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  • Writer's pictureSara

EQUINEWS #2 The life of a harem over the course of 24 hours.

Welcome to our blog EQUINEWS dedicated to horses and equine science! Are you passionate about horses and eager to discover the latest information from scientific studies? This is the perfect place for you. We are here to provide you with an informative and engaging platform, where we will share research and discoveries ranging from horse behavior to nutrition, from health to training. We will explore the scientific aspects that underpin the relationship between humans and these magnificent animals. Our goal is to offer accurate and accessible content for horse owners, enthusiasts, and professionals to deepen their understanding of horses and improve their well-being. Embark on a journey through equine science and be captivated by these incredible and marvelous animals!

Let's imagine, in broad terms, the life of a wild harem over the course of 24 hours.

Firstly, the harem consists of a stallion as the family leader and his three mares, whom he has conquered one by one since leaving the group of young stallions. There are also around half a dozen foals, ranging from the youngest born this year to those up to 2 or 3 years old. A day in the life of a harem begins at dawn when the surrounding area is illuminated by the light. The horses wake up from their nighttime rest and start grazing. While grazing, the members of the group disperse while remaining within a few dozen meters of each other, with the younger ones staying close to their respective mothers. The stallion, on the other hand, stays apart, ensuring that the group stays together and watching over the herd's safety. He will signal an alert or initiate a flight response in the presence of danger. After grazing for a while, the foals become restless, especially the young males, and engage in various social and behavioral activities, from playing to simulated combat. Even the younger ones play among themselves while staying close to their mothers, regularly returning to nurse. During the hottest hours of the day, when the sun is high in the sky, the horses rest by standing still with semi-closed eyes, relaxed muscles, their necks and heads lowered toward the ground. Sometimes they stand head-to-tail or lean their muzzles against another horse's side, or they squat down. The foals, on the other hand, lie down on their sides and enter a deeper sleep. During this resting period, they may also take care of their personal hygiene by rolling on the ground to remove dirt or bothersome insects or engage in mutual grooming (allogrooming). In inclement weather, the horses seek shelter in a nearby forest and remain still with their hindquarters facing the wind. It's important to note that depending on the weather conditions, horses seek shelter from the wind, rain, sun, or attacks by insects (horseflies). After the siesta or bad weather, the horses resume their primary activity of grazing, and the foals begin playing again among themselves. In the late afternoon or evening, the horses start moving towards a water source several kilometers away. They proceed in a single-file line, with each mare followed by her foals from the smallest to the largest. Before reaching the water source, the herd stops and waits for the group that is drinking to finish. The drinking period lasts approximately 10-15 minutes, but none of them leave until the last horse has finished drinking. They then resume their journey back in single-file towards the grazing area, their "vital territory" where they reside permanently. They begin grazing again, interrupting it with periods of standing rest that become progressively longer. As the night grows deeper, they lie down or crouch, but not all at once, for a deeper rest that can last up to an hour. The other horses remain standing guard, watching over the rest of the group to ensure collective safety. Thus, a wild harem's entire day revolves around a balance of social activities, feeding, movement, and rest. Each member of the group plays an important role in maintaining the cohesion and protection of the herd. By living in harmony with nature, horses manage to satisfy their basic needs and preserve the social dynamics that characterize life in the wild. The horse is not a territorial animal; each group of horses (harem or bachelor groups) lives in a "vital territory" that may overlap with the territory of other groups. These territories can range from less than a kilometer to several kilometers, depending on food and water availability, climate, and seasons. True migrations are rare. In general, horses tend to stay in the area where they were raised and do not show a particular interest in exploration.

Here is a list of the main activities of a wild harem, along with an approximate estimate of the hours dedicated to each activity during the course of a day: - Grazing and feeding: 12-15 hours. Horses spend most of their time grazing, with the females grazing longer than the stallion. - Rest and sleep: 5-6 hours. Foals sleep more than adults. - Various activities: 2-4 hours. While grazing, horses interact with each other, engaging in social activities such as mutual grooming, playing, grooming, courtship, guarding, etc. The stallion has twice as much active time as the mares since he acts as the herd's guardian. - Displacements: 2-3 hours. Horses always move at a walking pace and in single-file. Trotting and galloping occur as needed, in three situations: fleeing from danger, stallion conflicts, and play among young males.

It's important to note that these estimates are only approximate and can vary depending on the season, climate, and other environmental factors. The life of a wild harem is influenced by the primal needs of survival, feeding, reproduction, and social cohesion.

Understanding the life of wild horses is essential for recreating the best living conditions within a stable and ensuring a quality of life that respects the horse's ethology.

It's evident that a life spent in a box and solitude starkly contrasts with the horse's basic needs, as well as receiving three meals a day and having limited access to fiber. Human requirements must first and foremost consider the horse's fundamental needs; otherwise, the horse's well-being will not be respected.

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