Something we need to consider when our horses are stabled is what and how we feed them. Think about how the horse eats and drinks in the wild. Here they graze for up to sixteen hours a day, eating grass growing on the ground. In contrast we often feed concentrates at set meal times and provide hay in nets tied to the wall at head height. This is not natural for horses and can lead to tooth and digestive problems. It is far better to provide food at floor level for indoor horses, with a good supply of hay that they can graze on throughout the day. Water too should be at floor level and it is best if it is given in a bucket, rather than a self-refilling trough. This means that the guardian can keep an eye on their horse’s water consumption which can be an indicator of their general health.
Hard feed is often high in sugar (even, sometimes, the ones that claim to be suitable for laminitic horses) and in chemicals such as mould inhibitors and preservatives. These can be harmful to a horse’s digestive and metabolic systems and should be avoided. You can find organic feeds through Thunderbrook’s, Simple System Ltd, The Pure Feed Company and others.
Another point I’d like to mention here is that much of the pasture land that we have here in the UK is actually designed for fattening livestock for market. It is often high in sugars which can lead to laminitis and other metabolic diseases (you can read more about this in another blog post, here). A horse’s natural diet is actually made of tough ‘old’ grasses, more like those found in wild meadows. Also the chemical that are often used on pasture and surrounding farmland are toxic and can affect horses’ health. It is therefore best to source hay made from unfertilised, unsprayed meadow grasses.
Horses will also appreciate having things to do. This could include:
- spending time with his buddies in the field
- playing in an arena or school
- going for walks to explore the local area
- browsing in the hedgerows
- (see this article for information on plants and herbs)
- being groomed by their guardian.
When they are on their own in the stable it can be a good idea to leave toys for them to investigate so that they have mental stimulation. Anything new should be introduced sensitively and of course it must be safe to leave with an unsupervised horse.
Taking the time to empathise with your horse will help you to develop a deeper understanding, and thus a closer relationship with this amazing animal. They in turn will respond as your communication becomes clearer, and they will thrive in this richer environment. I’ll be writing more about this in the next series of posts.
(You can read this article in full here)
- What Horses Say: How to Hear, Help and Heal Them – Anna Clemence Mews and Julie Dicker