On interference and human perception

I wanted to take the shoes off my horses because instinctively I thought it was unnatural to nail an iron shoe to a horse’s feet.  In preparation of going barefoot I did a lot of research and I realised how little I had known about how horses’ feet work. How detrimental the effects of our interference with what nature intended could be on our horses’ health and wellbeing.

The research on going barefoot led me to reconsider my horses’ diet. I cut out all starchy sugars in preparation of the shoes coming off. They now have a forage based diet, with a balancer to make sure they get all the necessary vitamins and minerals. To my eyes, it doesn’t look as nice as a bucket full of grain based feed, but Minnie and Cassie are both in excellent condition. In fact, Minnie has never looked this well. She was very thin when I got her and I always considered her a ‘poor doer’, as it was almost impossible to keep the weight on her. Now, by not interfering anymore with her diet and feed her as nature intended, Minnie looks a different horse.

We do that a lot, interfering. We put shoes on, because horses won’t be able to cope with the roads without them. We feed them buckets of starchy, sugary feed because they need the energy. We put them in stables to keep them warm and dry. We put rugs on them in the winter.

I have done all of these things. Last year, I fed Minnie buckets of a performance mix, she was stabled at night and I have more rugs in my tackroom than winter jackets in my wardrobe. I felt I was doing the best for her, not realising that I was denying her need to move, her ability to regulate her own temperature and upsetting her digestive system. 

What I was giving her was what I would want and I never thought to ask what she wanted and needed. I don’t want to be outside on a cold and wet night. Cold and wet make me feel miserable. I want to be warm and dry, curled up on the sofa with a crackling fire in the hearth and a glass of wine in my hand. So I put a warm rug on my horse, bring her into a stable and then when the wind is howling around the house and the rain lashes the windows, I feel reassured that my horse is comfortable.

Now I feel different. I want my horses to live their lives as natural as possible, because it is the best way to keep them healthy. No more shoes. No stabling. They have access to the stables and the shelter so they can choose to go in, but they will live out through the winter. And no more rugs, except light rain sheets when it is very wet. Rain scald is a real problem here.

It was cold last night when I went out. Minnie and Cassie were grazing, I could see their breaths as white puffs of steam. I nearly ran to the tackroom to get the rugs. But they were fine.


13 thoughts on “On interference and human perception

  1. What all are you feeding? I’m supplementing the hay and grazing with a pelleted feed mixed with beet pulp. But probably they shouldn’t be getting the feed.

  2. I feed them twice a day. In the morning they get a scoop of a blended chaff, which is alfalfa, green oat straw and clover, with a cup of balancer. The balancer is a pellet and it’s basically grass meal with added vitamins and minerals. In the evening they get another scoop of chaff with a cup of a high oil pellet, which is a blend of soya and linseed oil. I feed unmollassed beet pulp in the winter, so I’ll start adding that soon. I still have plenty of grazing here and they are not eating a lot of hay yet. I offer it, but they eat less than half. At the moment they are doing really well on this.

    • All right, I’m weaning them off their pelleted feed. Got them a big magic mineral lick. I got some chopped grass forage (i guess that’s like chaff), and I’m switching to non-molasses beet pulp (which is more expensive strangely enough). Ideally I’d just lay in vast quantities of hay and alfalfa hay and feed it constantly. I’ve yet to figure out which is more cost-effective – the bagged forage or extra hay.

      • I’m feeding three bales of hay a day at the moment, so we’re going to run out of our own hay real soon, and I’ll have to buy some. We’ve a pasture which I was saving, but I think the grass will be sturdy enough to let them have some new grazing before winter, which will save a little hay.

      • Yes, the non-molassed beet pulp is more expensive here too, but worth it. Anything with molasses is bad for their teeth. After the terrible shock I got yesterday to find that Cassie had tooth decay, I’ve been scrutinising labels to see if their is any sugar or molasses in my balancer and chaff. I got a tip on a book by Pat Coleby, that tells you how to feed minerals etc so that horses choose what they need. I’m going to order that, because it means I could then get rid of the balancer. I’ll keep you posted on that! Over here, it would be cheaper to feed extra hay rather than bagged forage, but it might be different where you are. I’m only feeding a bale of hay a day at the moment, but I have 2 horses on 16 acres, they still have plenty of grazing.

      • uh oh, the bagged forage has added molasses.

        Yes, I’d be very interested to hear a report on that book.

        I use a pendulum sometimes to figure out what to feed the dogs, so I might try that with the horses. My daughter’s old dog gets sushi seaweed (yes) added to her dinner or as a treat. She has a new dog (the lost Schnauzer) and he’s been getting diarrhea so she pendulumed the food (home-made, and including seaweed), and it came up negative. So she did each ingredient, and the seaweed seems to be the culprit. But it shows as being good for the older dog. So I imagine each horse has quite different needs, as well as sensitivities.

      • And the horses have an “inner pendulum” which tells them what they need – like Lynne Gerard’s interesting accounts of her horses self-medicating at Ravenseyrie.

  3. It is windy tonight, and I’m so glad to be indoors. I wish the horses were indoors with me, and I try to tell myself they’re better off outside. Intellectually, I know it’s true, but I wish I could feel it too.

  4. The pendulum sounds fascinating, might be worth a try for the horses too. Seaweed can cause hives, perhaps that’s why it said it wouldn’t suit your new dog. I saw my old cat pick through the ashes of a fire when she had diarrhea and crunch on the charcoal.

    I would like to get rid of the balancer because the problem with balancers is that you actually don’t know if they are the right quantities for your horse at that particular time.I know that where we live there is almost no copper in the soil, but the question would be how much to give. Cassie as a chestnut would need more than Minnie. I suppose I should really do a soil analysis, so that I know what minerals are lacking.
    On the upside, my land has not been fertilised in over 20 years, and there is a lot of “weeds” and wild herbs for the horses to browse. The hedgerows are varied too and they do love eating the most unexpected things, like gorse bushes. When I see them eating anything unusual that I’m not sure of, like oak leaves or bark, I feel I should trust their instinct. They do know what they need.

      • I looked it up and it’s not just chestnuts, but also black horses that need more copper! So I suppose Minnie will need extra then as well. Copper deficiency will show up as a faded “sun bleached” coat and black horses can actually turn brown. It will also make them more prone to parasite infestation. Apparently if you get the mineral balance right, horses will be able to resist parasitic infestation without having to use chemical wormers.

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