Stabling horses is not an uncommon thing to do in the equine world, be it to stop your field from getting trashed in Winter or to rest your Laminitic horse.
Regardless of the everyday reasons for stabling horses, it isn’t something we at PB recommend, support or believe in as it doesn’t align with the values of the Paddock Paradise. Despite the common and traditional practices most horse owners are familiar with, certain ways of keeping horses has very much become a way of doing things that makes life easy for the owner or yard owner but isn’t necessarily appropriate for our horses.
Some owners disagree with looking to wild horses for indications of how our horses should live, simply because these horses are wild and the horses standing around in their field are domesticated. Regardless of whether one horse is wild and the other domesticated, there is no biological difference between the two. We look to the behaviours, diet and environment of the wild horse because there is little to no human interference; they are left to behave, live and forage however their species requires it.
When we do look at these wild horses, we know that there are 3 or 4 major aspects of the lifestyle that we as owners have a tendency to heavily disrupt or interfere with for our own horses. Horses are social animals and instinctively travel in large herds. Our domesticated horses also possess these same instincts and needs such as finding safety in numbers, forming strong bonds with other herd members or horses and remaining alert for potential predators. When we isolate them by stabling them, we are restricting one of their most natural and fundamental needs which can often be reflected by increased anxiety and associated behaviours.
Wild horses not only live in herds, they also travel over 20 miles per day for reasons such as foraging and drinking. Many domesticated horses still travel very little and are instead turned out into small paddocks or stables with no encouragement or freedom to move. Contrary to popular believe, riding our horses isn’t enough movement either because this movement is only happening for a short period of the day, maybe several times a week. By overlooking the importance of movement, we then compromise our horses ability to stimulate adequate blood flow to the hoofs which is crucial for healthy hoof growth. We are also encouraging obesity and metabolic conditions like EMS, the deterioration of muscle, poor fitness levels, poor hoof health, sluggish digestion, Colic, Ulcers, lack of mental stimulation as well as stiff and swollen joints to name a few. My question is – why?
We as owners may find comfort in freshly laid stables for our horses to ‘sleep’ in or may feel our horses are safer away from other horses to prevent injury but by pushing our own beliefs and feelings onto our horses, we are in fact contributing to their poor mental and physical health.
I know that most owners want the very best for their horses and rightfully so, but it’s too easy to trick ourselves into thinking that because we’re cold, they’re cold or that our horses ‘choose’ to be stabled because they’re so used to our own routine. In reality, our horses need to have their fundamental needs met and stabling our horses is doing the complete opposite of that.