As we enter into the winter season, horses are confined more often
and an unhealthy environment becomes likely. Well educated horse
owners know that horses need air for healthy respiration, space
for constant movement and light for healthy immune, reproductive
and nervous system functions. Without one or all of these essential
needs being managed, you begin to create problems for the horse.
It is your choice to select an environment where air, space and
light are fully available to your horse. If your horse has adequate
turn out daily to meet his air, space and light requirements and
is getting plenty of healthy exercise I have no problem with the
horse living part of his day and/or night in a box stall, that
is, if the box stall is in a clean, well ventilated (no ammonia
smell), well lit barn.
Horses that are confined to a box stall without daily turnout
and exercise develop problems to handle their lack of movement
and energy expenditure. Mental, emotional and physical imbalance
turn into vices such as wind sucking, cribbing, biting and lunging
at humans and other horses, kicking, weaving, stall walking and
nervous ticks. They can become lame from lack of movement and
blood circulation from the feet up through the vascular system
and into the nervous system. They can also become lame from kicking
and pawing at the walls and at the door causing bruising and inflammatory
Horses move to function. Their digestive system is dependent upon
movement as they ingest and eliminate constantly while on the
move. If the opportunity to move is taken away, colic and ulcers
are more likely to occur. And, to add fuel to the fire, some horses
such as race and show horses are always confined and given high
protein density feeds which makes their existence even more volatile
and damaging when there is no release for the tremendous amount
of energy that is being created.
Don’t blame the horse for one second for their behavioral issues
when they have this kind of restrictive environment. It is counter-intuitive
to everything they are. Every horse deserves a healthy dose of
air, space and light everyday.
Even on the days when you cannot turn them out due to severe weather
or an injury give them open windows or a sheltered space where
they can roam such as a fenced off section of an indoor arena
or a round pen. Something, anything to give them their nourishment
of physical, emotional and mental health.
We tend to create everything around the horse for the human convenience
when it should be the opposite. We have taken horses out of their
herd environments and we need to consider how their bodies are
designed and operate within our horse keeping practices. There
are happy mediums and you as a caretaker should always be seeking
to compromise on behalf of the horse.
I see confined performance horses all too often and they are kept
in 24/7 because of the possibility of injury to a very expensive
horse. Some are kept in heated barns for the humans to be comfortable
when the horse is not getting good quality air and ventilation
from the outside. My counter argument to this approach is he is
going to have just as many injuries and issues if you confine
him, and he or she will develop a sour disposition to training
and their job if you keep him stalled up versus turning him out
daily with protective boots and allowing them to enjoy themselves.
If you have a horse that is explosive when turned out, give him
or her a few drops of Bach Flowers' Rescue Remedy in their mouth
and in their water before you take them to pasture.
you are introducing a horse to pasture that has been confined,
start them off in a round pen with some hay, after a day or two
move them to a paddock with hay available, then in a week or so
to a field or pasture. Go and sit out in the pasture with them
for a few hours if you have to to make sure they are settled and
enjoying their time outside. If you can give them a buddy to be
with even better. Horses are herd animals and become depressed
Each season brings its own challenges when managing horses. In
the hot weather months, horses need a break from the baking sun
and the ferocious bugs so we provide them with a shaded area and
perhaps a fly mask and fly sheet if they are hypersensitive to
bug bites, or perhaps consider turning them out all night and
keep them in with fans during the day.
This past summer I was spending a lot of time in a barn where
automatic fly sprayers had been installed hanging over every stall
and in the aisle ways. It was a toxic environment when every 30
minutes the horses and humans would be sprayed with insect repellent.
All of us were breathing it into our lungs and absorbing it through
our skin. The show horses in this barn are all confined to a stall
24/7 year round and try to survive in this environment. It is
unhealthy, disturbing and nerve wracking for me to be there on
a temporary basis much less to have to live like this everyday.
No horse deserves to live this way and yet these are expensive
horses that are supposedly receiving the best of care.
Closing horses up inside a dark barn, in a dark stall no matter
what the season leads to neurosis, physical deterioration and
emotional depression. Horses get a great deal of their nourishment
through the retina of the eye from sunlight. They need light,
just as we do, to thrive and function fully through the life cycles.
It is my intention to give you as much information as possible
to make an educated, reasonable and healthy choice for how your
horse lives, eats, works and plays. If you ever have any questions
or want to discuss your horse’s well being please do not hesitate
to email me. I welcome your inquiries.
Thank you for giving your horse as much air, space and light as
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*Recent insights: Over the past few weeks I noticed my horse’s
brow band and bridle getting tighter and tighter around his ears.
I took his bridle off and measured his brow band at a 15 ½
inch horse size. I went to the tack store and found a warmblood
size of 17 inches and took it home to try it out. It fits perfectly
and he has plenty of room now around his poll, ears and forehead
to feel comfortable and unrestricted. My horse was 6 when I bought
him and the 15 ½ inch fit him at that time. He is 8 now and
his forehead area has expanded almost two inches. I pass this
along for you to notice that your horse's body changes with work,
maturity, diet, detoxification, energy work and stretching, and
in the winter months when he or she has a heavy coat the size
of your equipment may need to be adjusted accordingly. Always
check your equipment and its proper fit; you never know when your
horse may need an adjustment or new size! Don't wait for bad behavior
to begin, be aware of what your horse needs to be comfortable.
I pulled my horses shoes off for the winter last Friday. I find
that if I allow his feet to grow out over the next 5 months any
cracks and nail holes will be gone and he has a much stronger
foot to work with over the 7 months when I have him shod and he
is in heavy training. I also love it that he is barefoot for the
winter because I do not have to worry about pulled shoes in the
mud or ice balls gathering under his feet. I can ride him through
mud and snow with no problem all winter too. I use the product
Keratex on his bare feet once per week and it is amazing how well
this product works. I see immediate relief of his sore feet when
I first pull his shoes and he is tender. I use it once per week
until I put his shoes back on in April. I work and ride him all
winter using the indoor and outdoor arenas and if I want to go
on a trail ride I put on his Old Mac boots. My farrier highly
recommends giving your horse's feet the opportunity to grow and
spread without shoes when you can.
I started doing this with my horse two years ago and his feet
are tough and in great condition because of the 5 months barefoot/7
months shod approach. Give it some thought.