www.bitlessandbarefoot.com

 

Keeping Horses Naturally

 


My Arabians are my greatest teachers and are still teaching me so much along my journey of life.

I`d like you all to meet my Arabian herd, say hi to Shahma, Vida, Mingo, Vangellis and Shah. 

Sadly one of my greatest teachers Toskin, is not with us now, but his spirit is still running with the herd.


Say hi to Vangellis, a beautiful gentle yearling who has settled well into the herd, he will turn grey to match the rest of my Arabians.   La Vida Charismma looking out for the new boy.

Vida already starting to teach Vangellis her dance steps (right pic) 

 

Plate Growth Fusion, this is a must read for every horse carer

Starting and backing horses too young The majority of people just want to get on and ride their horses as soon as possible without any thought of what is best for their horse/s. We have done trials with various horses at various stages of their growth, the magical number always seems to be around the 7 year mark and it doesn`t seem to matter which breed of horse. Horses seem to be happiest at this age mentally, emotionally, physically and spiritually to be able to cope with a rider and all that a rider expects from a horse. There is also another debate as to whether we should even be riding horses, so if we do choose to ride horses, surely we should wait until they are totally developed to be able to cope with the pressures of a rider. According to FEI regulations for international dressage competition, the horse has to be 6 years, sadly though at national events the rules are different, the minimum age being 3. The racing of 2 yo`s is unthinkable, to be raced as a 2 yo, these youngsters are saddled up at about age 1.5. Sadly these horses are a commodity, to be used and thrown away. The last plates will close somewhere between the age of 5.5 and 8 years old, most growth plates lie across the weight bearing plane whereby the back is easily stretched, so we have to ask ourselves should we be riding horses under the age of 7/8?

1. Birth: distal phalanx (coffin bone)

2. Birth and six months: middle phalanx

3. Between six months and 1 year: proximal phalanx

4. Between 8 months and 1½ years: metacarpals/metatarsals (cannon bones)

5. Between 1½ and 2½ years: carpal bones

6. Between 2 and 2½ years: radius-ulna

7. Between 2½ and 3 years: ulna/femur, section that carries weight above the radius; tibia

8. Between 3 and 3½ years: humerus; bottom part of the femur

9. Between 3 and 4 years: pelvis begins to close, beginning with the extremities of the ischium, ilium and sacrum

10. Between 3½ and 4 years: lower part (that carries weight) of the scapula (shoulderblade)??; top neck vertebrae

12. From 4 years: tarsal bones then the growth plates between fibula and tibia (not without reason that 18th century literature forbade ploughing, crossing of deep mud and jumping for young horses)

13. Between 5½ and 8 years: vertebrae (the larger the horse and the longer the neck, the longer it takes for the growth plates to close up. For stallions, add another six months: this means a "warmblood" horse of about 17hh will not be fully grown until 8 years old.)

 My Arabs have access to my herb garden to self select the herbage they need and will sometimes come into the house much to the disgust of our new rescue doggie Johni Sixpence from Romania.  This is Mingo chilling with us after having his fill of my roses and herbs.

This page is all about keeping our horses as naturally as possible, even if we only have a small piece of land we can make it as natural as possible so that our horses can live and roam freely 24/7.

I feel that even if you only have a bit of land you can still give your horse a very natural lifestyle, you don`t have to have hundreds of acres to be able to do this.  Even on a small plot you can give your herd/horse a paddock to roll and play in, a yard with hard standing, a stoney place to strengthen their hooves. and open shelters. We have also experimented with slow feeders this year, and have made our own, which are working really well. Our herd have no rugs, and no metal shoes on their feet, and are ridden bitless and barefoot.

The Slow Feeders are scattered around the yards, so they have to keep moving, which is what we want for their feet, movement is so important.  Tim has made a watering hole at the bottom of one the fields, so the herd have to walk to find their water, it is fed by a tiny stream, so natural mountain water.  We also collect rain water from the roofs of our sheds/stables/barn/shelters, so we never run out of water!

Rugging my horses was always a big concern.  To Rug or Not to Rug.   Like most people we would put the rugs on when it was getting colder and wetter and coming into Winter.  But then we would have some lovely warm sunny days and our horses were stuck in their rugs over-heating.  Sadly we were at work and couldn`t get away to take the rugs off.  Our horses were standing still all day over-heating, to us this was a terrible situation for our horses to endure.  So this is why we have decided to go rugless with our herd.  Let`s face it they are horses, they do grow lovely fluffy coats and do not need clothes like us humans.  Sadly we do humanize our horses by wrapping them in their pyjama`s, donning their outdoor coats and tucking them up in a nice cozy stable every night.  We have to learn to think like a horse and not like a human to give our horses the best possible life whilst they are in our care.

Now some Facts: Taken from `A lifetime of Soundness` by Dr. Hiltrud Stasser.

Environmental Temperature is constantly and usually gradually fluctuating.  In order for a horse (or any other mammal) to survive, the internal body temperature must be kept within a very narrow range.  If the temperature exceeds or falls below this limit the chemical biological reactions at cell level either cease to function, or function improperly or at unacceptable rates causing health problems or death.

Interesting article on Seasonal variation in metabolic rate http://www.equinescienceupdate.com/articles/svmrp.html

Yet, no matter where the horse lives, whether in tropical or subarctic climates, it does not seek excessive shelter from the elements, does not cover itself with clothing, but rather is exposed to weather, wind, sun, storms, and fluctuating temperatures it`s entire life.  Despite this,it is able to maintain its core body temperature reliably at 38 degrees celcius.  The horse has an extremely efficient thermoregulatory system in the skin.  The skin constitutes its connection to the environment through its sensory organs - giving information to the outside world while at the same time reflecting its internal condition. Below is a great informative link for all that want to go rugless.

http://academialiberti.blogspot.co.uk/2012/02/thermoregulation-in-horses-in-cold-time.html

Clipping, what an awful thing to do to our horses, why would you do this to your horse?  Humans clip their horses and then rug them up, to me this is bonkers and human thinking again.  I have seen horses clipped and then taken out in cold freezing condtions, how can the thermoregulatory system work when people are messing about with nature.  I have asked people why they clip and the usual answer is because in the winter their coats are too thick and when they do exercise they over heat.  Don`t horses run in the wild and over heat?  How do they manage? The natural horse will find a windy place and turn it`s hairs into various directions to get the body temperature back to it`s natural 38 degrees.  Nature is amazing when humans don`t interfere.  I watch our herd and this is what they do.

http://www.mindgazer.org/tao/chtzu_hoves.htm translation from Lin Yutang Click on link to read more.

Horses have hooves to carry them over frost and snow, and hair to protect them from wind and cold. They eat grass and drink water, and fling up their tails and gallop. Such is the real nature of horses. Ceremonial halls and big dwellings are of no use to them. One day Polo (famous horse-trainer), {44} appeared, saying, "I am good at managing horses." So he burned their hair and clipped them, and pared their hooves and branded them. He put halters around their necks and shackles around their legs and numbered them according to their stables. The result was that two or three in every ten died. Then he kept them hungry and thirsty, trotting them and galloping them, and taught them to run in formations, with the misery of the tasselled bridle in front and the fear of the knotted whip behind, until more than half of them died.


Group Healing and Meditation with my Arabs and Fizz, one of our rescue doggies. 

 

 Slow Feeders

Mingo helping Tim mend one of our very first recycled slow feeders.

This is the 8th year we have used slow feeders, and can`t praise them up enough.

Firstly I bought a slow feeder net, which is large enough to put 1 bale of hay into it.  I opted for the smaller net size, but even that is tooooo large, I found my gang were eating it too quickly.  The slow feeder net was more like a large haylage net, not what I would call a slow feeder.  The actual net itself is so flimsy, my Arabs would eat through it and we had to keep tying the holes up with baler twine!!

So we decided to make our own Slow feeders, and here you can see them in working mode.  They work well with haylage and hay.

Arabs in the mountains with no rugs, and they are in superb condition, never cold and always have plenty of food 24/7.  We top them up maybe once a day.  I can also honestly say that my Arabs are  content, chilled out and so calm.  They never have empty tummies!! 

We all want the best for our horses and like me you are always learning and evolving with your horses.  They always tell me what is right and what is wrong, it is up to me to listen to them and learn.

Even though my Arabs are not totally wild and free I do strive to give them the most natural lifestyle possible.  I am getting there, but still have a long way to go!!

 

Group Healing and Meditation with Shahma, Mingo (the snoozing stally) and Fizz (doggy)

Shahma will always come and stand over me when I sit in the fields. She always positions herself over me as in the top left pic.  Just sitting with my horses giving and receiving healing and meditating really touches my soul.  There`s more to horses than just using them as riding machines.