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Tuesday, June 12, 2012

GPS and pasture grazing behavior

In 36 hours, horses traveled an average of 7 miles.

C. Clingman, W. Staniar, T. Smith, and B. McIntost. Virginia Tech

Global positioning systems (GPS) are useful tools for measuring distance, speed, and position in grazing horses. These measures were previously estimated through physical observation, which is difficult to standardize, therefore a quantifiable method of determining activity levels on pasture is needed. Improved accuracy and precision from GPS data will be a useful tool to answer questions regarding equine behavior on pasture, examine possible effects of different management strategies, and provide potentially better estimates of equine energy expenditures and requirements.

Ten Thoroughbred mares were acclimated to a 12 acres pasture. The GPS units were affixed to the horses halters and recorded data for 36 hours. Each GPS unit recorded data (speed and position) every 30 seconds.

During the first 24 hours, the horses traveled an average of 4 miles. Over the entire 36 hour period, the horses traveled an average of 7 miles. The average speed over the entire period was <1 mile per hour. Analysis of differences between night and day revealed a slight increase in both speed and distance traveled during the night.

Quantitative measurements of speed, distance, and position are exciting additions to equine nutrition and behavior research. Data from this study confirms the usefulness of small, inexpensive GPS units in equine pasture research.

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