Friday 17 December 2010

The art of the possible

Over the years, owners have become more and more switched on about how profoundly diet and environment affect hooves.  Thats a good thing, naturally, but it can sometimes seem that keeping horses barefoot requires new and different facilities, which makes it a rather intimidating option, especially if you are on a livery yard or have very basic accommodation for them.

One of the questions I am most regularly asked by concerned owners whose horses have done well at Rockley is how on earth their horses will manage once they go home.  The answer is that usually they do very well, although sometimes a few changes and tweaks are needed to how the horses are managed.  Rockley is set up for rehab, but once horses have healthy hooves, they are able to cope with lots of different environments extremely well provided that you respect the golden rules - a great diet, lots of movement and plenty of varied surfaces during exercise.

A common complaint is that people at home or on a livery yard have very limited options as to how they keep their horses, but the secret isn't having the best facilities, its making the best out of what you have.

Recently, Andy decided that he was moving out - not him personally, you understand, but his horses :-)  We were running out of space in the top barn and he wanted the horsey male's equivalent of his own shed at the bottom of the garden, where he and his ponies could be peaceful and do exactly as they pleased most nights of the week. 

Building another barn and track system was obviously out of the question, but there was already a field shelter in the lower yard - it was somewhere we have used in the past for cows in the winter and although it didn't have any mod cons the building was sound and the yard wasn't too muddy. 
It didn't take much to create a great environment for the horses - a couple of gates on the front of the shed  means they can be shut in or out if need be - though they usually are free to come and go as they like -   enough feeders to allow for variety and for haylage to be fed in the dry in bad weather and last but not least an off-cut of membrane and a couple of tons of pea gravel to make a comfortable "lounging" area for them.  

It doesn't break the bank and it probably cost less to lay the gravel than it would to provide shavings beds in boxes every day - in fact the gravel area means they rarely want to go inside so their bedding last ages!  

In summer they will have a grass-free area with shade and shelter and although its not huge, it allows more movement than in a stable; combined with regular exercise and turn-out, it suits the horses and their hooves extremely well. 

I hope it goes to show that you can create a very nice "barefoot-friendly"set-up without going to huge expense, needing lots of space or having to plan a complicated track system.  

Andy being Andy, of course he added full electrics as well - but that was more for his benefit than the horses(!)...

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