Many of the situations in which we keep horses mean that it’s not possible for them to be turned out all the time. We therefore need to think of ways of making their time in the stable more ‘natural’. For example, think of how the horse interacts with his surroundings when within a herd. He likes to be able to see around him and to see his herd-mates. Horses prefer to be in light, airy stables where they can see out, and preferably where they can see, and even touch, other horses. Stables such as these below are not natural for horses as they are dark and there is no view of the outside:
By contrast the stables below are preferable as they allow the horse to see much more of what is going on and give him some outdoor space:
It is also a good idea to have the doors of the stables close enough to one another so that the horses can reach out and touch noses:
However, stabling is never ideal. A recent study by Nottingham Trent University showed that stabled and isolated horses suffer higher stress levels and are harder to manage. Humans think that stables provide them with a warm and cosy sanctuary but the horses themselves find them a miserable and stressful experience (reported in The Barefoot Horse magazine, Issue 6, 2015). Possible alternatives are the Paddock Paradise (or ‘Track’) and Equicentral Systems. (I mentioned Track Systems briefly in another blog which you can see here)
I’d like to also briefly mention box-rest here. This is sometimes necessary following injury or illness but we also need to be aware of the horse’s need to move, to have company and to avoid stress in order to heal. They also need daylight in order to synthesise Vitamin D. One option therefore might be a restricted area outdoors where they can still see and interact with other horses. An example of this is shown in this YouTube video.
In the last part of this series I’ll look at diet and other ways to support your horse’s wellbeing and therefore the bond between you.
(You can read this article in full here)