Australia's Chief Scientist

Maths in real life: Horses for (maths) courses

Naomi White is a student at Box Hill TAFE in Victoria, learning about Equine Studies. Here, she outlines why maths is so important to caring for horses.

“There is maths in feeding a horse. Feed requirements and medication doses are based on the horse’s weight.

“Estimating the weight of a horse is a maths equation – it is approximately equal to the girth measurement squared, multiplied by the length of the horse from the chest to the tailbone, divided by 12,000.

“The basic feeding requirement is that you have to give the horse sufficient energy to maintain itself in the paddock.  We know that a horse can only consume 2.5% of its body weight in food every day.  Then we use ratios to make sure the mix of nutrients provides the horse with its daily requirements.”

Likewise, Manager of the Glenbrae Equestian Centre, Brian Hodgson emphasises the importance of mathematical knowledge in his job.

I’m the owner manager of Glenbrae Equestrian Centre, where we agist horses, run vocational training programs, conduct riding lessons and run competitions.  There is a great deal of mathematics involved in the things that I do on a day-to-day basis.

“The arenas for dressage competition have to be a rectangle 20 metres by 60 metres. We use Pythagoras’ Theorem to make sure we have the lengths and angles correct.  The horse’s stride length determines the distance between jumps for competition. We use spreadsheets to allocate competitors their position in the competitions and use statistical analysis for scoring.  I’ve found mathematics to be invaluable throughout my life.

“I had no idea when I was going through school how useful maths would be. It has opened up doors for me.  The further you pursue mathematics the more opportunities that are going to be open up to you in the equine industry.”

Profiles of Naomi and Brian, including videos and posters are available on the Maths Careers page, courtesy of the Australian Mathematical Sciences Institute, ICE-EM Mathematics and the Australian Government’s Department of Education, Employment and Workplace Relations.