It goes without saying that our horse needs a stable for the night. With a feed trough and (preferably running) water at a convenient height.
He’ll need a nice soft grassy paddock to graze in when the weather is fine and for those colder days when he can still go out, a blanket to keep him warm. When the weather is unreliable, then we can always put a rain blanket on him to keep him nice and dry but obviously in the winter, he will have to remain indoors.
Of course, he will need to have his coat trimmed for the winter – otherwise he will sweat too much and catch a cold. Even so, a sweat blanket is a worthwhile investment since it is bad for our horse if we put him back in his stable wet – or even worse, turn him out to pasture.
How the feral horse survives is a wonder. His coat is never trimmed, he has no nice protective blankets and the nearest he gets to a stable is an overhanging tree. His food is mostly at ground level and any water he finds, he usually has to stand in to drink it. Of course, he won’t work himself into a sweat since he has no sweat blanket to dry him off. As for the luscious pasture – our poor feral friend has to make do with dry grasses and more often than not, hard ground under his hooves.
Is it possible that we could learn something from the feral horse? We keep convincing ourselves that the domestic horse is different – but how different is he?
His coat changes with the seasons as does that of the feral horse. Untrimmed, it has the same characteristics – an insulating under layer and a waterproof top layer. It can be minutely adjusted so that in the summer our horse can keep cool and in the winter he can keep warm (and it is fully automatic!) It has a natural propensity for carrying fluid (sweat) from the root to the tip – which is exactly what a sweat blanket attempts to emulate.
Our domestic horse has a flexible neck and bendable legs, like the feral horse, and is thus also capable of eating and drinking from the ground. A more natural posture for a horse and one which stimulates the digestion and also allows nasal fluids to flow outwards rather than inwards. Additionally, drinking water from the ground often entails standing in the water which is good conditioning for the hooves.
And that stable? Well, just try leaving the door open. How long does your horse stay inside? And what really brings him back? Food or shelter?