Recently there was there was a very depressing post on Facebook. It was shared, people agreed and it was all very conducive. It was shared by well respected equestrian professionals and all I could think was - can they hear themselves?
The theme was : Any shod horse should be kept separated. Individual turnout only - for their own safety and that of others.
This post suggested they had seen a few injuries (no background, no finer detail on those, obviously) so the best thing for all horses that are shod is to live alone, only able to touch the face (possibly neck) of another horse over a fence. They even made sure only that was only possible by electrifying the outside fence. THIS IS WHAT’S BEST FOR HORSES :(
It made my heart hurt.
How little does this consider the horses natural and much needed social interaction that herd animals require? as a basic Freedom, Forage & Friends. People are all up in arms when the elephant is pacing the tiny enclosure, or the lion is weaving at the cage, but when a horse fence walks or weaves in a stable, or becomes complicated due to isolation - it’s considered naughty, because it SHOULD be able to cope with the environment we force upon it. Why?
Why is it ok for horses to have such minimal safe guards around their environment?
We meet and visit many yards, people follow us and say Ooo you have a herd, I/we could never do that. The injuries, they’d kill each other, blah blah blah… Then go on to tell us that that one has suspensory issues, that one kissing spines, that one has another ongoing veterinary issue… and the list goes on… What they miss is that being in a herd, interacting as a herd creates strength and intelligence - from all that silly knobbing about, you get a great base level fitness and strength, especially with our hills plus learning, problem solving.
People are willing to let that initial fear stopping a life of happy herd life.. it makes no sense.. translate that to your own life, never fly, never drive, never leave the house… ???
We’ve only ever had a couple of intro injuries and they were just a “cut in a silly spot” type thing, nothing major at all. But those horses, stood alone in their turnout paddocks and then their stables are weak with lack of movement and interaction and all the issues that brings. Then they’re micro managed generating that learnt helplessness. This is 1000s of years of evolution we are preventing, creating behavioural, mental and physically complications.
Before I went full hippy/barefoot I had a fully shod horse on a large traditional livery yard - with stables and everything (I know!). My boy was turned out in a herd of 18, YES 18! geldings - It was super. It was a big square, about 30 acres and beautiful. The only squeaky bum time was new introductions, usually a few moments but then after that… business as usual. We suited and booted if we were worried but generally we had a few squeals, bums shown, move, run - get out the way! Horses have such incredible reflexes. They learn how to interact. There was a solid herd, they knew the routine, some times horses come, sometimes they go, but we’re ok. We always have friends. They found their own sub herds and close friends. They found their way, their place, understanding the rules and living as a functional member of society - the herd. It teaches them to move from pressure, to yield, to think. There was the odd lump, the odd scrape I expect but the chance of a life changing/ending injury is so very rare. I can’t remember one in the 3 years we were there - there were even few even minor injuries… It can be done, full hippy or shod and traditional.. It can be done..
The video below is about 4 years ago... our herd is happy, but our pasture is not... but that's another blog :o)
Our horses live out 24/7 in a barefoot herd at a livery yard we created using Equicentral Management. They loaf on a surfaced area/dry lot with hay and water, as a herd.. the very rare, odd knock, but again, horses know how to function in a herd. We also don’t (or try not to) make stupid decisions that could hinder that. We are horse centric to give them the very best chance of success at every turn. Even barefoot, the only squeaky bum time is introductions but we give our horses the greatest chance to function naturally with the greatest chance of success - thoughtfully, the way it should be.
Loafing life with hay, water and shelter with friends.
How anyone who spends anytime with horses thinks confinement and isolation is “better” for horses is incomprehensible. It may be better for you, but in no way, from a horses perspective, is it better for them to live that way. whether you are full hippy or not, your livery yard should ALWAYS provide your horse with the basic needs of a horse, Freedom, Forage & Friends.
You think after being confined ourselves over recent years we’d understand this more than ever, and we’re not even herd animals..
Long may our revolution for better horse understanding and welfare continue.
UP THE REVOLUTION!