Are our Horses “Surviving” or “Thriving”?

I believe that this is a question we should all be asking ourselves.

Most of us, including myself, learnt traditional horse management and classical riding, from the moment we began our love affair with horses. We will all have had different experiences too. There are so many ways to enjoy our equine friends whether it is hacking out, showing, endurance, driving, hunting, dressage, cross country, racing, show jumping or horse agility.

No doubt, we have accepted without questioning the way we were taught to ride and care for our horses. Most vets and farriers don’t advise us otherwise, and after all they are the professionals. We turn to them and we trust them. All is well, until something goes badly wrong.

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Change is slow, especially in my case – but since my beautiful Appaloosa gelding “Twister” was so very ill back in 2009 and was PTS in June 2010, I have questioned traditional methods and become more and more interested about optimum horse health and how they fare naturally.

From my research I have learnt that a horse needs to be allowed to be a horse! One by one I find that I am removing all things unnatural and seeing very positive results.

Movement – Horses living naturally,will travel miles and miles a day, so why do we keep them in fields and stables?

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Feed – With a stomach about the size of a football, horses are not designed to have meals 2 or 3 times a day, but to “graze” or “eat” small amounts in excess of 16 hours a day on rough pasture, not rich grass, grain, molasses etc

Shoes – I didn’t even consider horse’s feet  because that was the job for the farrier. I have now become extremely interested, since my “Twister” suffered chronic laminitis due to long term use of anti inflammatory and pain killing drugs.

Shoes are not natural for horses and given time – up to and sometimes in excess of one year, every horse can be ridden “barefoot” some needing “hoof boots” for the transition and for such disciplines as “endurance”. Please do use a certified AANHCP trimmer.

Rugs – Horses live in the hottest and coldest climates in the world. They are the most adaptable of animals and are able to thermo regulate their bodies.

My Exmoors have now been living on “tracks” for almost 2 years, eating hay, barefoot and walking miles. They have just had their first “trim” from an AANHCP trimmer Caroline Wang – Andresen, who came over from the UK to France for 3 days. Because of the stones, gravel etc they have to walk over to eat and drink, she only needed to spend 10 minutes on each of them. They were so well behaved and I was so proud of them.

“Dream Girl” my Appaloosa Mare only had her shoes removed 5 weeks ago. There wasn’t a lot of growth, but her hooves were not in great condition due to the nails from the shoes and a split from top to bottom. Also she has ridges on the hoof, – a sign of sub clinical laminitis. If I continue with better horse management, these will grow out over a period of 9 months to 1 year. I intend to give her the time that it takes.

It may be of interest to you to know that in 2 years and for 6 horses, I have only called the vet out once ( other than castrating my colt and for DNA purposes).Now I need to touch wood! The ponies had a skin condition and after 2 months, I felt it should be checked. He said the breed must have a sensitivity to something in the air! 70 euros later and several washes with the prescribed treatment, they had new hair growing and we haven’t looked back.

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If you are interested in reading more about how to keep your horse in a more natural environment, I highly recommend that you read Jaime Jackson’s book Paddock Paradise” and any or all of his books, as he is the expert on the subject.The great news is, that you can do it on a very small plot of land and it will save you a fortune!

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If we adopt his horse management ideas, our horses, who may just be “surviving” will be sure to “thrive”.

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