Happy Horses Are Healthy Horses When At Pasture

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It seems like I've read a dozen blurbs about pastures?and turnout and how they make horses feel.

Yup, you guessed it -?they make?horses feel great!? Horses like turnout and they love grass. I've read research stories that claim pasture turnout will reduce colic, decrease the chance of starting vices like cribbing, help a horse's attitude, make training easier, add good behavior . . . and so on.

Certainly, I agree. In fact, I've begun to call grass something Margaret Freeman, our Associate Editor, called grass some time ago: Dr. Green. It does a body good, as they say.

So, horses are healthier on turnout.?And my horses have always had turnout because my parents had a wonderful farm with a huge field (which?I now own) and, when I lived away from home,?I was in the horse-heavy areas of Lexington, Ky., and Middleburg, Va. Both are places where people know how to care for horses and where open land isn't as?scarce as it is in places like Los Angeles.

Obviously, if you don't own your own place, you should look for a boarding stable with ample turnout and a manager/trainer who doesn't hold onto that ridiculous old groom's tale that horses get hurt on turnout. (OK, yes, they can get injured at play, but they can get hurt in the stall, too. They're not greenhouse horses.)

But what do you do when your horse doesn't get daily turnout for at least 8 to 12 hours a day' What if your horse's turnout space is actually little more than an expanded stall'

You try to give your horse other ways to reduce stress and feel healthy. First, ride sensibly with a proper warm-up and cool-down, and work the horse only as hard as the horse's fitness will allow. Weekend warriors, remember'

And try to do something different. Go on a trail ride if you can. If you can't, can you safely?ride the horse around the facility so he's at least out of that same arena'

Longe him. Ride bareback. Break up the pattern (but always stay safe). My mare likes to climb on things, go into?new stalls and other?places she shouldn't?and simply explore--and she loves to do carrot tricks, which are also good for an old gal's stiffness. I remember someone who used to take her old horse on walks every day up a quiet road, as if she were walking a dog. But that horse loved that time away from the barn! Why not'

Can you make the time to hand graze him at least for 30 minutes every day or even a couple times a week' He'll love you for it.

If you're stuck in the arena, vary his routine. Use cones to form a pattern you can ride around. Use cavelletti or even poles on the ground to present new obstacles. Jump if you can. If you always canter your jumps, lower them and trot over them for a change. Lots of transitions (they're good for both of you!). Engage his mind!

Use leg yields (aka half passes, side passes - whatever you want to call them - but work on more than one track). Build a miniature trail class in the arena. If everyone at the stable is in the same boat, this might be popular.

But above all, think about how your horse feels, looking at those same walls every day.? Help him cope and stay happy with?creative ways that let him?be a horse!

Got any ideas to share or fun stories' I'm all ears.