The Donkey Sanctuary is proud to be working with Christ Church Canterbury University, the University of Sussex, The Dartmoor Pony Heritage Trust and leading expert in natural horse management Lucinda McAlpine to undertake a new research project entitled ‘Protection from the Elements in Donkeys and Horses’.
The Donkey Sanctuary is working with a diverse team to investigate how donkeys, horses and ponies use man-made and natural shelter and how they dissipate heat under different weather conditions. The project will continue for a year and the shelter aspect involves detailed observations of over 150 donkeys and ponies experiencing all weather conditions that the UK provides during this time.
It is widely believed that donkeys are less adapted to wet, temperate climates than horses, often requiring a man-made shelter in addition to natural protection and rugs. However, to date there has been no scientific study assessing the shelter needs of donkeys. It is also evident that there is little research in to the needs of horses and ponies.
Faith Burden Head of Research at The Donkey Sanctuary says: “Investigating how donkeys and other equines use shelter throughout the seasons helps us to understand their unique needs.
"Donkeys have evolved to live in warm, dry climates and when kept in the rather damp and cool environment of the UK we are interested to learn if donkeys make use of man-made shelters when given the opportunity to stay dry and warm. In addition to rain and cold it is often reported that equines will use shelter to avoid direct sunlight and insect pests.
"By improving our understanding of the needs of donkeys and other equines for shelter we hope to help advise owners on improved management practices and to influence legislation relating to the keeping of domestic equines”.
The project aims to address two important areas; a behavioural study of shelter use and a heat loss study using infrared thermography. The results will allow The Donkey Sanctuary and its partners to determine what differing factors strongly influence the desire of donkeys and horses to seek shelter, and which features of shelter are important.