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Why is a stable bad for my horse?

PSV Jedi's fore hooves at Broederstroom

Stables are for the convenience of people, not for horses. Some wild animals do live in caves or dens. These are animals such as bears, cats or dogs.

Wild horses live on the open grassy plains where they can see predators coming from a long way off. The horses also have the freedom of wide open space to run away from danger. They are also designed to graze most of their day (18 hours) and while they graze, they walk.

As producers of high performance barefoot horses, the main objections we have to stables are the confined space, soft bedding, damp and exposure of the hoof proteins to ammonia from urine and manure.

The PSV brood mares in the veld on Broederstroom

Confining the horse to a stable or even a small pen outdoors prevents the horse from walking around most of the day. While they walk along and graze, their hooves are dynamically flexing and circulating more blood. The blood flows through tiny capillaries in the living tissues of the hoof, which is sandwiched between the bones inside the hoof and the hard outer hoof capsule. There is a very complex hydraulic vacuum mechanism whereby the horse’s movement increases blood flow through the living tissues of the hoof. Traditional Euro-centric horse keeping practices recognise the need for the horse to have continual access to roughage for the health of their digestive system. Therefore it is a standard recommendation that a full hay net of grass hay be always available in the stable to compensate for the absence of grazing. However, no thought is given to the other aspect of the grazing animal which is continual slow movement. Confining a horse reduces hoof growth due to lower than optimal circulation and thus decreased nutrition of the inner hoof structures. It also delays repair of damage to thehooves from wire cuts etc.

Soft bedding that the horse must stand in does not produce the same amount of flexion of the hoof capsule that is needed for the hydraulic blood suction action through the inner hoof. Hard ground stimulates hoof growth through more circulation and more stimulus or conditioning.

Wet conditions can be counter-productive when they are continuous because the hoof proteins are softened and wear off more easily if the horse is subsequently asked to ride over abrasive surfaces. Softening from plain water, however, is reversed when the hoof dries out.

The underside of PSV Jedi's right fore hoof.

Ammonia that collects in bedding or on the floor of stables is harmful to the hoof proteins just as the ammonia gases are harmful to the lungswhen inhaled. Ammonia breaks down the proteins of which the hoof horn consists. Hooves exposed to ammonia regularly are always softer and wear more easily than hooves that are not.

There are many obvious advantages to stabling horses. Chief among these is not having to go out in the rain to find your horse covered in mud, or having a clean shiny coat on your horse throughout winter. There is also ease of management where the horse is under the absolute control of the stable manager. These advantages are undeniable, but all are for the benefit of people and not what the natural horse requires!

Laura Seegers, 2010

Perseverance Arabian & Endurance Horses


About Perseverance

PERSEVERANCE Arabian & Endurance Horses have special Arabian bloodlines, they have functionally beautiful bodies, and they do endurance barefoot. TEAM PSV: Francois & Laura Seegers, Gurth & Rosemary Walton, Lucy Dixon, Donalyn Hennessy & Ashley Gower. www.endurancehorse.co.za


3 thoughts on “Why is a stable bad for my horse?

  1. The Karoo has all the advanatges for the horse, huge plains, hard ground, minerals that are natural to the soil. A magical place for horse and human…………..how I long for the bitter cold, the scorching heat, the colours of the landscape.

    Posted by helen Gilfillan | 9 June 2011, 10:21 am
  2. We’re always very happy to have visitors to the stud. And today, you’d be feeling the bitter cold, with a touch of icy rain…

    Posted by Perseverance | 9 June 2011, 10:47 am
  3. My Indy tells me when he wants to come in. I always take him in at night by 7 or 8. But lately, with the heat, it’s much sooner, on his demand. When he wants to come in, he stands by the gate and often whinnies at me. He likes his cool, large, breezy, bug-free, quiet stall. He seems to appreciate a clean, safe, dry place* to be, as much as he appreciates me taking him out in the morning.

    Yesterday, even though he has a pasture full of wild grasses, trees and hills (and sandy spots for rolling, and even some rocky spots that are good for his feet), with the heat, by 2:30 pm, he wanted in. So that’s where he went. He has plenty of options for shade out in the pasture, too.

    I really don’t care for the types out there who make platitudes like this, saying “Concept A, B or C is how you MUST keep your horse or you’re a terrible person!!!”.

    Sure there are standards (like always having fresh water available, quality hay and trimming their feet regularly, as general no question basics) and many non-traditional ideas have GREAT value as part of your horse keeping plan. But there is no one way to keep a horse happy. What’s important is you provide what your individual horse needs for good health and happiness.

    * I use stalldry or sweetPDZ to keep the bedding extra dry and the ammonia odor down, but his stall is thoroughly cleaned daily, sometimes two or three times if he’s in longer, due to bad weather.

    Posted by tamara | 16 July 2013, 7:47 pm

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