When horses have a large area at their disposal, strip grazing can be an option, giving the horses access to the field strip by strip. So the amount of grass they can eat is limited. This can help with weight management.
Previous research has shown that ponies on strip grazing gain less weight than ponies on free, unlimited grazing. Feed manufacturer Spillers and their researchers were curious about the amount of movement with strip grazing compared to a large field.
For this study, the behaviour and activity level of several ponies was observed using a combination of direct observation and activity trackers attached to the neck strap of the ponies’ halters. This was done for both strip grazing and large fields, while grazing alone or in groups. 10 ponies were allocated one of two adjacent paddocks. Both paddocks were the same size, managed in the same way and had the same amount of subjective, very limited grazing available. Paddock B was divided into seven strips (using electric fencing) with ponies given access to an additional fresh strip of pasture each day; ponies in paddock A had access to the entire paddock for the duration of the study.
The study showed that horses and ponies, whilst eating less with strip grazing, move the same amount as horses in a free field. As expected, with the strip grazing the ponies spent more time near the newly accessible grass strip in the first four hours after the fence was moved. A subsequent study is pending, which will investigate the effects of strip grazing on the water soluble carbohydrate (WSC) or ‘sugar’ content of grass and pasture recovery.