breeding technologies.
Stay tuned for more interesting and useful volumes from the BSAS.