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For Equine Vets Everywhere

Thinking outside the box: new research study reports on the use of alternative grazing systems such as tracks, Equicentral and rewilding in the UK

News Ethics and Welfare Committee
17 Mar 2021 BEVA

Every horse owner wants what is best for their horse, and a new report reveals how UK horse owners are now thinking “outside the box” to manage their horses in non-traditional ways.

Researchers at the University of Liverpool collaborated with major equine charities to document the experiences of more than 750 UK horse owners who use alternative grazing systems to manage their horse’s health and wellbeing.

The past century has seen dramatic changes in horse ownership; rather than being working animals, most of the UK’s horses are now kept as leisure animals, simply for their owners’ enjoyment. We now have a better scientific understanding of horses’ ethological behaviour and needs, and what domestic horses need in order have a good quality of life. These developments are at the heart of some owners’ decisions to move away from the traditional stable and turnout combination to try and find new ways to manage their horses and their land.

The idea of track systems, the use of tracks around the edge of field(s) with resources (such as water, hay feeders, and shelter) distributed across the space to encourage movement, have become increasingly popular in recent decade. These systems allow horses to live in groups and usually have free choice about whether to seek shelter or be outside. Other ‘non-traditional' schools of thought involve focussing on soil and pasture health in order to ensure horse health is maximised (the principles of the Equicentral system), “rewilding” land in order to encourage the creation of natural ecosystems, and turnout in woodland or moorland.

Until this collaboration, the use of these approaches had not been studied or documented in this way, and the researchers hope that releasing the report will aid the horse owning community in helping one another to learn from each other’s’ experiences in finding new ways to manage their horses’ needs.

You can read the full report here.

Or a short two-page summary here.

This report has been developed as a collaboration between the University of Liverpool and the Blue Cross, British Horse Society (BHS), British Equine Veterinary Association (BEVA), the Donkey Sanctuary, The Horse Trust, Redwings, and World Horse Welfare. We would like to thank all the participants who took time to take part in the research study.