As I look back on my life with equines, the different industries I have worked in and different mentors I have come across. I have learnt and still am learning some very interesting factors I would like to share with you. Ever since I can remember, I was always told we must keep mares and gelding separate for safety reasons, which is a fair reason.
When I started my work at Canjou in 2010, Mick would keep his horses as a mixed herd and I was absolutely shocked when I saw this.
However, it seemed to work, all the horses were happy both in their herd and in their work. Looking back, I don’t recall any of his horses having colic, being diagnosed with ulcers or showing any aggression. When they were not working, they were all allowed loose to roam the mountain looking for forage and mixing as a herd, in addition to having extra hay to browse ad lib.
The way he kept his horses was also excellent for their respiratory system, as they always had clean air to breath, being able to move about in large open spaces which was also beneficial for the digestive system in addition to maintaining healthy and strong tendons and ligaments. It not only served these purposes but also played a key role in ensuring there was enough Vitamin E and D. Vitamin E comes from grass and forage which helps support the immune system and benefits the function of muscles and nerves. Vitamin D we all get from the sun, and this helps calcium be released from the bones as well as be taken back up to the bones.
I’m now going to take a look at some of the horses that I have worked with that have been stabled. Some of these horses, have done their days work, had turn out time and been popped back in their stable for evening time or just to be out of the sun. The ones that didn’t have a high concentrated feed and daily exercise showed no signs of cribbing or box weaving , let alone doing strange things with their tongue smacking their lips.
Of the one’s that did have a high concentrated feed, little turn out and no socialising, most seemed to suffer from all of the above , at one point in their lives. I hear that people don’t like to keep or put their horses out as they’re too expensive, but your horse still needs to be a horse! They don’t know their value, and the health and mental benefits are far better than being stabled.
If the horse doesn’t seem to like it, sometimes it’s worth finding the horse a companion that will give them the confidence to be out, failing that, there are plenty of horse behaviourists out there. Ask yourself one question, when your horse is standing in his box for hours on end, does his body language say I’m resting, restless or depressed? I came across a book called Why Zebras don’t get Ulcers.