I’m back in the saddle so to speak, 5 weeks into an Equine Guelph course after taking a term off. Relevant to this course, Management of the Equine Environment, as well as Behaviour and Welfare, a Q&A style article from The Horse popped up in my Facebook news feed, “Happy and Unhappy Horses at Home”. The person asking the question explains how differently her horse and the horses of friends have behaved when housed at various facilities and questions whether studies have been done on what horses prefer in a housing situation.
While the author, a certified applied animal behaviorist and the founding head of the equine behavior program at the University of Pennsylvania’s School of Veterinary Medicine, isn’t aware of any such studies, she presents a range of factors that may contribute to a particular horse’s experience at any given facility, things that may be imperceptible to us, like electric currents or noise, subtle changes in diet, social dynamics (of horses and humans), management style, or undetected neglect/abuse, which may also stem from a past experience at a previous facility.
The article ends with an anecdote about horses that are surrendered to the equine behavior program at the University of Pennsylvania, explaining how after a couple of weeks the horses are normally in a state of contentment. It is the last line that resonates most for me, and advocates for as natural a method of equine management as possible, which is admittedly a challenge for most, particularly those of us living in areas with snowy winters, as pasture is not available year-round.
No hay, no grain, no supplements, no feeding schedule, no stalls, no indoor arena, no electricity, and often no close human-animal interaction for days. Just good grass, water, natural shade, and shelter.
That is my ideal horse management scenario.
McDonnel, S. 2019. “Happy and Unhappy Horses at Home.” The Horse Jun 6, 2019. Retrieved from https://thehorse.com/14106/happy-and-unhappy-horses-at-home/