The activity rhythm can be entrained by nonphotic cues, especially food availability. Daily feeding schedules can act as “Zeitgeber” to synchronize the circadian system. In this study, the authors evaluated the influence of different feeding schedules on the daily rhythm of total locomotor activity in ponies. Six clinically healthy Shetland ponies were kept under natural 12/12-h light/dark cycle and monitored during 4 different feeding schedules: fed twice (at 8 am and 8 pm), fasted, fed at 8 pm, fed at 8 am, and fed twice a day again. Water was available ad libitum. To record total activity, we equipped the animals with actigraphy-based data loggers (Actiwatch-Mini). Two-way analysis of variance revealed a significant main effect of the time of day and no effect of feeding schedules on the amount of total locomotor activity. Locomotor activity showed daily rhythmicity in all experimental conditions, with diurnal acrophase. The amplitude of the rhythms and their robustness statistically changed across all experimental conditions. Our findings support the theory that when given essentially free choice hay, the time of feeding did not entrain activity, and suggest that feeding behavior can influence the distribution of locomotor activity during a 24-hour period in ponies, with changes in the amplitude and robustness of the rhythm.

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Journal: Journal of Veterinary Behavior. 2013 Jan 1;8(1):40-5.

Keywords: circadian rhythms, feeding schedules, horse, locomotor activity,

Applications: Veterinary,

CamNtech Reference: AM13002

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