Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Stalls vs. pasture

On Fugly Horse of the Day a couple of people commented too much stall time is abusive to horses. I agree to a point, but I also think in this respect some consideration has to be given to the horse's preferences (which, yes, they can make known) and the horse's lifestyle.

I have had my horse stabled in both pasture and stall environments, as well as a combination of both. He lived the first two years of his life (before I brought him to Denver) in pasture with no shelter, and I can't say that he ever looked terribly happy about it when he was out in a rainstorm or a snowstorm, no matter how close to his natural habitat that is.

Panama spent the first few months in Denver at a barn that didn't do turnout. I came on a daily basis and turned him out to let him graze, played chase with him in the arena, and worked him (with my trainer's guidance). I could tell he missed the herd interaction, but I could also tell that he really liked his stall — specifically, a clean stall — which he had never experienced until then.

After that, we spent about eight months at a barn that put the horses in stalls at night, and turned them out during the day. I think this is my favorite setup, and the way I will do it if I ever have horse property of my own.

The place we are at now has a barn in the middle of a pasture, with open doors on the stalls so the horses can come and go as they please. I like this setup too, but it does lack the routine that Panama seems to do best on. Also, the horses don't run around and play, surprisingly; so unless I work Panama he doesn't get enough exercise, even being in a pasture.

Personally, I feel that both pasture and stall environments can be abusive if the horses are neglected. Horses in both environments need food, clean water, a comfortable environment, vet care, exercise, and attention. So when you look at the big picture of things, I'm not so much concerned about whether a horse is in a pasture or stall, but instead whether their needs (including human interaction) are being met.

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