Natural Horse keeping
The herd at spirit and soul are kept as close to natural, wild conditions as possible. This means barefoot, as close to 24/7 turn out as possible and a fibre and forage-based diet. Except Trevor who needs extra boosting cereals to maintain his therapy superpowers (as waistline). This suits the horses physical and mental well being which is our priority. In moving to our new Derbyshire site, we will be setting up a track system and continuing in this natural approach to horse care. Here are some key details about how we keep our horses happy, healthy and in their most natural state. As part of our Equine Assisted Learning we cover a lot around how to keep horses healthy and happy, and the lessons that can teach us about how to keep ourselves happy and healthy.
Horses hooves are a key to their health and well being. The well-known phrase ‘no hoof no horse’ is very true. The herd here are kept barefoot and trimmed appropriately. It is important that their hooves are kept in good condition, by being barefoot the movement of the hoof is kept in its natural state. The gentle splaying and contact with the ground encourages blood flow and good quality hoof growth. There have been many studies into the effectiveness of barefoot management of horses on improving well being and long-term soundness for all types of horses and ponies.
Some useful pages about Barefoot if you want to know more:
At our new site in Stenson we are really excited to be able to set up a track system for the horses. With the incoming spring grass this is something we are looking forward to using to help our horses physical health and mental well being. The track system is based on the ‘Perfect Pasture’ system devised by Jamie Jackson (for more information this website has lots of helpful info and images: https://www.aanhcp.net/pages/welcome-to-paddock-paradise). Horses are designed to move and mostly live off fairly limited forage. The track system encourages them to move from one ‘station’ to another in a dynamic herd to access food, shelter and water, more closely mimicking the social and physical state they would experience in the wild. This also means that we can maximise the grazing we have available. Rich spring grass can cause many issues in horses, particularly in hardy breeds like Foxy where laminitis is a real risk at this time of year. A track system helps to prevent conditions like laminitis by encouraging hoof health moving over a variety of surfaces, increasing exercise and limiting sugar rich grass.
The herd will move led, or driven from behind, by the herd leader. At Spirit and Soul this role is taken by Trevor. As a herd animal horses have a complex, and well established, social structure and hierarchy. This enables them to live peacefully and, in the wild, ensure that the herd access appropriate resources and is kept safe from danger. Whilst we have removed horses into a domesticated environment these natural instincts remain and any group of horses will form a social structure and begin to behaviour in ways that closely mimics their wild cousins.
Horses are designed to digest fibre and forage. The digestion of long stem forage helps to keep them warm in winter, they have their very own fermentation heater in their tummy! We feed a forage-based diet supplemented with herbs and minerals where needed. Recently we had Zoopharmacognosy session for all our horses where the self-selected the herbs and oils that would help them. In the wild horses are known to travel great distances to find supplements to help aid their health. Limited grazing and hay varieties for the domestic horse limits their ability to source these supportive elements and the session proved a big success with the horses. (If you are interested to know more check out (Calm Creatures). Some of our horses need more help than others to maintain their weight and condition (yes I’m looking at you again Trevor!) and we supplement their diets with conditioning feeds to help keep them in tip top condition.
Keeping our horses as naturally as possible helps them to be as mentally and physically healthy as possible. Horses need freedom of movement, shelter, nutritious food and company to be their best selves. This is a lesson we can take from them - we also need to make sure we move, eat well, socialise and meet our physical and emotional needs to be our best selves.
(note about links these are just some sites we’ve found with useful information, the content is their own and we are not affiliated in any way with these links).