I’ve had it said to me on many occasions that wild horses move more than 30 miles per day… I wanted to know if that was true and what the impact is on domesticated horses, many of which are stabled.
Firstly, I set about a poll. I was interested to know what other equestrians thought and what the general consensus would be.
Question: How far do you think your horse needs to walk per day?
Results vs Study
The results seemed to tie in with my knowledge, it made me wonder. If the majority of equines believe the same, are we right? I spent some time researching online, I read a few studies but I couldn’t find much research that easily. I did however come across an interesting entry in the Australian Veterinary Journal from 2010 Monitoring distances travelled by horses using GPS tracking collars
It’s widely known in the science-based community that horses spend 16-18hrs per day foraging and browsing, but what does that equate to in kilometers? The study revealed that feral horses move approximately 18km per day. This was in unconfined pasture, the distance changed based on the location of the herd studied.
Pictured: Horse at pasture time budget.
What was eye opening was comparing this to domesticated horses, especially within different management styles. Un-worked horses in a 10 acre field traveled on average just 7.5km/day. Over half less than their feral friends. The study also tested different paddock designs of the same size including round, maze and open, the results showed very similar distances.
The un-worked pastured horses distance was compared to horses stabled and in work. The racing industry horses were estimated to move less than 50% that the unworked horses in pasture within a 24hr period. Additionally, it was estimated that horses used in arena training in such disciplines as dressage moved 75% less than the un-worked horses at pasture during a 24hr period.
I had to let that sink in a little…. wild horses moving 18km per day in comparison so some (I stress some) stalled horses moving between 3km and 4km/day. Even when we compare those figures with the horses at pasture, we see a huge decrease in movement.
Why is Movement Important?
Movement is essential for all life. It aids digestion, proper blood circulation and lymphatic fluid circulation as well as being important for your horse’s emotional health.
I hope you find this information helpful when you think about your own horses management situations. If you think your horse isn’t getting the chance to move enough or this article raises concerns for your horses management it’s important not to punish yourself…you can’t go back and change the beginning, but you can start where you are and change the ending.
How can we help our horses?
- Give your horses as much space as possible to move all year round, daily turnout or 24/7 turnout.
- Get out of the arena and take your horse for a walk or light hack if no grazing is available.
- Play games with your horse.
- Enrich the environment as much as possible to ensure maximum movement when stalled. Placing toys, forage and water at opposite ends of the stable.
- Move yards, if your yard doesn’t cater for your horses needs it doesn’t hurt to look around at what else is available.