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NATURAL HORSES

NATURAL HORSES

We, my daughter Athene, friend Margaret (Mags) and myself , had for many years kept our horses on livery yards . We had been fortunate to have usually found good livery yards, that had allowed every day turnout, and 24/ 7 turnout throughout the summer months, however, we had always dreamed of having a place of our own; as I am sure many horse owners do.

Quite by accident we came across some land that we were able to rent . The land consisted of two large fields, one with amazing natural shelter.

In the ‘yard’ area there were 3 stables , one of which could be used as a tack room, and there was  a small ‘kitchen ‘ . We had electricity and mains water.   Heaven .

Our dream had always been to allow our horses to live out as a herd, as nature intended . The horses were all barefoot, and we were happy to find out that the land had not been fertilized or treated with chemicals in any way for at least 30 years; so the grass should not be too rich.

The hedges and borders had a wide variety of trees and plants, providing wonderful shelter, and a more varied diet.

In the bottom ,field, the horses could actually get into the woodland areas for shelter.

We knew it would be hard work .

We decided from the start, that we would poo -pick every day, to reduce the risk of worm burden, and to keep our fields clean. The only time we didn’t keep to this was when the snow came so quick and deep we couldn’t see the poos. When it was so cold the poo froze, we used a pick axe to break them up so we could poo pick. Dedication to duty award well deserved I think !!

One field sloped down to the yard, and the yard sloped down to the stable area. When it rained heavily or consistently ( the North of England ?? ) the stables would flood; so we set about putting in a drainage system over the first Summer / Autumn we were there , once this was completed, we put 40 tons of stone onto membrane so we had a usable yard / parking area. Using spades and wheel barrows !!!! who needs a gym ?? The difference this has made is unbelievable .

We are now in the process of stoning those gateways not yet done.

Ragworting has been another job that just goes on and on. This year there has been a bumper harvest of the stuff. Again we will not use chemicals, and each plant is pulled up with the help of the wonderful ragwort fork. Whoever designed that thing deserves a big pat on the back.

Nettles and docks are left in place, the horses eat these , and butterflies use the nettles.

Then of course there is the general maintenance , repairing fences that horses have sat on, water troughs that refuse to hold water, pipes that split after freezing weather , stable repairs and so on and so forth. Needless to say, we never get bored , and we never have any money, but we love it.

Once the grass has been eaten down ( but not down to nothing ) usually November / December time, we start to hay.

We hay in piles around the top field. To do this , we fill one to two hay nets per horse, carry the nets into the field and spread each net into three or four piles a reasonable distance apart .

The number of hay nets depends on the amount of grass available, the weather, and horses condition at the time.

We spread the hay out so that all the horses get a chance to eat in peace, especially those lower in the pecking order.

Haying this way also keeps the horses moving around , as they should be, and helps prevent poaching, as we can alter areas where the horses graze.

It is also beneficial for the horses to eat from the ground rather than from hanging the hay nets; although we do hang nets in extreme snowy conditions.

Our horses are very well behaved, they know they are not allowed to touch the hay nets we are carrying, or to come into our space whilst we are carrying them. They wait until the hay is placed on the floor before they eat it.

We have had our horses living out for four years now, and are continually learning and improving our techniques.

Last year we were fortunate in acquiring another large field just five minutes walk away, we use this new field for summer grazing . This has meant we are able to rest our ‘winter fields’ for all but one month of the spring and summer. During this month, usually July, we rest the summer field and the horses graze down the grass in the winter field. This system is working really well.

WINTERING OUT

We have quite a variety of horses, Anglo Arab, Irish Sports Horse, Gypsy Vannah , and of course our Welsh boys and girls.

Mags and Athene were not sure how there ‘delicate flowers’ would cope living out in the middle of winter . They were rugged up to ensure they had protection from the wind and rain, and they have wintered out much better than they ever ‘wintered in’ a stable.

Mags anglo arab was always difficult to keep weight on and always came out of the winter weak, he now comes out of winter brilliantly. I put this down to the fact that he is continually moving around .

Athenes Irish sports had previously had a breathing problem which had prevented her being ridden, about 5 years ago, she also suffered from pleura pneumonia ; however she is on top form and at 20 years young is in full work , and very cheeky.

Turbo is now 27 years young, and the head of the herd. 7 years ago he was seconds away from dying from a very serious breathing disorder, the vet gave him an injection that should help, but warned it could go either way. He was on ventipulmin to assist his breathing.

Now he lives out 24 / 7 he is on nothing but good fresh air, and still in work, he still kicks into a turbo canter, it just doesn’t last as long as in his younger days .

Several of the horses were on joint supplements when stabled, none of them are on them now, and they are all much more supple and flexible.

We have never had a moments regret about taking our horses ‘NATURAL’ , they are healthier, happier horses , and we are healthier happier horse owners.

I would recommend this to anyone .

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