For Love of the Horse

Horse Keeping

I am always asked why I don’t keep my horses in a stall and why they’re turned out all the time (either in the pasture or a very large dry lot with free choice hay)
.  My response is always, “because they’re horses”.  Most people look appalled, but some are willing to listen to my “reasons” and in the end, it all makes more sense to them.

My horses live in the most natural environment I can possibly provide.  They have movement 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.  Free choice grass and/or good quality hay.  Horses are meant to live this way.  Most people don’t realize that stalling a horse (and shoeing) began way back in the Medieval Times, when walls had to be built around cities to keep enemies out.  They had no other option, as horses weren’t a luxury, rather their mode of transportation or a “tool” for survival, if you will.  They HAD to keep their horses in confined areas.  This was the only way.

As free as can be

My horses in turnout.

As time went on, people adopted this as “normal”.  Children’s books made it clear (and still do) that “horses live in stables”.  Unfortunately, this meant that it was acceptable to build a barn in the suburbs and keep horses on little to no land.  A barn with a 12×12 stall is all they need, right?  This also meant that it was acceptable to have a boarding facility that offered little to no turnout as well.  After all, horses live in stables……

Horses are meant to move.  Horses spend most of their life moving if they can choose to do so.  They prefer it.  It is imperative for their health, both physical AND mental.  A stalled horse is NOT a happy horse, regardless of common belief, and stalled horses have many more health problems and “foot problems” than horses who are turned out to move about as they choose.   Simply, they were “born” to move.

Of course, not everyone is going to take this into consideration and make sure their equine partner has adequate turnout, but its food for thought for those considering purchasing a horse, knowing movement will be limited.  After all, it’s not about us; it’s about what is best for the horses.  Right?

My herd is healthy and happy.  Mentally, they are all content.  They have no bad habits and are easier to handle on a daily basis than horses that are confined.  They are able to run and play and move about as they wish.  Yes, I’m fortunate enough to have enough land to provide this for them, but I wouldn’t own horses in any other environment because it isn’t about me owning a horse, it’s about the horse living a happy and healthy life, as free as they can possibly be.  My horses tell me that THIS is good horse keeping and that movement is essential.  Who am I to argue?  After all, it’s THEIR life.