Thursday, July 17, 2014

July 2014

I recently took a trip to California -- the Santa Barbara area. To say it was utterly gorgeous is an understatement. The Pacific Ocean -- driving along the coast -- took my breath away. And the weather was perfect -- warm and dry. The humidity level is the key to comfort, no matter the temperature, making hot weather feel hotter, and cold weather become bone chilling. The low humidity of this area is delightful and I know horses think so, too.

But the downside to all this is the premium put on owning land. Precious land for horses to roam freely is not the norm as it can be in other parts of the country. Instead, many horses are housed in row upon row of boxes, much like people who are housed in skyscraper apartment buildings. Efficient, space saving, and organized -- but terrifically damaging to your horse's health.

My approach, (as those of you who know me are aware), is to express to you the ideal circumstance --  the gold standard of owning horses.  Why? Because once you know the best, you can think of creative ways to get closer to it. 

What is "The Best?"  It's grazing on a variety of fresh, living grasses and feedstuffs all day and all night with the freedom to come and go from a place of shelter in order to get away from the rain, wind, heat, and bugs without the fear of being confined. It's enjoying the benefits of steady movement so the feet, joints, and digestive tract can enjoy ample circulation. It's a stress free life of having forage always around so it is never an issue and there is never a care of when or how eating will be allowed. It is the joy of learning, so doing structured activities is a joy and not an irritation to the mind or to the digestive system. It's being respected as a horse; not a luxury car, not a machine, not a creature without thought or emotion, but a majestic animal with the ability to love, learn, thrive, and enjoy life.  

What are your creative ways of helping your horse meet these goals?


  1. Hi Juliet! First it was wonderful spending time with you while you were here in beautiful California. Albeit cramped, there are creative ways to allow our horses to get movement. My daughter boards here 17.2 horse in a 16x16 stall. Ugh. But, he has his Freedom Feeder full of forage at all times and she gets him out EVERY SINGLE DAY, whether is it for turnout or riding. He's one of the lucky ones. So many other horses get alfalfa twice a day and stand in their 12x24 or even 12 x 12 stalls for days at a time like motorcycles parked in the garage. Then they start weaving, cribbing, fighting with their neighbors, kicking the stalls etc etc then get blamed and branded "trouble makers" because their owners and many boarding stable managers just don't get it. There are suggestions and photos on our Freedom Feeder Facebook page showing how others are setting up their stalls to allow the horses to have free choice feed. Even putting one net of forage (bermuda, timothy, teff, orchard) in the front of the stall and the other in the back of the stall creates a little movement as the horse moves back and forth from net to net. It's very important to reduce or eliminate any high calorie feeds and even get down to just a good vitamin/mineral supplement.

    1. Hi Melissa, Yes, it was so lovely getting to visit in California. And you are doing a tremendous service for horse owners. It breaks my heart to see horses suffer in stalls all day, which is why I wrote my recent article about the importance of movement in my Forage for Thought e-newsletter.

      Keep up the fine work! Hope to see you again soon!


  2. Hi Juliet, Yes, the ideal is hard to achieve but so worth it when I look outside my window and see the herd grazing peacefully in our pastures. It's not easy to come by pastures in an urban setting, ours is a communal non-profit acreage that is shared by 15 houses. We all contribute financially and with our labour to the upkeep of the property. We share horse turnout/feeding tasks, compost our manure, and rotate our fields. Our horses are very lucky as where I live a property like this would be completely out of financial reach to most people (and us) to own independently. Before we moved here, our girls were stabled in a boarding facility that had a stall shelter and small turnouts on gravel. We went every day to get them out & about. Despite the displeasure of the owners, I made sure our girls could run freely in the arena most days so they could stretch their bodies without constraint. We used slow feeders to extend the feeding time. But we were the anomaly -- most of those horses were cooped up 23/24 hours/day, taken out and jumped for an hour, and then put back in their pens. A hard life for young, athletic horses, and no surprise, there were lots of injuries at that barn. So glad we found this place. Thx for your great newsletters & this forum.

    1. Hi Jennamom, I know exactly what you mean about the peace that envelops us when we see our horses grazing nearby. We feel this way because it is in sync with nature and we know the horses are living as they should.

      It continues to torment me to know that so many horses are not so fortunate and they suffer on a daily basis. I will continue to do what I can to educate horse owners so they can make positive changes.

      Thank you for all that you are doing!

      Best to you,
      Juliet :)

  3. I have just acquired another horse. He has come from a barn where he had turn out but not free choice hay. Can I just start him on free choice or do I have to work up to it? Thanks.

    1. Hi Martha,
      I answered your question below, just in case you didn't get an automatic notification that it had been answered.
      Best wishes, Juliet Getty :)

  4. Hi Martha,

    The way you start is to feed more than enough hay so that he never runs out - not even for 10 minutes. If you build up gradually, he will continue to overeat because he will never get the message that the hay is always available. But if you put out a large amount of hay, more than he can possibly eat, he will at first overeat. But after a few days, he will see that he can walk away and the hay will still be there when he returns. That is when he is telling you that he is starting to self-regulate. And remarkably, he will eat less and less, eating only what his body needs to maintain condition.

    Be sure that there is hay left over in the morning -- that is the only way you can be assured that he is not running out of hay during the night.

    Keep me posted. And I congratulate you on your taking this wonderful step toward keeping him healthy.

    Best wishes,

    Juliet Getty :)

  5. If I can add to Juliet's comment, this really works! But I have found that it's also important that the hay not be high sugar just to be on the safe side -- we buy our hay from a woman whose business is providing low sugar (<12) hay, with complete analysis available. That way we know the hay can be consumed freely without danger to our older pony and easy-keeper Arabian. At this point our girls stop eating when they are full, seem confident they will have food available when they want it, and aren't overweight! We also keep them really fit. Thanks Juliet for your commitment to the welfare of horses.

    1. Thank you so very much, Jenna, for doing such a fabulous job. I thought I'd clarify a bit about the numbers. The NSC should be less than 12% on an as-sampled basis. This is calculated as WSC + Starch, as you know. But I also look at ESC (simple sugars) plus Starch and this should be no more than 10% on an as-sampled basis (with hay, of course, not pasture). ESC + Starch can be lower than 10% while NSC slightly higher than 12% and still be a good hay to feed free-choice. Best, Juliet Getty :)