Effect of Season on Travel Patterns and Hoof Growth of Domestic Horses

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Four Morgan mares and five Morgan geldings ranging in age from 5- to 12-years-old were fitted with Global Positioning System units to determine if season has an influence on travel pattern. Body and hoof growth measurements were obtained so that the influence of season on body condition and hoof growth could be determined. Waist and heart circumference, cresty neck score, and body condition score were determined in each season. The ambient temperature and precipitation was recorded for each season. Waist circumference was the greatest (P < .05) in the spring and summer and the least in the fall and winter. Hoof growth was the greatest (P < .05) in the fall and the least in the winter. The front and rear hooves grew at similar rates in all horses. Hoof growth in geldings and mares were also similar. The average distances traveled were similar across seasons; however, the horse did numerically travel more in the spring and summer compared with the fall and winter. The range of the travel pattern was influenced by season with the horses traveling significantly less in the winter, although the average travel distances were similar. In conclusion, season in temperate zones will influence body condition, hoof growth, and pattern of travel, but the total distance traveled will be similar. Further research needs to be conducted to determine the influence of season on hoof growth and travel patterns.

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