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Sweets make young horses harder to train in Montana State study
Date:8/15/2008

BOZEMAN, Mont. -- Young horses may be easier to train if they temporarily lay off the sweets, says a Montana State University study where two-year-olds wore pedometers, wrist watches and Ace bandages.

A commercial mixture of corn, oats, barley and molasses -- sometimes called "sweet grain" or "sweet feed" -- gives horses the glossy coat and lively spirit that makes them attractive to prospective buyers, said Jan Bowman, an animal nutritionist at MSU.

But the extra energy provided by sweet grain during the early stages of training made the horses in MSU's study more disobedient and fearful than horses that only ate hay, Bowman said. The grain-eaters spent more time resisting the saddle. They startled easier. They bucked and ran more during training.

Early training, which usually lasts about 30 days, gives young horses the foundation they need for more advanced training, Bowman said. They learn to move sideways on command, for example. They learn how to move their front or hind feet in any direction.

"Results suggest that trainers under time constraints could increase their training effectiveness during the early stages of training by not feeding excess dietary energy," Wade Black wrote in a paper that will be submitted later this year to the "Journal of Animal Science."

Black -- a horse trainer, instructor for the MSU Colt Starting class and one of Bowman's graduate students -- came up with the idea for the study when he was an undergraduate in her equine nutrition class, Bowman said. She and Black then conducted experiments during the summer of 2007. Black presented their findings to the American Society of Animal Science in June this year. He is still analyzing some of the data to see how the grain affected the horses' adrenaline during training.

The study involved 12 closely-related quarter horses that came from one Idaho ranch, Bowman said. Black trained the horses for three weeks, five days a week at M
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Contact: Evelyn Boswell
evelynb@montana.edu
406-994-5135
Montana State University
Source:Eurekalert

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