Gebäude 21, 1. OG
+49 30 838 62901
Nearly 100 feral „Liebenthaler-Horses“, which come from the crossbreeding of Fjord-Horses and Koniks from 40 years ago, are kept on an 80 ha enclosed nature reserve north of Berlin. The whole group of horses consists of at least 6 families and one group of young stallions. The horses have sporadic contact with humans, e.g. during checks of the drinking trough and the fence. Over one year, 24-hour observations were carried out three times each month. The pasture was mapped with GPS and divided into functional areas. The actual behaviours and locations of the horses in the pasture were documented by using 15-min instantaneous scan sampling. Simultaneously, all climatic data were measured with a mobile weather recording device. The data referring to the usage of pasture were analyzed with a Geographic Information System (GIS), and the behaviour pattern data with ArcView 3.3.
The horses used the weather protection of trees to seek shelter during grazing and resting only at nighttime and when temperatures were less than 5°C. When the sun was shining and temperatures were below 5°C, the horses grazed and rested in open areas independently of the wind strength. In contrast to the low temperatures, temperatures of over 25°C mainly prompted the horses not to use available shade. On average 70-80% of the horses grazed or rested in the direct sunlight. If the wind was higher than 3 m/s, weather protected areas were mainly preferred for resting; especially, when the wind was accompanied with heavy rainfall, approximately 60% of the horses could be observed in lee areas.
Keeping horses on pasture under continental climatic conditions during all seasons demands an exact evaluation and analysis of the provided pasture to address the requirements of animal welfare. According to this study, the well-being of the animals requires either natural climatic protection by groups of trees, hedges, or the edge of a forest, or by an artificial weather protection system in open areas to provide shelter from wetness, wind or coldness. Useful artificial weather protection systems may be wind barriers, roofs, and three-walled weather refuges.