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Healing - Handling - Lifestyle

“They eat grass and drink water, fling up their tails and gallop. Such is the real nature of horses.” (Chuang Tzu)

Lifestyle...

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Many of us know that horses would delight in living as a herd on vast acreages of land. Yet that isn’t what most of us have got! Even so understanding what horses have evolved to need makes it easier to try and give them some kind of natural lifestyle.

Research has found that horses with limited movement, social isolation and a low fibre diet are much more prone to stress and stereotypical behaviour. (Bachmann et al, 2003; Henderson, 2007; Nicol, 1999; Waran, 2007; Waters et all, 2002)

They need situations in which they can express foraging behaviour, have opportunities for social interaction, play and exploration as well as being given adequate space for roaming and exercise. It sounds easy but it doesn’t always seem possible does it?

Sometimes, though, simple changes to our management of horses can make all the difference. Leaving the stable door open into a yard or field can give the horses a choice as to whether they want to seek shelter or not. Access to ad lib feeding can be arranged fairly easily. Careful rotation of fields can minimise poaching. Yards can be created from hard standing areas. Good doers manage well on a track system which minimises eating and maximises movement. Mirrors and boredom busting toys can help horses with limited turnout. The list is long and, of course, is individual to each situation and horse.

However, with a bit of thought most living conditions can be re-arranged to give the horse more options for natural behaviour. Looking at and changing the lifestyle and behaviour of our horses can help to reduce stress and improve welfare. Healing for physical, mental and emotional issues can further compliment the holistic approach to happy, healthy horses
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Recommended Reading:
Keeping a Horse The Natural Way by Jo Bird (2002)
Managing Grass for Horses byElizabeth O’Beirne-Raneleigh (2005)

References:
Bachmann et al, (2003) Risk factors associated with behavioural disorders of crib-biting, weaving and box-walking in Swiss horses. Equine Vet J. 35(2):158-63
Henderson A.J., (2007) Don’t fence me in: managing psychological well being for elite performance horses. J Appl Anim Welf Sci. 10(4):309-29
Nicol C., (1999) Understanding equine stereotypies. Equine Vet J Suppl. (28):20-5
Waran N., (2007) The Welfare of Horses, Kluwer Academic Publishers, Springer, The Netherlands
Waters et al, (2002) Factors influencing the development of stereotypic and redirected behaviours in young horses: findings of a four year prospective epidemiological study. Equine Vet J. 34(6):572-9

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