Monday, April 7, 2014

"Choices, Ours or Our Horse's?"

Howdy Folks,
So much of what is done to, with and around horses is for the person's benefit, ease and perspective. It's natural and certainly correct for the person to choose the discipline, sport and activity they engage in with their equine partner. That is after all why we have horses. To do stuff. And to do stuff we need to make choices. Many choices.

Choices about housing, feeding, health care, training, saddles, tack and much more. Almost every day there is a choice to be made about something.
Kessy chomping away at her hay in a slow feed net I tie to a tree along her path in the woods. I like the ground level position because it is the natural grazing position, and tugging at the hay through the net in this posture engages the teeth, jaw, neck and spine in the way they were designed to function. I'm opposed to hanging nets because in addition to miss-aligning all those functions they also allow for hay particles and dust to enter the nasal passageways. 

Everyone is busy with life; families, living and jobs take lots of time. There is never enough money. Never enough time. So, many times the choices made by equine caregivers are made for reasons of human convenience, ease and dollars.

It most often takes no more time, or money, to make choices from the horse's perspective than from the human perspective. It requires only simple a paradigm shift. A brief pause to ask, "Am I doing this for my benefit, or my horse's?"

Housing is a big one that can easily be redirected to the horse's perspective. Instead of a claustrophobic stall or boring paddock consider a "Paddock Paradise." These need not be overly large, but think about a playground of sorts, with trees, rocks, varied water and hay stations, fenced paths and rustic-run-ins, to encourage walking about and engaging the horses' minds. Jamie Jackson wrote the best ever how-to book titled "Pasture Paradise," on bringing real nature into your horse's life. I highly recommend his easy to read and follow book. There's also an excellent facebook page (HERE) based on his book, where folks can interact and learn more from folks who've done it.

Feeding is another easy change, and money saver too! A total forage diet is best. And most natural to a horse. In fact loving grain is an acquired taste and habit for a horse, much like smoking is for humans. It is becoming increasingly understood that many of the health issues horses face stem from feeding processed feeds and grains. In the paddock paradise using slow hay feed nets, secured at ground level, and in several different locations encourages movement and keeps the teeth, gut and mind busy all day. This one may add a bit of time to your day, but from your horse's perspective it's well worth it. Of course hay should always be tested. Horses will require more hay on an all forage diet, but in the slow hay feed nets waste is negligible. Kessy weighs about 950 pounds and consumes about 25 pounds a day, more on cold days, for example. But I buy no grain so really it's less expensive.

How can I feed supplements with no grain? Easy, I use one pound high quality orchard grass cubes soaked, and I mix in Kessy's enzymes, and limited vitamins. Kessy hasn't had any grain in years. She will get a sprinkling of fresh vegetables. Minerals are fed free choice.
Kessy has about an acre and a half to roam among trees and brush (just took this picture yesterday and the trees have not sprouted their summer foliage yet) - There is very little grass, but hard packed clay and stoney earth helps maintain her beautiful bare hooves. Kessy is IR and is easily managed with her all forage diet of low sugar hay.
Supplements should be fed sparingly, I think. There are a lot of things out there to take your money, and might have no benefit to your horse, and may build up a toxicity, be careful. If all the hay, and water, is tested, you'll know what your horse needs. And blood work is not hard to do if in doubt. I believe a horse's carriage, attitude, hair coat and hoof growth tell us a lot. Oh, and manure talks a lot too.

Everyone knows about my thoughts on going barefoot, (you can read a previous post "Why Barefoot" HERE) so the only thing I'll say here is, not only is it best, but it'll save you money as well ... And maintaining a horse's hooves is something you can learn to do yourself.

There so many more choices equine caregivers must make: schooling, vaccinations, worming, tack (would a horse ever chose to nail iron on their feet, have bits in their mouths, be prodded with spurs, contorted with tie-downs, martingales, tail sets and so many other tack related choices?) and saddles, activity choices and on and on ... If we chose to make them more from the horse's perspective than our own desires I think we can be great stewards. In the long run it costs less too.

"It's For The Horses."

Gitty Up ~ Dutch Henry