How do we care for our horses?
How could we care for our horses?
We care for our horses the best that we are able to. We provide the most we can afford and what we feel or have been taught is the best for them. I want to share with you what I have found works to provide safe, stimulating, and mentally and physically healthy environments for our horses.
First off, horses need to move! Let them out of those stalls. I feel their ultimate well being and happiness is dependent on movement. They weren't designed to stand all day but to move. I have a feeling that the incidence of colic is dramatically reduced when horses are moving outside all day long and all night. There is a level of stress placed upon a horse that spends time outside and then brought into a stall or kept solely in a stall. I like horses to have somewhat of a schedule but they tend to 'know' when they come in or out, and get fed. This can lead to stress if those things don't happen at the time they expect them to happen. Not to mention there are horses that display behaviors in stalls (chewing, cribbing, pacing, weaving, etc.) that tell us they are not happy being confined.
Confinement also reduces physical connection with other horses. Where some may feel their horse would get hurt if with other horses, I have seen far more horses harming themselves when they are by themselves! Yes they can quarrel and yes they can hurt each other but I have a herd of 4 and I have never had a severe injury (trust me I have alpha mares in my herd and they live together peacefully). Now you can't just throw all your horses out without knowing their personalities. Just like people we are all individuals and some individuals get along better than others. You have to find the right balance of horses, number, age, and sex that work well together with your situation.
So for turnout, let's talk. Where any turnout is better than none, I would like to see a turnout that stimulates them to move and interact. I have 2 pastures and a dry lot, there are trees, rocks, shelter, and creek bed that sometimes floods. Not everyone has this but do what you can to enhance the sensory experience of your pasture. If you put jolly balls out there and scratching posts they will have fun.
Different types of turnout
Pasture- This turnout has grass in it and hopefully is sustainable for your horses. Lush pasture is nice and looks great but truth be told, can be dangerous for horses to consume. Most of the grasses in pastures where horses are kept are stressed or designed for cattle. This kind of grass is higher in sugars. These sugars can be part of the problem with laminitic, founder, IR, and metabolic horses. On the resource page there is a link that will talk about grass for horses.
Small pen- This would be the size of a stall or maybe double the size of a stall. This turnout is good for recovering horses that can't be moving very much due to injury. I don't prefer this small of a space for healthy horses as it is not enough room for them to adequately move and get exercise on their own.
Dry lot- This can be of varying size. I like to have a large lot where horses can run and buck and explore with out the dangers of grass. It is also very handy when the weather makes the ground all mushy, it will save your pasture.
Track- This is a great turnout that maximizes movement. The track would not have grass available and hay would be spread all around the track. This encourages horses to move from pile to pile. It keeps them busier eating their food longer. It is generally 20 feet wide and provides enough space for horses passing by without threatening another eating horse.
No matter your turnout, shelter and water must always be provided and food as you would normally feed. I love the track system but my set up doesn't quite allow for it. So, in an effort to keep my horses moving I spread hay all over their turnout.
Horse's hooves adapt to the environment in which they live. To have strong healthy hooves, a dry, hard, clean ground is ideal. I also like variety. It challenges them to think about foot placement and strengthens sinews. "If you don't use it you lose it" kind of mentality. If you don't strengthen their hooves, they can properly support your ride on a rocky trail without the use of boots. Picking up the manure in your turnouts will go a long way to keeping your horses feet healthy and free from fungus and bacterial infections, and reduce parasite load.
Water, seems like a simple thing to provide your horse with. I just want to share a few thoughts on this very simple matter of fact essential for life. Clean water is a must. Scrubbing and cleaning out those tanks and buckets helps reduce algae and bacteria from forming. Horses will drink out of algae infested water if they have no other choice but clean water is ideal. Algae is more of a problem in the summer than the winter due to the heat and stagnation of the water. Cleaning them out with substances that are safe for horses(such as vinegar) is important. Some people feel horses do just fine in the winter with water that isn't warmed. I feel that most horses will drink ice cold water if that is their only choice. However, incidences of colic happen in the winter due to dehydration. So tank heaters I feel is a must in the winter. I know they run up the electric bill but I would rather pay more in electricity bills than a bill for colic surgery. You can always look into solar heating to reduce electricity costs.
Feeding hay all spread out keeps them moving. I have found that it keeps dominant horses from hogging all the food, slows down consumption rate, and reduces incidences of choke and colic. They have food moving in their digestive system more regularly instead of a large quantity at breakfast and dinner.
Using slow feeder hay bags or nets is an awesome option. Not only is it something different to engage in, it slows how much a horse can ingest at a time.
The slow feeders keep food in front of horses longer (if fed 3 loose flakes it would be gone in an hour or so, with the slow feeders it takes her about 3-4 hours to consume). It can reduce fights with other horses to consume as much as possible. They can take their time eating and not feel like they will run out before the others finish. Total daily eating time can go from 2 hours to 8 hours. They are much happier. They are more content and don't pick on each other and don't get into things (chewing on water trough, foraging under the fence etc.) as much. And I feel they can better digest their food when it is slowly, steadily coming in as opposed to gorging twice a day.
*This website is for informational use only. It is in no way intended to diagnose, treat, or cure and is not to replace traditional veterinary care. The information described is from my experiences and observations.
Green grass is always appealing. It looks yummy to us and our horses. With spring comes the dangers of grass.
Grass is feared by the caretakers of easy keepers and laminitic horses. This food source has carbohydrates in the form of sugar. Sugar can pose serious issues for horse owners. Not only do our horses pack on the pounds on grass the sugar cause an increase of inflammation in the body. This inflammation can result in laminitis. Typically, horses that are having minor bouts of laminitis that may or may not go unnoticed will have growth rings showing after consuming grass.
Reducing grass consumption by limiting turnout on grass or using grazing muzzles is important. Some horses do well with muzzles and others do not. The muzzle will still allow them to eat and drink but the eating will be very limited.