Life in the Fast Lane
Why is movement so critical to horse care?
It's been said that horses have 5 hearts. One in each foot and including their actual heart. Horses were designed to move upwards of 15 miles a day. The hoof has evolved to accommodate all this movement and it actually needs it to remain healthy.
With each step the back of the foot functions like a pump, pulling in new blood and pushing out old blood. Dilatating the blood vessels and nourishing the soft tissues and bone. Without this movement (or even the correct movement which we will cover later) the blood flow slows down and the tissues start to diminish. This leads to a menagerie of issues, more frequent and intense thrush infections, navicular syndrome, laminitis, contracted heels, wall separation and cracks. Now granted movement is not the only key factor in any of these conditions but it is one of the contributing factors.
So how do we address this?
I realize that our domestic horse keeping, especially here is the US, is designed around spoiling our horses and simplifying our routines. Round bales are placed in one location for an extended duration, in the barn right next to the mineral and water. Lets start there. We seem to have an obsession with making our pets lives easier. Now on its face, that’s not necessarily a bad thing. We want to make sure our animals are healthy and taken care of and thats what it’s all about; but we need to see movement as one of those needs we have to take care of. A horse needs to eat, a horse needs to drink, but a horse also needs to move. It is not making them unhappy to move, we aren’t punishing the horse by making them move, their body and their brains need it. It is in those genes.
So how do we address the lack of movement?
Let’s talk about that stall. I’m fine with having a stall for feeding or if someone gets sick, but your horse does not need to be confined for long periods of time in a stall. Especially over night. Believe it or not, your horse can see so well during a full moon that it’s essentially a sunny day to them. Again they evolved for this! Your horse will be fine allowed to walk the pasture all night. You’ll have a happier horse.
Move your resources apart. Quit babying your horse by keeping salt, mineral, hay and water all in the same spot. That additional movement between resources is natural for them. Let them use their brains and figure it out.
Make them forage for hay. Spread the hay out around your pasture using slow feed bags if needed.
Consider a Paddock Paradise Track System and get the best of both worlds! Simplify your pasture care and keep your horses moving without the extra work.