Wednesday, 27 February 2013

Horse's eye view

If you were a horse, setting out to pick your ideal livery yard, what would be on your list?
For us humans, there are lots of important priorities - location, parking, a friendly atmosphere, good facilities, competitive prices - but, if you were a horse, where would those come on your agenda?
Livery yards often have fabulous selling-points - state of the art stabling, individual turnout, immaculate arena surfaces and paddocks - and when accompanied by gorgeous photos like these, they win us over.
But try putting yourself in your horse's position and assessing what is important from his point of view.
I know from both my own horses and the rehab horses that they enormously value being part of a herd. They have likes and dislikes but company and being with a group is valuable to them.
There is the odd horse who is a true loner but they are rare. Normally, even the singletons are happier when they are on the fringes of a herd.
 As for shelter...well, there is no doubt in my mind that horses like shelter - whether its woods to keep cool or barns to protect from the wind or rain...
But when left to their own devices, companionship is still key for them. Horses don't segregate themselves when they seek out shelter - I took this photo one winter night and its not uncommon to find 3 horses sharing this space overnight.
Look at horses in a field - they aren't spread evenly about but clustered in groups. 

Contact, communication and companionship - I reckon they'd be fairly high priorities for your horse if he were picking the yard :-)


Unknown said...

This is very interesting and true and most definitely horses are happier in herds. It is difficult though when you are in a livery yard situation as most yards now are all about sections! I most certainly prefer the idea of horses being in a herd and if it became possible would try to achieve that fir my horses happiness. J

Nic Barker said...

Its not an easy one, Julie, that's for sure, but if we don't ask we don't get :-)

jenj said...

If I ever had to board my horses again, I would look for a huuuge pasture with a nice run-in shed and a big stand of trees. I would also like to be able to use a stall in the event of injury or layup. A nice, all-weather, lighted arena (oh, how I miss an arena!!!), and access to miles of trails/hacking... that would be about perfect, for both horses and humans, I think!

Sez said...

Good blog post, Nic. Livery yards with basic winter turnout are rare around here but many have indoor schools!!!
Obi is a classic singleton. He prefers to be alone at the edge of the herd. But he would never chose to be alone without a herd.
Horses will work harder and perform better when their basic needs of turnout, rolling and companionship are met.

Unknown said...

I totally agree with everything you said, which is why when we built our barn and added 4 stalls we made sure that they can all see each other over the walls. They feel a little less segregated that way, but still cannot get to each others food.
Then they all get let out to share pasture time every other day. 2 per day. If I had my druthers I'd let them all out together, but my lead gelding tends to beat up on my former lead gelding who has double string halt. That disability makes it impossible for him to successfully fight back or get away fast enough and the vet bills were racking up. I finally had to settle on keeping those two separated.

amandap said...

I so agree Nic and have long thought of your system at Rockley as a fantastic model. Humans are so afraid of their horses getting injured but keep them stabled, constantly mix up turnout arrangements are a recipe for explosive behaviours imo.
Horses coming and going at your place appears such a relatively calm affair and I'm sure its down to the overall management.
Keeping a flight and herd animal locked in a small space (often with limited forage) must be stressful to varying degree and how on earth are they supposed to form relationships with other horses when separated for such long periods?

I feel strongly about this subject and so wish liveries would take a more horse friendly management approach to this.

dreams579 said...

you know Nic, you have completely spoiled me for any livery yard ever again i suspect! i'm highly highly doubt i will ever find what i'm looking for round here :(