Tag Archives: native pony

Ground level feeding, my lightbulb moment

So, I’ve blogged about natural lifestyle, and now I’d like to say a little about natural feeding. I feel that this is a two pronged subject, the obvious point being what food goes in, but firstly I want to talk about how the horse takes in the aforementioned food.

We all know that horses are designed to graze for 17 or so hours out of every 24. They are designed to mainly eat with their heads down, with occasional browsing higher up on trees and bushes. I am always perplexed by the use of haynets (and I was a user of them in the ‘traditional’ way myself – more on that in a minute), and wonder how the inventor of them thought they were a suitable method of providing hay. It’s a classic human convenience instead of it being for the horses benefit. I cringe when I think back at my use of a wall mounted hay rack for Misty, a pony who we would later discover has COPD (or RAO as it is now known). It wasn’t even at head height, but above, so the poor girl had to reach up and most likely suffer the dust etc. dropping down. Thankfully they seem to have mostly fallen out of fashion.

In dressage, and riding in general, we strive to have the horse muscled correctly over it’s topline. A muscled underneck is not ideal, yet this is the muscle the horse is working when pulling hay upwards from a net. Apart from that, I can’t imagine it’s terribly comfortable doing that hour after hour.

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Before our ‘light bulb’ moment

Eating at ground level stretches the topline, a relaxing action. It ensures correct alignment on the top and bottom jaws, which in turn, aligns the teeth for correct wear. Lastly it allows the sinus and guttural pouch to drain effectively.

However the haynet isn’t necessarily the bad guy. An idea shamelessly stolen from a barefoot Facebook group, last year we started feeding our a haynets on the ground. Now don’t panic, I know we’re breaking all the BHS rules but hear me out. I cannot stress enough that this is only really suitable for barefoot horses, otherwise there is a risk of getting the net caught between the shoe and hoof. It is also important to use haynets with as small holes as possible, we use 2″ as anything larger isn’t going to be safe. We fill the net, pull it tightly closed, then daisy chain the rope and tuck it back in the net. The horses love it, I’m happy seeing them eating with their heads down, we’re wasting less hay than we would if we placed the hay directly on the ground, it’s slowing them down, and they’re enjoying working a little harder for their hay rather than just eating it like spaghetti.

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‘Hooves up’ from the girls!

 

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Would love to know your thoughts on our unusual use of haynets! Have you come up with any different uses for horse items?

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A natural lifestyle and why it’s important to me

So, a little more about this whole natural lifestyle I’m always raving about. Why is it so important to me and so important to the horses? Maybe I’ve just been lucky over the years, but having native ponies, that is, ponies bred in the UK for their hardiness and versatility, it’s just happened naturally. As such, any subsequent horses (even though they will likely have a large proportion, if not all Welsh blood) will surely gravitate towards that lifestyle. Horses, being nomadic creatures, wish to roam vast distances in search of food and water. They require the company and security of their own kind.

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Modern horses often live a life far removed from their not-too distant, wild cousins. Small paddocks for turnout (if any) often pristine and free from ‘weeds’ with just one or two types of grass on the menu. It does frustrate me when I see such pristine lawns. For an animal which is designed to graze for 17 or so hours per day, how dull it must be to have only one or two grasses on which to browse. Nettles? Thistles? Docks? Why they are weeds, unsightly, and must be exterminated! Humans have a perfect, flat, green field which pleases us, but can’t be stimulating for the horses.

We are lucky at our livery yard. In summer there are all manner of ‘weeds’ growing. Nettles around the edges, dandelions dotted about, chamomile by the gate, comfrey down by the river and a few milk thistles every now an then. It is a joy to watch the horses browsing and clearly enjoying the variety.

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Saffron enjoying the nettle & thistle hill (aka the muck heap!)

24/7 turnout is also something I feel quite strongly about. I know a lot of people who do stable their horses at night, and I appreciate they have various reasons for doing do, however personally I would aim for none of mine to be. I realise I have an advantage as such, given that the herd are all natives and better equipped to deal with whatever the British weather throws at them. I just feel that we humans anthropomophise horses too much. Horses are happy to spend their time grazing, wandering about the field, playing etc. and sleep for about 4 hours in 24, not consecutively, but in small ‘cat naps’.

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The girls having a post-breakfast snooze

Do any of you keep your horses naturally? Leave a message in the comments.

Natural Lifestyle

Our previous blog gave me an idea for a blog today. I haven’t said a huge amount about the horses’ lifestyle. Looking at it critically, one could wonder whether a competitive career could be improved by being on a bigger yard with amazing facilities, a floodlit surfaced arena would be a start. Imagine all that extra schooling we could fit in, the ponies would be snug and clean in their stables and there’d be no mud!

There are several things wrong with this as far as we’re concerned. On a purely practical level, the horses and ponies that come into our lives are treated well, do their work throughout their lives, and have a happy (and hopefully long) retirement. Our lot really do have a home for life, and as such it’s not financially viable to keep the whole gang on some flash competition yard.

We try to give them as natural lifestyle as possible. Strictly speaking they all live out 24/7, though Rosie comes in during the day when the grass is growing due to her laminitis. We’re very lucky at our lovely yard that we have a 5 acre field to ourselves which we enjoy managing. It’s lovely that the 4 of them can live out as a herd during the winter, with Saffron and Rosie going on a more restricted track during the spring and summer whilst Mist and Penny munch the long grass to their hearts’ content.

The lack of a lit arena also means that Saf and Mist both have an enforced winter break, which at their age, can only be good for them. A few months off from schooling and Saf is already raring to go!

They have straightforward feed, no cereals, just lots of hay, linseed, brewers yeast. Penny has a large soaked feed due to her current gummy status (note to self: new pet name for Penny, ‘Toothless’!) They’re all unshod as well, though this isn’t a ‘big thing’ since 3 of them have never been shod, it’s only Saf who’s made the transition.

They may be covered in mud and hair and currently looking a bit manky, but they look like pretty happy horses to us!

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