Should I Stall my Horse or Pasture Board? Well, consider that in the wild, horses are free to roam the land. They walk, run, play and graze constantly. Horses get a chance to interact with other animals, and a social hierarchy forms within the herd. They are doing what nature intended, being horses. Like people, they are communal and often find it difficult to relax when they don’t see others nearby. In nature, they are at risk from predators and thus rely on safety in numbers. Under observation, you’ll discover that a herd will graze and relax, while others will play sentry and keep watch in case of approaching danger.
Then there is the biological perspective. A horse’s digestive system is delicate, with stomachs continually produce gastric acid. The saliva they produce serves as a buffer, protecting their sensitive stomach from an overload of acid. However, the production of saliva only occurs when they are eating, hence, here is the reason why pastured horses experience fewer ulcers than stalled horses do. A horse kept on pasture will enjoy the freedom to graze and will for approximately 16 hours per day.
Placating horses in a pasture setting provides a steady supply of calories which helps them maintain a healthy weight. Overweight animals also do very well in a pasture. Even though they consume more calories the constant movement through walking, playing and maybe the occasional run keeps them metabolizing calories.
If you have a concern about your horse possibly overeating, consider a grazing muzzle, which has been shown to be effective in controlling the intake of food quite well, while allowing them to graze naturally.
How do young horses survive in a pasture?
Research has shown that a lifestyle containing free exercise helps to build a stronger skeleton. The respect taught by senior horses in the same pasture can assist the handler/trainer have an easier and more productive interaction when training the young horse. These youngsters not only expel energy through play but also learn that submission is something required of them.
Older horses also benefit time in the pasture.
As mature animals move about they loosen up joints and flex muscles, helping to prevent stiffness and stocking up, conditions more prevalent when stalled or those who are left to stand still for extended periods of time. Pasturing a senior or older horse helps to keep the digestive system healthy as well.
Just like young children, horses are less excitable when they can expend excess energy through free movement. They can develop better balance and tend to navigate uneven ground with less difficulty. They are also less likely to develop bad habits, such as weaving, kicking stall boards, and pacing. Some horse owners have mentioned that pasture may help correct cribbing and wind sucking which may be caused by boredom.
Stalled horses relegated to a schedule for feeding that aligns with the humans caring for them is another issue. Two meals a day, with a flake or two of hay, morning and evening, is very common. Some may also get a flake of hay later at night so they can munch during the overnight hours, while others may go up to 10 hours without anything to eat. When a horse endures long periods of time without eating, a gastric overload is common. Remember, they only produce saliva, containing an important alkaline buffer to protect their sensitive stomach, when they are in the act of eating. When a horse can graze, or regularly have some forage in the stall, it can and will improve the animal’s overall intestinal health.
Don’t Forget the Diet
A horse who has a diet low in forage may be susceptible to impaction colic. Many colics are simply gas colics and can resolve themselves quickly with little or no intervention. In some cases, the act of walking the horse may relieve the symptoms of colic. Some horsemen suggest that the symptoms sometimes seem to abate by the time the animal has reached the equine clinic after a brief van ride.
But not every colic resolves itself in such a simple manner. Impaction colics – those caused by an obstruction in the bowel – can be persistently painful and are dangerous for horses. The good news is that when a horse begins to show signs of colic, surgery is by no means the first treatment indicated.
In many cases, stall boarding may be your best option. We recommend getting your horses in the pasture as often as you can, suggesting a daily turnout as the ideal situation. If you are moving to a new stable, ask about their turnout policies, if they have any. If they offer a schedule, get your horse on the schedule and allow them to be, just a horse.