Lifestyle affects the physical and emotional well being of horses.

Horses are Prey Animals

This means they are ‘wired’, if you will, for survival.  Survival is paramount for the horse; it is more important than comfort, food, etc.  Understanding this may help humans understand why horses spook at things we don’t see and often don’t understand.  Not only do the horse’s eyes function differently than human eyes, but for the horse, it’s about surviving.  Horses will run from perceived danger if they can.  If that is not possible, they will fight in the interest of survival. Flight or fight is the nature of prey animals.  Sometimes, behaviors humans find undesirable in the horse, is simply the horse being a horse. Understanding these behaviors is a huge step in learning to get along with the horse as well as working and living with them in ways that may be more beneficial for both the horse and human.

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Understanding that daily survival is most important to the horse may help us understand why herd life is so important for any prey animal, including the horse.  For prey animals, there is safety in numbers.  It’s important that a herd mate can watch out for danger while other members of the herd eat and rest.  A horse kept alone, is less able to emotionally relax because there are no herd mates to keep watch for danger.  Horses are herd animals.

Placing horses in stalls may be emotionally challenging for the horse as it takes away the ability of the horse to flee from danger.  While we can teach horses to become accepting of confinement in stalls, it is important to remember this confinement goes against the nature of the horse.

Physical and Dietary Considerations

Horses need to be able to physically touch other horses.  Grooming is a part of herd dynamics that most likely enhances physical as well emotional well being for the horse.

From birth throughout their life, horses require movement for proper musculoskeletal development and health as well as health of their feet.  Confinement in stalls or small paddocks results in deterioration of the overall health of the horse through disuse of their bodies.  Horses are nomadic by nature, and before living in a human world, would travel 10-25 miles per day seeking food and water.  Regardless if it’s walking in hand, riding or ground driving, movement is critical for good health of the horse.

Always ensure horses have access to salt, preferably a white salt block or Himalayan salt.

Always provide a source of clean drinking water. If using a hose for this purpose, obtain a lead free hose. Lead free hoses are specified as approved for drinking water.

The more closely we can provide what a horse would have in nature, i.e. movement, forage, herd life and clean water; generally, the healthier they will be.

It may be challenging for some folks to separate human needs from the horse’s needs; but they are different.  When humans think about caring for horses in ways that make sense to humans rather than horses, this may result in people keeping horses in ways which are unnatural for horse.  When this happens, it is important to recognize the situation for what it is (achieving comfort for the human rather than truly what the horse needs) and appreciate how incredibly adaptive these magnificent animals are.