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Can we out-train our horse's environment?

Just as I promote a healthy lifestyle for humans, rather than solely exercise, I try to create the same for my horses with an environment that promotes whole horse health. I strive for my herd to be content first and foremost as horses, with minimal human intervention, before any invitation to train.

Horses on track system

There is no one-size fits all setup, each horse is individual and every plot of land has it's own constraints.

Our yard operates a track/Equicentral hybrid : there is a centralised loafing area with shelter and hardstanding that is accessible all year round. In the dry months the herd have access to a grass track and in the wet months we rotate the fields that have been cross-grazed and rested.

I love in the summer how much they enjoy moving to access the varied resources, how intrinsically motivating the movement appears, how the movement helps maintain their training, hooves and weight. And I love that whilst they move less on winter grazing they gain hill work, nutritional variety, a change of scenery, more space, additional hedgerows.

Five Domains Horse Welfare Model

The 'Five Domains' model represents a paradigm shift from care to welfare, providing an important framework for creating a positive environment for our horses. This means not just meeting their basic welfare needs but making decisions which go further to optimise their physical and mental wellbeing.

Horses evolved as herd dwelling, grazing animals in secure social groups and the more we can replicate that in their daily regime the happier and healthier our horses will be: think Friends, Forage, Freedom.

Positive training undoubtedly has the ability to enrich a horse's life on a physical, mental and emotional level but I don't think it can replace any other key aspect of the horse's management if we are truly looking to optimise welfare.

What steps have you taken to optimise your horse's welfare? Have you been influenced by Social License to Operate and its role in promoting better welfare for horses, particularly in sport?

Horses in the mist, winter Equicentral


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