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Chronobiology: Aligning Horse Training & Management with Nature

Research into natural internal rhythms in horses is unlocking information that can help in the timing of feeding, training, and other management decisions.

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By: Shannon Pratt-Phillips, Ph.D. |

Chronobiology refers to the study of periodic, internal time-keeping in animals, and is partially based on the physiological responses to light. Light and dark cycles over a 24-hour period affect the inner clock, and the physiologic responses to these photoperiods can signal the animal to eat when food is available, to rest, or to avoid predation, and thus affect behaviour. Light periods, as day lengths change throughout the year, can affect other physiologic responses, particularly breeding. A horse in the wild will have daylight signals much different from today’s highly managed horse. Dr. Barbara Murphy of the University College Dublin has conducted much of the work in the area determining how this affects our domesticated horse’s health and performance. She presented a summary of her work, Chronobiology and the Horse: Internal Timing in an Elite Athlete, at the Equine Science Society’s meeting in Asheville, NC, this past June. Equine Inner…

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