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Evaluation of the Feasibility, Reliability, and Repeatability of Welfare Indicators in Free-Roaming Horses: A Pilot Study

Ingestion of Soil by Grazing Sport Horses

UR Animal et Fonctionnalités des Produits Animaux (URAFPA), Université de Lorraine—INRAE, F-54000 Nancy, France
Department of Biological Sciences, Faculty of Science and Engineering, University of Limerick, V94 T9PX Limerick, Ireland
Author to whom correspondence should be addressed.
Academic Editors: Carol Hall and Anne Stevenson
Animals 2021, 11(7), 2109;
Received: 21 June 2021 / Revised: 9 July 2021 / Accepted: 15 July 2021 / Published: 15 July 2021
(This article belongs to the Special Issue The Sustainable Equine)
Soil ingestion has been well documented for the majority of outside reared animals but not in horses. As soil can be a vector of environmental pollutants, such studies generally aim at controlling exposure to pollutant uptake in food producing animals. In horses, ingestion of soil may cause gastrointestinal disorders such as sand colic or intestinal damage. Therefore, soil ingestion has been studied in Irish sport horses grazing at three levels of herbage offer: 2, 3 or 4% of their body weight. Their soil intake was around 4% of the totally ingested dry matter corresponding to 543 to 648 g of dry soil per animal per day, which is quite similar to cattle in normal grazing conditions. Such amounts would clearly be an issue for food safety in areas with contaminated soil but also an animal welfare issue due to gastrointestinal damage. The height of the pastured grass sward seems to be a reliable criterion to indicate the level of risk of soil intake when horses graze short herbage in close proximity to the ground surface and should be moved to a new paddock.
Data on soil ingestion in horses are lacking in contrast to other free-range animals. The importance of soil as a vector for environmental pollutants to food is less relevant in horses but several disorders secondary to soil ingestion, such as sand colic or enteritis have been reported. Therefore, soil ingestion has been studied on Irish sport horses grazing at three offered levels of daily herbage: 2, 3 and 4% of their body weight. Soil ingestion was estimated by the faecal recovery of a soil natural marker. Horses had 4.5, 4.1 and 3.7% of soil in their total intake respectively for the 2, 3 and 4% herbage offers. The 4% offer presented significantly less intake (543 g/d) compared to the more restricted offers (624 and 648 g respectively for 3 and 2%). The post-grazing sward height was significantly lower on the 2% offer (3.1 cm) compared to the higher offers (4.1 and 4.4 cm respectively for 3 and 4%). Thus, restricted herbage allowance made grazing closer to the ground and increased soil ingestion. The sward height appeared to be a reliable indicator to manage animal withdrawal from a pasture to limit soil ingestion and the risk of gastrointestinal pathologies caused by it. View Full-Text
Keywords: soil ingestion; equids; herbage offer; health; pasture; welfare soil ingestion; equids; herbage offer; health; pasture; welfare
MDPI and ACS Style

Jurjanz, S.; Collas, C.; Quish, C.; Younge, B.; Feidt, C. Ingestion of Soil by Grazing Sport Horses. Animals 2021, 11, 2109.

AMA Style

Jurjanz S, Collas C, Quish C, Younge B, Feidt C. Ingestion of Soil by Grazing Sport Horses. Animals. 2021; 11(7):2109.

Chicago/Turabian Style

Jurjanz, Stefan, Claire Collas, Carol Quish, Bridget Younge, and Cyril Feidt. 2021. "Ingestion of Soil by Grazing Sport Horses" Animals 11, no. 7: 2109.

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