Question: When you think of native or wild horses what climate are they living in? Are they in lush green forage of Kentucky? Or in arid climates like out west?
Horses are arid animals, their digestive system is meant to forage all day on small bites and to keep moving in search of food and water. However 1,000′s of years of a human/horse relationship has taken these animals from their native habitats and tossed them into what works best for us humans and where we like to live and to submit to behaviors we deem appropriate.
So, the happy desert horse went from walking 20 miles a day on hard ground barefoot with a diet of forage that it found along the way to being cooped up in stalls, turned out in small paddocks, shod, and our personal human favorite… Don’t they look so happy in that big grassy field?!
All of a sudden the once rugged self sufficient horse went from being hardy and healthy to having bouts of colic, laminitis, insulin resistance, joint disease, arthritis and more. And to complicate things even more humans freak out at the site of a skinny horse! Did you know that the majority of rescue cases that involve an underweight horse can actually recover just fine with no ill health effects? But a horse which has been “loved” too much and allowed to get fat can have permanent health issues?
So what can you do to help keep your horse the way evolution has meant for it to live? Try looking into the Paddock Paradise method of horse keeping. This method allows you to keep your horses moving as they do in the wild, eating forage at a rate that is optimal for their digestive systems and keep your horse mentally stimulated and happy within a herd setting.
Be wary of some common misconceptions about traditional horse care
- The grass is so short in their paddock they are hardly eating anything
- Short stressed grass actually produces more sugars so a little goes a long way! Parasites also live on the bottom 2 inches of grass and are more easily ingested too.
- Well if short grass is bad I’ve got knee deep grass for them to graze on so they’ll be fine.
- Have you ever paid attention as to when and how hay is cut and harvested? Hay is cut in the early morning. Why? Because grass not exposed to sunlight has a lower sugar content. They also harvest hay for optimal protein and nutrient levels and you can have your hay tested so you know exactly what you are feeding them and your feed is consistent. Natural grass nutrient and sugar levels constantly change throughout the day and the season. What might be fine for your horse to consume at 7am in the morning might cause them to founder 2-3 hours later!
- My horse is out on 24/7 turn out they always are moving around.
- Not so – there is no motivation for a horse to walk in search of food, it’s all right there for them. Nor are they compelled to run because of a lead horse pushing them or a perceived danger and flight response. My GPS findings show horses will walk only about 3 miles a day when turned out like this compared to 10+ miles a day on a Paddock Paradise Track. The confines of the track and herd dynamics keep the horses moving always in search of food and frequently gallop. Movement wards off digestive issues like colic and helps the horse’s wear their feet down naturally and promote hoof health.
Want to learn more about our method of horse keeping on a Paddock Paradise Track? We are having an open house on June 9th from 10am – 2pm. RSVPs are required due to limited parking. If interested Contact Us!
Here’s a funny video of one of our horse’s, Fay, sprinting to “the good stuff.” To set this scene up… I had just put out hay at all 8 feeding stations, the main herd collected at 1 of the stations, Fay is at the bottom of the herd and was not allowed to eat with everyone else. So, she decided to sprint all the way around 3/4 of the track to what I could only guess is “the good stuff.” Keep in mind every blue barrel you see in the background that she passed also has food in it. Once she got to her destination she still couldn’t make up her mind what she wanted to eat. Silly girl!