Natural horsekeeping



Wild horses live outdoors and their physics is suited for both cold, heat and fast reversal in the weather. The stable is something we humans invented, it is convenient for us, unfortunately usually more adapted to humans than for the horse. A prey animal do best in an environment where dangers can be detected in time and where the heard can constantly communicate with each other. The stable limit these opportunities. Cribbing, wind sucking, swaying, everything is a result of the horse is prevented from living in a natural way.

Since we have so easy to relate to ourselves we think that the horses are happier indoors and under a roof when it is cold and wet. There is a big difference between human and horse, horses feel more confident when they are outdoors and together in their herd. If they have free access to forage, coold is no problem.

The horse also like to have a field with an exciting and varied environment, forest to protect them from the weather. Heights to stand on. Open plains to graze on. Trees to scratch against and to chew on. Putting together a suitable herd of horses of various ages are also good. If the horses are together all the time, they made up the ranking quickly when a new-comer arrives. After a few days you will see that the herd had made up the ranking. The horses are calm to deal with when they have their herd and their "own" life of freedom in the pasture.

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The horses at Ponyville goes in loose housing with continuous access to forage and water in the loose housing hall. Even if they can enter the hall whenever they want, they prefer to stay outdoors in all weather. Hot sunny summer days are almost the only exception. They stay outdoor all night together, but likes to sleep and rest in the shed shade during the hottest hours of the day.

Domestic horses has not changed since it was a wild horse, it is a steppe animal made for a meager forage. It is made for eating and digesting food, basically around the clock. The horse has rarely longer breaks than 3.5 hours in their eating. It eats an average of 18 hours per day.

In the wild horses that remain, there is no lifestyle diseases that are increasing for domestic horses. The horse's digestive system is adapted for grass and roughage.
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Getting adequate amounts of fiber from the feed is critical to the horse's bacterial flora. A horse that ingests a sufficient quantity of hay, generate energy and keep warm. It is not necessary to blanket a horse on loose housing, which have free access to roughage.

Before man began to tame and use the horse they eated no grain or concentrate feed at all. Is it the right food to give the horses today ?
Few feed times with too high energy content is entirely wrong for the horse. It is best to try to mimic the wild horse's food and environment as far as practicable.

Minimizing the risk of laminitis.
Horses that are kept on pasture year-round usually adapts to the new grass as it grows. Nature does a fairly good job of making the pasture change gradually. The problems usually occur when horses have been confined and fed a hay and grain diet during the winter, and are then abruptly turned out on the lush green pasture in the spring. Further, horses that have been stabled through the winter may overeat when turned out, because of the palatability of the lush green grass. This sudden change in the diet, may trigger digestive upset and lead to laminitis in worst case.

In the beginning when you give free forage access to horses who are not used to it, then they eat as if they have not seen food before. As time goes by they realize that the food does not run out, and they eat slower. If they should be able to stay outside in all weathers and temperatures, they must by themselves determine how much food is enough.

There is a trend in keeping the horses thin regardless of breed. Sure, extremely thick horses will not do well either, but look at how an Icelandic horse that graze on Icelandic fields looks like. Or a Shetland pony in their home environment. The horse knows what is just right, trust it. A diverse natural pasture is what the horse need, it will adapt itself like the wild horse. If the horse is used to graze all year round since foal, it works directly. If the horse had other habits in their lives, it will take time, often several years before it gets the right weight. Horses fed with limitation like to eat too much at first, because they are used to that the food runs out to soon.

It is also calm in the herd where no competition exists of the food. Everyone knows that the forage is sufficient and does not run out.

The horses at Ponyville have their natural pasture and eat hay and roughage in the cold season, no minerals or other additives. Everything a horse needs is included in the natural diet. Natural pasture gives a diverse variety of species of herbs and grasses that well cover those vitamins and minerals the horse needs. Salt block is basically the only "artificial" add they get. The horse adapts to the variations of concentration of vitamines that occur seasonally. How else would the horse fared over the years, before humans began interfering in their lives ? flock2
One of my big role models in animal husbandry in semi-freedom is Friedrich Falz-Fein who founded the Askania-Nova nature reserve in 1898 in the current south Ukrain. As early as 1883 at an age of 20year, he had fenced in a first 24 acre (10 ha) for keeping steppe animals. He wanted to introduce wild animal species, local but also foreign, that thrive in steppe-like environments. Soon, Askania-Nova housed herds of (today) critically endangered Saiga antelopes (once abundant on the Eurasian steppe), buffaloes, zebras, Przewalski's Horse, camels, ostriches, wildebeests, living in semi-wild conditions. He was neither a scientist or researcher, although he studied natural science, but he loved nature and animals. And Freidrich wanted the animals to live so natural and like their natural environment as possible. His "animal park" became a model for other such ventures, studied by zoo directors from all over the world. Unfortunately, much was destroyed of his work by war and unrest in the area during the early 1900s, he had to flee and abandon his beloved Askania. Today the park have been increased to 81000 acre (33000 ha) and is a UNESCO biosphere reserve.

The bad thing he did was to let capture wild animals just to take them home to his park, but that was how it was done at this time unfortunately. The capture and transport of the Przewalski horses from the wild is, by the way, a tragic story, with many dead animals.
BUT if Przewalski horses had not been taken to Askaia, the breed had been completely extinct now.
All Przewalsi horses present in the world today originate from the Askania Nova herd.
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