Can horses splash like dogs
Need creates problems
Knowing and fulfilling the needs of a horse often solves a significant part of the problems in handling and riding or does not allow them to arise in the first place. Conversely, many difficulties can be traced back to unmet needs of the horse. So this article is about what a horse actually needs to be happy.
1. Species-appropriate nutrition for the horse
Of course, food intake is one of the basic needs of a horse. And although "food and water" sounds so simple, the subject seems more complex at second glance. Because in order to keep a horse physically and mentally healthy, food intake must be one thing above all else: species-appropriate!
Nature shows us what is appropriate to the species. Behavioral scientists and biologists have been documenting and analyzing animal life in the wild for centuries. From their knowledge it was deduced "what kind of a species is fair", and every person who keeps an animal in captivity has to follow this knowledge.
In the wild, horses eat almost the whole day (apart from rest and sleep phases, reproduction and flight). They eat steppe grass, which is rich in crude fiber but low in energy, while they move slowly. Not only is the horse's entire body attuned to this type of food intake, but also its psyche.
A horse that receives hayage or silage plus grain 3 times a day is in need in several ways:
The feeding breaks are too long. The result is not only boredom (which often leads to severe behavioral disorders such as weaving, boxing, etc.), but also too much stomach acid, which attacks the gastric mucous membranes.
The feed is the opposite of what the horse's digestive tract is geared towards: a lot of energy and little crude fiber, plus substances that shift the pH values of the various digestive passages and change the environment. The result is a disruption of the gastrointestinal flora, hyperacidity, overload with toxins and digestive disorders. This in turn affects the metabolism. The consequences are civilization diseases such as laminitis and EMS, PSSM, but also tarnished legs, feces, mud, allergies, etc.
All of these diseases in turn have a major impact on the psyche: Horses with stomach pains (or other pain) are often much more aggressive and tend to overreact more than healthy horses or they withdraw into themselves and no longer take any part in their environment (what I find almost worse).
2. Appropriate keeping and exercise for horses
The horse takes in feed as described above by moving slowly. A horse in the wild moves slowly for at least 16 hours a day. Body and soul have also adjusted to this. A horse that stands in the box for 21 hours, bobs around in a mud pool for 2 hours and is ridden for an hour gets the opposite of what it needs. The consequences are various diseases of the musculoskeletal system, excess fat and the resulting symptoms, as well as behavioral disorders.
We must not forget one thing: What we succinctly call "boredom" would be a life of absolute meaninglessness for us. If a horse is not allowed to graze or run, it can no longer be a horse and there is no longer any reason why it is in the world. Many horses become depressed and dull. Others try to compensate for this by bucking, climbing, running, etc. under the rider or on the lunge, on the one hand they are underutilized and on the other hand they are completely overwhelmed, because all the demands of the day have to be met in an hour.
Typically, severe behavior disorders arise from the above-mentioned form of posture.
3. Horse social contact
The horse is a herd animal. In the wild, his entire safety, and indeed his survival, depends on the herd. They can only manage everything they need to do together. Life in the herd is complex and written down in a horse's genes. A horse that is not allowed to communicate, play or groom with other horses loses another essential aspect of its existence.
In addition, horses that are kept alone too much do not learn sensible social behavior. But since they always meet other horses while riding, at tournaments, in the stable, etc., this can be a big problem and, above all, risk of injury.
4. Safety - one of the basic needs of the horse
As a flight and prey animal, the aspect of "safety" is particularly important for a horse and is one of the essential basic needs. A horse that is rigid with fear cannot eat or drink. A horse that is constantly under stress and cannot relieve this pressure (e.g. through movement and social contact) can even die.
The point "security" leads us back to the point "social contact". Because in the wild, only the herd offers a horse a certain level of security and also reduces stress. But since we can hardly show naturally grown herds with some genetically related animals, even if we keep our horses together with others, as is the case in nature, the stability (and thus the security) of a herd put together by humans is significantly less than in nature. In naturally stable herds, the potential for conflict is surprisingly low and acts of aggression are extremely rare. In our care, these proportions are much larger - and thus also the stress factor.
The human being as a social partner is all the more important. In such difficult conditions, people have a lot to absorb. He has to give the horse the security it needs to stay or become healthy both physically and mentally.
5. Continuity / predictability in an unpredictable world
Life as a flight animal is stressful enough. Around the next corner a predator can always be waiting for you and putting you on high alert. That is why all other areas of life must serve to reduce stress and build relaxation. That happens through continuity. This makes life (outside of flight) predictable. Wild horses find this continuity in their herd (if it is stable), in their habitat and environment. Domesticated horses also need this continuity. You have to be able to adjust to something, to be able to rely on something. It starts with handling, training and leading the horse. The horse needs to know that "Brrr!" really always means stop. And not today "Stop!", Tomorrow "Help!" and the day after tomorrow "Attention!" But that continues with keeping and feeding. If you already feed at certain meals (which is not appropriate to the species), it is imperative that you feed at the same time, because horses have a good sense of time. If horses do not have free exercise all day, then this should always be granted at the same time - regardless of whether it is raining outside or not. And so on.
That doesn't mean that horses don't have to get used to a lot of new stimuli! However, this means that the basic structure should always remain roughly the same.
6. Leadership gives horses security and peace
As already mentioned, horses are not democratically thinking beings, but live in herds with very clear structures and hierarchies, which guarantee you security. For most horses, leadership, good leadership quality means one thing above all else: safety and relaxation! Since horses won't even eat unless they feel safe (as mentioned above), leadership is an incredibly important part of what horses need.
At least most of you. Because of course there are natural leaders who lead themselves. They have exactly the combination of qualities that are needed to lead. This means that they are less dependent on guidance and protection than most other horses. These horses can protect themselves (even if the job is really exhausting and quite unsafe for humans). As is the case with a herd structure in pyramid form (there is usually 1 leader at the top, all others are below), the number of born leaders in the horse world is relatively small (even if many horse owners would like it to be different). So the mass of horses needs leadership in order to feel safe and comfortable.
Good leadership quality is shown, among other things, in the following qualities that a horse partner should master or learn: good perception, control over one's own emotions, forward-looking and prudent thinking and acting, the ability to make good decisions quickly, good timing, assertiveness, fairness, appreciation other etc.
7. Demand and activation of his brain and memory performance
Boarding horses is usually associated with a certain lack of irritation. This is the most common reason why horses scratch, kick against box walls or doors, neigh with every movement in the room, splash around with the self-potion etc. In short: Many of these horses are simply not mentally challenged. People would be said to have bore-out syndrome. The brain demands to be challenged and trained. (1 hour of complicated dressage lessons a day is not enough for an intelligent horse).
It is relatively easy to constantly offer the horse new stimuli. You just have to systematically go through the horse's senses and be creative. Fragrances, for example, are a very effective way to train the brain, since horses are very odor-oriented beings (though not as specialists as dogs). Putting a different drop of an essential oil in the box or the horse's exercise area every day makes a big difference. Similarly, you can address all of the horse's other senses without necessarily being present every day for brain training (although that would of course be much better for the relationship with your horse).
8. Ease & joy
I am sure that horses, like us, want lightness and joy. You also just want to have fun and play and play around while training. With all the responsibility we bear, we should not ignore this aspect. Because only a happy horse is motivated to work with us. The good thing about it is that it is good for us to just have fun and forget the problems of everyday life.
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