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  • Author or Editor: Christopher C. Pollitt x
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Objective—To determine the impact of a free-choice diet on nutritional intake and body condition of feral horses.

Animals—Cadavers of 41 feral horses from 5 Australian locations.

Procedures—Body condition score (BCS) was determined (scale of 1 to 9), and the stomach was removed from horses during postmortem examination. Stomach contents were analyzed for nutritional variables and macroelement and microelement concentrations. Data were compared among the locations and also compared with recommended daily intakes for horses.

Results—Mean BCS varied by location; all horses were judged to be moderately thin. The BCS for males was 1 to 3 points higher than that of females. Amount of protein in the stomach contents varied from 4.3% to 14.9% and was significantly associated with BCS. Amounts of water-soluble carbohydrate and ethanol-soluble carbohydrate in stomach contents of feral horses from all 5 locations were higher than those expected for horses eating high-quality forage. Some macroelement and microelement concentrations were grossly excessive, whereas others were grossly deficient. There was no evidence of ill health among the horses.

Conclusions and Clinical Relevance—Results suggested that the diet for several populations of feral horses in Australia appeared less than optimal. However, neither low BCS nor trace mineral deficiency appeared to affect survival of the horses. Additional studies on food sources in these regions, including analysis of water-soluble carbohydrate, ethanol-soluble carbohydrate, and mineral concentrations, are warranted to determine the provenance of such rich sources of nutrients. Determination of the optimal diet for horses may need revision.

Full access
in American Journal of Veterinary Research


Objective—To investigate the density of the primary epidermal lamellae (PEL) around the solar circumference of the forefeet of near-term fetal feral and nonferal (ie, domesticated) horses.

Sample—Left forefeet from near-term Australian feral (n = 14) and domesticated (4) horse fetuses.

Procedures—Near-term feral horse fetuses were obtained from culled mares within 10 minutes of death; fetuses that had died in utero 2 weeks prior to anticipated birth date and were delivered from live Thoroughbred mares were also obtained. Following disarticulation at the carpus, the left forefoot of each fetus was frozen during dissection and data collection. In a standard section of each hoof, the stratum internum PEL density was calculated at the midline center (12 o'clock) and the medial and lateral break-over points (11 and 1 o'clock), toe quarters (10 and 2 o'clock), and quarters (4 and 6 o'clock). Values for matching lateral and medial zones were averaged and expressed as 1 density. Density differences at the 4 locations between the feral and domesticated horse feet were assessed by use of imaging software analysis.

Results—In fetal domesticated horse feet, PEL density did not differ among the 4 locations. In fetal feral horse feet, PEL density differed significantly among locations, with a pattern of gradual reduction from the dorsal to the palmar aspect of the foot. The PEL density distribution differed significantly between fetal domesticated and feral horse feet.

Conclusions and Clinical Relevance—Results indicated that PEL density distribution differs between fetal feral and domesticated horse feet, suggestive of an adaptation of feral horses to environment challenges.

Full access
in American Journal of Veterinary Research