My entire place is oaks and dry ravines and the horses have a section in the middle that is 95% shaded year round thanks to the oaks. No grass - just dirt floor. One of my horses has metabolic issues so I perfer the dry lot method - but they get free choice hay year round. Yes, they chew the bark off the trees and sometimes the younger trees die, but I don't mind because they just get used in the winter as firewood. If you LOVE your trees, you won't want them chewing them up (and they will) but if you don't mind because you have so many like me, then the positives outweigh the negatives. My horses don't get sunburned or bleached out too badly and there is always shade. They have enough room to run around and it never gets too boggy.
Most of my trees are fir, with the occassional poplar. We logged the center of the acreage, planted pastures and left the buffer forest part on either side in case we ever get neighbors (privacy). My horses have a barn, but they love their trees for shelter and never use the barn.
We have several cleared acres for pasture and several that we only cleared out the underbrush and limb the worst offenders up. The horses created their own trails which we then widened and further limbed so we could ride safely if we wanted to trail ride on property. We have oaks, and have never had an issue. They do eat the acorns. There are also cherry and a couple of other species not considered safe but unless it is the only type of tree available or a single specimen that is just out in the open with nothing else around it isn't likely to be a problem. When there are very few trees or the trees are spaced way out then it can be an issue as they just seem to chew everything in those conditions. We found putting a mineral block as well as a sulphur block and adding vit C to their feed in the winter/early spring before grass green keeps them off the trees. Especially the pines and cedar.
The horses created their own trails which we then widened and further limbed so we could ride safely if we wanted to trail ride on property. .
I have a mile of trail on my place that I made through the ravines, creeks and woods - some of it gave me a few scars because it was so wild (it took me two years to get it done!) but the deer started using it and that is such a BIG help. I only have to go in there and clear out some of the stuff higher up (a person is about 10ft tall on horseback..lol) but it sure is nice that the wild critters help keep it going for me!
Horses do not feel unsafe in trees. The only real concern is the horses killing off the trees by chewing the bark off. Trees give horses shade and blocks cold winds. I don't know where your friend gets her facts from but its wrong. Good luck with your horses.
Quite right, yes horses in the wild are essentially 'plains animals' however trees are great for shelter and shade AND they'll use them as scratching posts.
Thanks seriously so much to all of you! We just completed our clearing of all the dead fall. It is beautiful! We are starting on our big fence this week. Love the photos below, it helps me get a visual and realize my horses are going to love their new woodsy home!