Letting your horse, be a horse.

ImageThis is probably one of the most difficult concepts for any horse person to grasp. We sit by the fire on a cold winter night, sipping hot chocolate, and when we glance outside at our horsy babies, we could swear we just saw them shiver! We run panicked to the barn, and through another layer of blankets on them. Meanwhile our horses are probably not cold at all and thinking how nice it would be to get all these dumb blankets off their backs.

We love our horses, and of course we want to pamper them. By all means pamper them, but first we need to know what pampering means to a horse.

Horses like to roll in the mud, and I hate to break it too you, but it’s not cause they don’t like to, it’s cause they like to! They are perfectly content to lie in a heaping pile of manure for a nap, and they don’t mind being rained on in the summer. If they didn’t like these things, they are plenty smart enough to not do them.

From a horse’s point of view pampering goes as follows:

  • Healthy diet of grass hay/pasture (concentrates if they need it)
  • Clean drinking water
  • Clean dry environment (doesn’t mean manure free!)
  • Daily Grooming (without over use of products)
  • Regular exercise
  • Treats of course! 😉

This and a whole lot of love is all they need.

Things most horses don’t need:

Blankets

Some horses, in some climates do need blankets, but not all. Usually I find a rain sheet is all you need, – even in the frigid Quebec winters where I live – they keep them dry and keeps their natural heat in, without packing their fur down.  The best way to keep a horse warm is by feeding a high fiber diet, and making sure they have free choice shelter. The horse’s stomach is like a wood burning furnace powered by hay. If they have a good supply of hay, they can keep warm.

Being stalled

One of the worst things for a horse is being stuck in a stable. We have a tendency to want to bring them in when they have issues but most of the time it can make it worse, or create the issue in the first place.

  • Coughing – most equine respiratory issues are caused by either poor stable ventilation, or by dusty hay. Neither of which can be fixed by putting the horse in a confined space.
  • Leg injuries – swelling and most leg injuries need the horse to move around to reduce the swelling and aid in healing. (they might need to be moved to a smaller turnout instead)
  • Temperature Regulation – horses that are used to the climate they live in should not have an issue staying outside. (the exception to this is when drastic changes in temperature happen in less then a weeks time. (i.e. 10 degrees difference from morning to night)

Grooming Products

Most grooming products are meant for beautifying, but should not really be used unless your going to a show. Here are some great products that will actually help your horse.

  • Baby wipes – Especially if you have a mare, baby wipes are great for cleaning the dock area.
  • Fly spray – Flies are a real problem for horses, and some horses can get severe skin irritation from the venom in their bites.
  • Medicated sprays and shampoos – If a horse happens to get a skin issue such as “Scratches” or “Rain-Rot” then this is something good to have on hand to clear it up quickly.
  • Thrush treatment – If you have even a little mud in your paddock, then thrush could become an issue. Products like Thrush Buster can be used as a preventative measure as well.

Another thing that stops a horse from being a horse is tail braiding. Humans love horses with long flowing tails, so they braid them up a put them in bags so they grow and don’t get muddy.

A great alternative is one I saw on Stacy Westfall’s YouTube channel

Here is my first attempt on Maggie:

Tailtietrick

Last but not least

Shoeing

This one is pretty controversial, really it’s to each their own. But in the end no horse really needs shoes. Some horses appear to need shoes because if the shoes get pulled the hoof is not allowed any transition time to heal from having metal nailed to them all the time. My horse’s have all been barefoot all their lives, and I’ve had less lameness issues then most people I know who have their horses shod.

I am now getting into reining, and I am looking into getting a new product called “Slider Boots” they are designed to replace the sliders on reining horses. It just goes to show there are many options to choose from in the horse world. As owners and riders we just need to make sure the choices we make are for our horses and not ourselves.

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