What are we doing? A few thoughts.....
Disclaimer: I wrote this based on a healthy horse, a horse with no medical condition, a horse who is perfectly well and able. Just a few thoughts I had to get off my chest.
What are we doing to our horses?
After much thought and after having a considerable reservation about making this thread, I must ask 'what are we doing to our horses?'.
An observation of mine is, and has made me question my own horsemanship, are we over-analyzing and micro-managing our horses, their diets, their exercise, their everything?
I am not an over analyzer, nor a micromanager. I'd like to think everything I do with my horse is common sense. Common sense feed, common sense exercise and common sense housing. Good horse husbandry. I'm certainly not an expert in any equine field, in fact I have quite a broad knowledge base, but certainly not an expert trainer, expert equine nutritionist etc etc.
Feeding your horse:
It seems nowadays a person needs to have a Bachelors in veterinary science to understand how a horses stomach can digest all these fan-dangle feeds that are on the market. I believe many horse people are over supplementing horses through fear and ignorance, they don't understand how a horses gut works (I'm a bit rusty too) so they 'just give em everything' 'cover all the bases'.........what we are doing is treating the invisible disease called 'fear'. Fear that our horses are going to develop an awful disease because we didn't feed 'enough' supplement......do you actually know what you are feeding? Really really know?
I enjoy simple routines of feeding. Feed what YOU KNOW they need - Not what YOU THINK they need....not what the fear inside is telling you to feed, find out for yourself, get educated. What's more important for you to decide? What supplement to feed or how nutritionally whole and balanced your horses diet is?
Over supplementing can be costly and toxic to your horse. Why are so many people adding extras to their horses diet BEFORE the horse may need it? Yes, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.....but what is it that you are trying to prevent? Do you know?
A good example is ulcers.....'my horse has ulcers, that's why he's acting up, so now he's getting all these special expensive medications and supplements'.....was your horse ever scoped for ulcers? Did the veterinarian confirm ulcers by examination with a scope? Many times we change the diet, medicate and over supplement the ulcer afflicted horse, but don't change anything else.......which takes us to exercise...
Healthy exercise or micromanaged movement?
Ok, so now we've assaulted our horses gut with more supplements than it could possibly need.......lets move on to exercise....
Do you ride your horse in a sympathetic way? When I say this, I mean in a way that's beneficial to the horse? Do you ride in such a way as to not sore or sour your horse?
Are you fiddling around with your horse and nagging your horse all the time? Are you working for a whole week on ONE thing, because in your mind you must at all costs do it right before you move on? If you are, then you're doing something wrong. I by no means am a trainer, nor a professional rider, however I do know how to recognize when to quit, when to press on and when to reward. Do you give your horse an opportunity to work outside of the arena?
Do you stop and let your horse rest when he has performed well?
Do you let your horse relax? Ever?
Are you always jamming your horse into a frame?
Quit nitpicking.....no one enjoys it or learns from it.
How are YOU benefiting your horse while riding? Not how is YOUR HORSE benefiting you?.
Are you so focused on micromanaging every inch of your horses body that he has become a robot for you or is throwing unexplained tantrums or refuses to enter the arena?
Ride within the physical limitations of your horse. If you don't you will only have a sore sour horse. Side reins will not fix all your 'my horse is a giraffe stargazer' issues.......some horses are just not cut out for the job at hand, recognize this. Tack will only assist you, it won't completely 'fix' your horse.
Riding in a sympathetic way is to ride in a way that is beneficial to the horse.....the horse should finish the ride in better condition than when he started, mentally and physically. Improve your horse, don't defeat your horse. Be direct as you would with a child, you wouldn't nitpick a child for an hour to do something while talking in a foreign language and expect the child to understand, and then punish the child for not understanding you - why would a horse do any better?
Being a sympathetic rider can increase your horses over all well being......he can be happy is in his job, willing and trustworthy.
And when you're done riding do you return him to his 24/7 stall or to his part time paddock or his pasture with his other horse friends? This brings us to environment....
How is your horsey 'hellsing'?
What a life, inside a 12x12' stall, 23 hours a day.....'just had an hour out of the stall being raced around the arena......don't know when I will go outside again'. If your horse could talk would he say that? Are you afraid to turn your horse out? Why? Because he might get hurt? Because he runs around and might slip over?
Yet you will continue to have him standing in a stall, in a dusty, humid, moldy, ammonia filled barn........you do this in Winter because 'well it's cold outside and he might get sick, or he might slip over'.......you also leave him inside all Fall because someone told you 'horses colic when they drink cold water'......you also leave him inside during Spring because 'its muddy and he might slip or get mud fever'.....or even more selfish 'he might roll and it takes forever to brush him'.
This occurrence of horses standing in stalls all day in poor quality air is all too common. I know of a horse who although given the basic requirements of life, shelter, food, water......stood in his stall for over two weeks without being turned out, he was not sick, he was ignored. These periods of confinement without adequate access to regular exercise continues for this horse and others in barns all over.
Oh I'm guilty of having my horse in a stall for a day max, cooped up, poor air quality etc etc......I recognized this was not healthy for my horse and changed it in quick order. I recognized the risk of ulcers, colic, respiratory diseases.........
Do you work on the premise of convenience? Are you apathetic? Or are you micromanaging? Are you avoiding the POSSIBILITY of your horse getting hurt? When in all PROBABILITY your horse will be far healthier both physically and mentally spending sometime, if not all his time outside? When was the last time your has ran and bucked and got that kink out of his back? When was the last time he rolled in the mud?
I applaud the horse for being so resilient when we force upon him such an unnatural diet and lifestyle. I'm guilty of it too. Do you lay in bed at night toiling over how to 'fix' your horse? How to 'fix' his diet? Do we 'care' so much that we've forgotten the basic principals of good horse husbandry?
Don't get caught up in all the details....you will miss the big picture. Are we killing our horses with 'kindness' , have we forgotten how to feed? Are we better educated or do we just have more information to toil over?
I understand many of us have financial and time restrictions against us when it comes to caring for our horses. We do the best with what we have......
Listen to your horse......he speaks louder than you realize.
Amen sister! I couldn't have said it better myself. It blows my mind away at all the garbage pumped into horses. Stuff that they clearly don't need. Wrapping them in bubble wrap micromanaging their every movement and thought.
The one that really gets me is people think riding their horse 5 days a week is "heavy" work, therefor they need to get a hundred different things. Most horses, even show horses are only doing what would be considered moderate work. So you pump your horse full of extra feed and supplements for heavy work then wonder why your horse is hot.
There is a reason that FEI is so tight on what horses are fed and exposed to in terms of supplements.
I agree! In a wild setting, horses travel an average of 20 miles per day.
One example for me is how we pick our horses hooves clean before we ride, but research now reports that the dirt a horse compacts in their hoof acts as a "shoe" to absorb impact. Have we been giving our horses foot problems?
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What gets me most is that people just refuse to take the simple, most logical way out of a problem. Instead of offering hay 24/7 for a horse with ulcers it's adding another supplement. Instead of turning the horse out more it's a calming supplement. And it goes on and on. The industry makes folks believe there's a supplement for everything, just go ahead and spend more money. Lots of vets overkill with antibiotics and cortisone for everything.
Horses who live naturally, eat naturally, have much much less problems. So what if the horse rolls in mud! Clean it. No horse ever died from being muddy and no owner from cleaning.....:-)
And don't get me started with manufactured feeds........
Horses seem to learn to take care of themselves pretty well when allowed. Ranch horses are turned out all year around in barbed wire fenced pasture, fed hay only when the crust is too hard on the snow to break through or not any feed to be had, grained with sweet feed and rode hard. Yet they seem to live long lives and are happy to do it.
The last trainer I worked for who has several AQHA and NRCHA champions in his barn does not supplement the horses in training. They get fresh water and Alfalfa cubes. The horses love their jobs and are slick and shiny.
It is easy to fall into the trap of needing to "baby" our horses. I only have one horse on a supplement, a mare with poor feet. Otherwise they are turned out with plenty of hay and a full water trough.
Agreed!! Thanks for the great read.
Honestly moving north made me think more of this, coming from a place where in the summer the horses have head to toe fly masks in the summer (even though there are hardly any bugs), fans in the stalls, "winter" the horses are bundled up, stay in side some days, heaters in the stalls, so many suppliments, fancy hay, they are friking spoiled. But, again, they were born into stables like this.
Okay, the horses up north here make them look like big WIMPS lol, 40 below, no shelter but trees and a leen-too (they choose to not use), no grain/suppliments, just round bales of hay, and THESE horses are more healthy with out all that crap in their system, they live very naturally... Very interesting! :wink:
Great post Muppetgirl! Totally agree and could not have said it any better than that!!! THUMBS UP!!!
I still wonder at some barns-horses treated like little hot house flowers who cannot possibly go out! Then they wonder how to fix the weaving, cribbing and assorted other vices from sheer boredom.
I will admit, that when my guy is in training, with sliders on, I am pretty careful about when/where he goes out......but, the other 95% of the time he looks like a stuccoed pig . ;-)
100% agree. I have friends with 'fancy horses' (and no, I'm not dissing fancy horses or those who show, these particular animals jut happen to fall in that catagory) that probably cost them $10,000 a piece. They live what my friends call the luxury life. Air conditioned 12 x 12 or 14 x 14 stalls in the summer, hot mash every morning and evening, $100 in suppliments every day, standing wraps, fly sheets, fly masks, and braids when they go outside, turned out for a 'whole morning' twice a week, ridden 3-4 hours a week. Those animals have more problems with stocking up, lameness, injury, and illness than our horses ever do, and our horses are all 24/7 365 day a year, blankets only on the old guys in less than 30 degree weather type animals. They graze, they get free access hay, and thats it for most of them. A few need a senior feed or some rice bran because they're hard keepers, but thats about the end of it. We RARELY have an injury worse than a bite or a kick, and all of our animals are sound, sane, and healthy. And whats more? Our most expensive animal, I think, is a ex-showing $3,500 lesson horse. Most of them came from being abandoned, tossed through auction, or donation.
The fact is, the more you protect your horse, the less capable it is of taking care of itself. It tends to become clumsier, have less self preservation, becomes more suceptable to injury, and WORRIES more. In its natural environment (or at least close...we have about 9 horses and a mini donkey on 12 acres right now in our big pasture) a horse's feet, body, and mind are stronger. Its just how things were meant to be.
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