Keeping horses

As appropriate for the species as possible

 

Regular exercise and companionship

Keeping horses healthy does not only depend on how well we feed and take care of them, but in particular on the surroundings we provide for them. Horses should be kept as far as possible according to the needs of their species. Horses are gregarious animals and therefore should never be kept in isolation. They need the companionship of their fellow equines. Unfortunately, most horses are still confined to box stalls, although studies have long shown that keeping them in groups, in so-called open or freestall barns, is much healthier for them, as it comes much closer to their life in the wild. However, a herd that is kept in an open stable must be carefully selected. The animals should be exchanged as little as possible, as all such changes to the group’s make-up create psychological stress, increasing the risk of injury when the dominant hierarchy has to be established anew.

Horses used for shows or racing, however, often cannot be turned out but instead need to be properly stabled. There are different types of box stalls: Stalls facing the barn walkway, those which have a door or window to the outside, and those with access to a paddock. In the case of the latter, the horse has a free choice to walk out into the open. Foals, young horses or breeding mares are often kept in open barns in a group. Whichever type of stall is chosen, the horse must have adequate daylight and fresh air. Horses are well-equipped to cope with cold and are able to adjust quite well to varying temperatures. They should also be given a place where they can roll. Daily exercise or pastoral romping should be an important part of their routine.