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Article

Studying the Shape Variations of the Back, the Neck, and the Mandibular Angle of Horses Depending on Specific Feeding Postures Using Geometric Morphometrics

1
Department of Veterinary Sciences, University of Turin, 10095 Grugliasco, Italy
2
Department of Life Sciences and Systems Biology, via Accademia Albertina 13, 10123 Torino, Italy
*
Author to whom correspondence should be addressed.
Academic Editor: Chris W. Rogers
Animals 2021, 11(3), 763; https://doi.org/10.3390/ani11030763
Received: 8 February 2021 / Revised: 5 March 2021 / Accepted: 8 March 2021 / Published: 10 March 2021
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Equine Nutrition)
Many feeding devices such as hay nets are used to increase the time horses spend feeding on hay. However, when hay nets are used, the horse is often forced to keep unnatural feeding positions. Geometric morphometrics was applied to describe the shape variations of back and neck postures as well as the variations of the mandibular angle according to specific positions adopted during hay feeding: on the ground—control position (CP); neck held 15 ± 3° below withers height with low hay net position (LP); neck held 15 ± 3° above withers height with high hay net position (HP). Our results showed that the back and neck postures as well as the mandibular angle were different in HP compared to CP. Moreover, LP showed that the back posture more closely resembled the shape exhibited by horses feeding from CP; however, no similarity was recorded for neck posture and mandibular angle. Our findings suggest that more attention should be paid when horses keep an unnatural feeding position in comparison to when hay nets are used, since the back and neck postures as well as the mandibular angle can be altered especially when horses are forced to eat with a neck held at 15 ± 3° above the withers.
The effects of specific feeding positions upon the horse’s shape variations of the back and neck postures as well as the variations of the mandibular angle have never been objectively studied. For this reason, geometric morphometrics was applied. Six horses, aged 14 ± 8 years (mean ± standard deviation, SD), were video-recorded while using three different feeding positions: on the ground—control position (CP); neck held 15 ± 3° below withers height with low hay net position (LP); neck held 15 ± 3° above withers height with high hay net position (HP). Data were analyzed using principal component analysis (PCA), multivariate analysis of variance (MANOVA), and partial least squares (PLS). A mixed model procedure was applied to evaluate differences in the magnitude of the mandibular angle. Whilst differences between individual horses were confirmed by canonical variate analysis (CVA), PCA analysis showed that a characteristic feeding position could also be identified on a group level. During the HP hay net position, the back and neck postures as well the mandibular angle were different compared to those exhibited by horses feeding from CP. In LP hay net position, the back posture more closely resembled those exhibited while feeding from CP; however, no similarity between LP and CP was found for neck posture and mandibular angle. Since only a few degrees of variation of the feeding position can influence back and neck postures, this aspect should be further investigated. The right compromise between horse welfare, horse safety, and management practices need to be further explored and long-term effects should be investigated. View Full-Text
Keywords: horse; hay nets; feeding positions; postures; welfare horse; hay nets; feeding positions; postures; welfare
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MDPI and ACS Style

Raspa, F.; Roggero, A.; Palestrini, C.; Marten Canavesio, M.; Bergero, D.; Valle, E. Studying the Shape Variations of the Back, the Neck, and the Mandibular Angle of Horses Depending on Specific Feeding Postures Using Geometric Morphometrics. Animals 2021, 11, 763. https://doi.org/10.3390/ani11030763

AMA Style

Raspa F, Roggero A, Palestrini C, Marten Canavesio M, Bergero D, Valle E. Studying the Shape Variations of the Back, the Neck, and the Mandibular Angle of Horses Depending on Specific Feeding Postures Using Geometric Morphometrics. Animals. 2021; 11(3):763. https://doi.org/10.3390/ani11030763

Chicago/Turabian Style

Raspa, Federica, Angela Roggero, Claudia Palestrini, Martina Marten Canavesio, Domenico Bergero, and Emanuela Valle. 2021. "Studying the Shape Variations of the Back, the Neck, and the Mandibular Angle of Horses Depending on Specific Feeding Postures Using Geometric Morphometrics" Animals 11, no. 3: 763. https://doi.org/10.3390/ani11030763

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