Freedom, and Phenom enjoying some early morning grazing on
a weak and weedy pasture in June 2007.
equine industry has been aware of "natural
horsemanship" for years now and the whole time I have
thought well, yeah everyone wants to have a trusting and easy
relationship with their horse; it seems very common sense.
help feeling as though something was missing. Natural
Horsemanship is far from a holistic approach in that it is
missing out on one major point…
often I see horses living nearly 24 hours a day, 7 days a week
in stalls that confine and restrict with very little air, natural
light, and visibility, and with little or no contact with other
they get turnout it is very limited in time, space, and/or
companionship and rarely includes ample grazing.
Care plus Socialization and Freedom
During wet weather
the horses have daytime turnout in
a 100'x100' paddock that is supplied with indoor kept round
In 2006, when
we bought our farm it was nothing but weeds, brush, and areas
of bare dirt from being over-grazed by the previous owners. For
two years we practiced Intensive Rotational Grazing, spring through
fall, all of the horses received 14-16 hours each
night of turnout on lush grass, together, in the same temporary
electric paddock. This paddock was ~150' x 200', nylon rope and
plastic posts, and was moved around the farm every day (depending
upon how quickly the grass gets eaten down). This provided the
horses with plenty of socialization, fresh nutrients, and room
to exercise; and it provided the grass two weeks to one month
of recovery time in order to encourage it to grow thicker and
thicker like a lawn (which gets mowed frequently but never completely
trampled). Now, when over-grazing is evident those areas receive
a heavy dose of manure from the stalls; horses will not graze
where they detect their own waste for nearly two years! Spreading
the manure not only enriches the pasture with valuable nutrients
but it provides valuable bio-mass to protect it from erosion
and prevents over-grazing. Now that the pasture is greatly improved
we are able to keep the grass 6-8in tall even with up to 10 animals
on just 10 acres.
2006 our young chickens started their work de-bugging freshly
spread manure; they are still performing this important function
pasture, in 2010, greatly improved from manure spreading, selective
weeding, and dusted with white clover.
breeds, thoroughbreds for example, have been distanced from
nature for hundreds of years by the pampering of humans and
most would suffer without additional calories from grain and
protection from cold, heat, rain, and insects. But,
stalls can and should be built with consideration for socialization,
freedom, and visual stimulation. My stalls are 10’x
10’, 4’ tall structural steel grate fronts with double-walled
white oak dividers which are strong and safe but allow each
horse to stretch his head out fully on the front and sides of
the stall. All
of the stalls are built such that they face one central aisle
and every horse in the barn can see and hear every other horse. Often
times they can be caught investigating a cat lounging on the
ledge, catching the breeze coming through the big doors at either
end of the barn, or grooming each other. Sometimes they
bite at each other too, but that’s what socialization is
In the summer, I bring them in when I too would want to be inside
to avoid the heat and bugs. In the winter, they enjoy protection
from colder night-time temperatures and have time for their feet
and legs to dry in wet weather.
Ventilation - Our barn is built such that
the prevailing winds come through the large doors and down
the aisle; the stalls are built with shorter walls to
allow circulation, eliminating the need for fans, reducing
electrical consumption as well as the chance of electrical
Lighting - Lights are turned off as much
as possible and there are no yard lights; at night we enjoy
the stars and the lightning bugs.
Water - is supplied by a cistern to provide
horses with flourine and chlorine free drinking water.
Landscaping - buckets are dumped and refilled
to provide horses with fresh water at least twice per day. The
wastewater is reused to irrigate landscaping around the barn
enabling a beautiful environment without using potable water.
Fertilizer –The manure on our farm is
booked up for years to come so there is almost never a
manure pile. We spread it with a manure spreader and
a top dressing of grass seed most of the time but we also use
it to mulch our fruit trees and vegetable garden. Keeping
the manure constantly at work helps to maintain healthy grass
and reduce the pest population (fewer flies and fewer intestinal
also naturally deters the horses from grazing specific areas
so the grass has nutrients and time to recover.
Fuel - Stalls are cleaned and bedded, and
manure is often spread manually to reduce reliance on petroleum
and to maintain indoor air quality.
Maintenance - Wood is left natural
where feasable to reduce maintenance costs and eliminate
the possibility of ground water contamination from paint, paint
thinners, and brush cleaning.
Pest Control – will be provided by our
chickens, instead of chemicals and poisons, as they rotate
around the farm in their “Egg Mobile”, working
to break down the horse manure into rich topsoil by scratching
down the piles and eating fly larvae and other insects.
Wind and/or Solar Power – place windmills
around the farm and/or panels on the roof of our barn to generate
Radiant Heat – use the heat from composting
manure to heat the inside of our house.
Biomass Reclamation – use manure to
generate natural gas for cooking in the house as well as to
power trucks and tractors.
Get Off The Grid!