Horses are an incredible animal with a mind of their own. They can weigh in excess of 450 kilograms (1000 pounds). For this reason alone, we should be mindful of how we interact with them and handle them. In spite of their large size and flight or fight nature, they can also be incredibly delicate and prone to many illnesses and injuries. For this reason, those with horses in their care should work to educate themselves as much as possible about their health and wellbeing.
I have an incredible fascination with the anatomy and physiology of the horse – how things are put together and how they work. In particular, my experience and interest lies in the horse breeding world. I encourage you to learn and explore with me in 2016 as we consider what makes a horse healthy and happy in a number of different areas:
- Broodmare nutrition
- Health and wellbeing of the newborn foal
- Rebreeding the mare with a foal at foot
- Breeding horses for performance
- The reproductive physiology of the broodmare
There is so much that can be learned about horses! Each day we should be making the effort to learn more about how to best feed them, tend to their physical needs, exercise them and get the results that we are aiming for.
As a horse enthusiast, one of my most favourite things about horses is that you can never stop learning about them. I have had horse riding lessons and taught horse riding, worked as a stable hand, stud hand, strapper and night watch attendant and have learned many different things through these roles. More recently as a teacher of equine studies, I have researched and developed horse resources for horse breeding and performance courses – and learned a lot from students coming through the courses.
As someone who loves learning, I have completed a Diploma of Horse Breeding, many free courses on nutrition, behaviour and health and recently completed a Bachelor of Equine Science. I have travelled to France for horse experiences, been on a working holiday in South Africa and studied in Ireland as well as worked in Victoria and New South Wales in Australia on varying horse properties.
For all of this exposure to different breeds of horses, different hemispheres, classes of horses and different ways of doing things, I am still learning! Being able to develop my horse knowledge online is something I have more recently begun to explore.
Using Free Resources
Utilising the Internet can be a wonderful tool to help us increase our equine knowledge. Did you know that there are free resources online or google “free horse resources”. Alternatively look on Amazon for “free horse books” and you may even find short courses that can be undertaken, all at no expense to you except your investment of time? As we explore the above dot points in article form, I’ll do my best to point you toward resources that you can access and refer back to.
Education – acquiring knowledge – is only of benefit to us if we implement the principles that we have learned. As an individual, recognise that it is up to you to decide if what you have read is going to be of benefit to you and your journey with horses. If unsure, you can always research the topic further, ask other horse contacts that you may have, or even pose questions to recognised horse enthusiasts online.
As you ask questions, you may find that you change your viewpoint, develop a greater understanding on a new topic or conclude that a particular way of management isn’t for you. This is all learning, which is a good thing!
The Five Freedoms
Horse welfare is an incredibly broad topic; one that is open to interpretation. Many people have conflicting views on what is and isn’t appropriate for the care of a horse. In spite of this, what a horse needs in life can be broken down into five points. Horses should have freedom:
- From hunger, thirst and malnutrition
- From disease, pain and injury
- From physical and thermal discomfort
- From fear and distress
- To express normal behavioural patterns
Broadly, these cover what a horse should receive physically, emotionally and behaviourally in life. The act of domesticating horses – and containing them in stables or paddocks (fields) has the potential to negatively affect one or more of these five freedoms. As horse owners and carers, it is our responsibility to be aware of these needs and cater to them as best as we possibly can.
Obviously finances, resources available and time are going to impact our ability to do this. One other thing that will affect our ability to give our horses the best possible care they deserve is our knowledge – education! If we are not aware of these needs for our equine friends, then it is very difficult to meet them! With this in mind, feel free to pose questions to myself or others you can access to help you better understand the horse’s needs and how to meet them.
Education is an ongoing, active process. For us to learn, we need to take steps to make it happen. If you desire to increase your horse knowledge this year, I encourage you to set some goals. Write these out so that you can see them, so that they are clear and so that you are accountable. Even share them with someone who can check in with you every now and again and see how you’re progressing!
If you’re serious about your horse education this year, take steps:
- Set your educational goals (e.g. you may like to read a set number of horse books and articles on particular topics)
- Write them down and find someone who can hold you accountable (you can post them in the Comments on HorseConscious for us to see!)
- Work towards achieving one goal as soon as possible to get yourself moving and motivated