During winter, voluntary food intake (VFI) and growth decreased in light horse weanlings given ad libitum access to a forage/concentrate diet (Cymbaluk et al, 1989). These changes were attributed to decreased ambient temperatures. However, photoperiodically entrained seasonal changes in VFI and growth are documented in other Northern ungulates (Moen, 1978) and may comprise an adaptation to changes in forage availability. Throughout their evolution, horses experienced similar environmental pressures and may demonstrate similar photoperiodic adaptations. This study characterised changes in VFI and growth in pony colts maintained under an artificial photoperiodic regime.
Seven, 2 year-old pony colts of Welsh Mountain type (182.4 ± 5.4 kg), were obtained from pasture (53°N). Animals were individually housed in loose-boxes, within a light-proof building. Measured quantities of a complete pelleted diet (gross energy = 16.7 MJ.kgDM-1), calculated to exceed appetite by at least 1 kg, were offered daily.