Your Turn: The great outdoors
Kelsea Brockmeier makes a convincing argument for letting your horse be a horse, living in as close to a natural state as possible while still having access to civilization when necessary.
I want to clarify–this is NOT pasture board. Diesel has his own stall, as do all of the horses at our barn. The stall gives us some extra security in various situations, since run-ins don’t really work with 12 horses.
We choose this schedule for many reasons. Although Diesel is CLEARLY a domesticated horse (whether he believes it or not), there are some parts of a natural lifestyle that we try to maintain. He doesn’t get close to the 25 miles a day that wild horses move, but he is able to get around quite a bit, which is very good for his health, both mentally and physically.
Although Diesel has always lived this way, many horses have successfully made the transition. Victoria Adkins, a horse trainer/barn owner in North Carolina, made the decision to move her horses to a more natural lifestyle after years of living in a show barn. She explains, “I can conclusively say that I have less lameness, fewer digestive disorders (like colic) and fewer vices (wood chewing, pacing, digging) than in either of the scenarios with less turnout.”
Watching horses in a more natural habitat can help us as horsepeople as well. Adkins finds this to be exceptionally true. She says, “As a horseman, watching the horses work within their herd dynamic has taught me more about how to work with them, than any other instructor I’ve ever had. By following the rules they set among themselves, they understand me better. Periodic turnout or turnout with one or two other horses isn’t going to provide us with that important piece of education.”
One of the major worries from horse owners is that their horse will get injured if it spends a lot of time outside, which is a perfectly normal thought to have. However, if horses get extended turnout, they are less likely to run around like wildebeests and trample you like Mufasa when they are turned out. Ninety percent of the time, I see all 12 of our horses casually eating grass, walking around lazily. (The other 10 percent is spent sleeping).
You may think, “You are insane! Mr. Cuddleton (or whatever) would never survive with so many other horses and your horse is going to die, too!” I admit–there IS a pecking order. My sweet little boy is right at the bottom of our totem pole and he has managed to survive almost 10 years there! That isn’t to say that he hasn’t gotten any scratches or bumps, but he’s never been seriously hurt by another horse.
No matter what your discipline or philosophy, I hope you will consider giving your horse a considerable amount of turnout. Go outside and go riding!
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