“People can make looking after horses so complicated. They’re happiest out in the field, living out and being worked in the field. Whereas people keep them in and feed them so many additives that it’s ridiculous. They feed them this and that and so many things. There’s nothing like good green grass out in the field.” ~ Mary King
I read this quote recently from eventer Mary King and it struck a chord with me.
Over the years, my philosophy of “horse keeping” has evolved significantly. When I first started caring for horses they all lived in stalls. If they were lucky, they got turned out for several hours a day but many of them were turned out alone because their owners worried they’d get hurt.
It wasn’t until I brought my horse to a self-care facility that I started to loosen up a bit. It was Freedom who told me — quite plainly — that he didn’t want to live in a stall. He was miserable when he was inside. He weaved, he cribbed, he walked and he never settled. After the first night, when he rubbed a bloody patch on his neck from weaving over the Dutch door, I opened the stall and let him stay outside. At first I worried that it was too cold, too wet, too snowy for him to be outside. But although he has access to a stall he prefers to be outside unless it’s too hot or too buggy.
Living outside was a turning point for him and for me.
I stopped worrying about feeding on a tight schedule.
I started feeding more forage and less grain.
I blanket less.
I cut out supplements that weren’t really essential.
I let him be a horse.
Moving to the co-op barn also changed how I ride. When I had access to an indoor I used it. During the winter I rarely ventured outside in the snow and during the summer I frequently rode in a ring where the footing was pristine.
Now, I ride in a field or I hack 10 minutes to a ring. I like riding in a more open environment with slight hills to build muscles and help with balance. I like the time hacking through the woods and fields. When there’s snow on the ground, we play in it. I realize now that I spent far too many years riding in circles and not enough time going somewhere.
Most of all, I try to keep it simple.