Keeping Things in Perspective …

I have to sneak this one in here quickly … I know I promised you an article on feeding routines and letting a lesson barn use your horse in exchange for training. And I haven’t forgotten.

But I found this fascinating and I have to share it with you …

*** Comments from a reader ***


I have to tell you, you sound like a first time horse owner without much experience yourself. Not putting mares and gelding together? How do you think they live in the wild? Who do you think is in charge of the herd in the wild? Under the stallion, it is a mare. The mares “rule the roost” if you may. Separating them from geldings because geldings are “rougher” is the most ridiculous thing I have ever heard. Geldings and mares form bonds and become families of their own, even protecting young horses and the old. They form friendships and lasting bonds. Being in the same pasture gives them a true feeling of a herd.

Have you ever seen a rogue herd of mares running in the wild? For that matter how about a herd of geldings? Do you go to work with all female everyday because you are cycling and you can’t keep the boys away? Ridiculous!!

I currently board 125 head of horses and have for the past 15 years. We feed hay year round and if you will double check your facts again, you will find that hay does not lose its nutritional value if it changes color. Again another piece of misinformation on your email. Check with any University or vet and they will tell you the same thing. Of course it is roughage, something horses need constantly. They should be getting their primary nutrition from their grain and added minerals, not from the hay that you say is leaving them hungry because it has turned colors.

The only thing I found true in your email is that they have too many horse on too little of pasture. You need at least 3 to 5 acres per horse if you are turning them out to pasture. Instead of writing a column and sounding like a beginner horse person who is watching her beloved horses romp and play in her back yard, you should get some expert advice yourself.

Your email and advice should be taken with a grain of salt, not as good pertinent information usable for a new horse owner.

You really should be more cautious when handing out advice to those who really don’t know, but want to learn.

As for letting a barn use your horse as their lesson horse, I think that is always a bad idea because too many things can go wrong on so many different levels. If you are doing it because you want to save money, always remember, you usually get what you pay for.

Owning a horse is a huge responsibility, not something that should be done as “cheaply” as possibly. If you cannot afford to properly care for a horse or you don’t know what you are doing, then you probably should not buy one.

Before purchasing a horse, take lessons from a facility that will actually teach you about horses, not just how to ride!

Please feel free to email me back. But please check your advice before you freely hand it out to those who do not know any better.

*** My comments ***

First off I think this is a classic example of one person’s truth versus my truth or the truth of the ranch owner who thought it ok to shoot a horse a year. We all have our own perspectives and believes based on our own personal experiences. The tricky bit is to understand another person’s perspective without distorting it with your own internal views and losing track of context. Neither M. or me is wrong when you start to look where we come from.

But quite frankly M., you would have gained a lot more respect from me if you had approached your comments from a more exploratory perspective … “My experience with the hay around here is that even though it may be bleached and have lost color it still maintains enough nutrition for the horses. We make up any shortfall in nutrition with grain and it’s worked well for us. I would suspect that climate differences, soil composition etc. play a big factor. After all I live in Texas and you’re in BC Canada.” or something to that effect. You get the idea.

You have experience with 125 boarded horses on 70 acres in Texas, US. I have experience with 16 horses on 10 acres in West BC, Canada. These two environments are completely different and should be taken into consideration before you start telling someone that they don’t know what they’re talking about. Apart from my own experience and extensive research, my knowledge certainly isn’t based on that of mine alone. The information I provide in my book was well circulated and reviewed by boarders, other barn owners, equine health care professionals and haulers. Comments I’ve received from other barn owners who also read my newsletter share a rather different perspective from yours as well.

If I had several sections of land for the horses to roam on in a herd, trust me, I would have geldings and mares together no problem. For me, smaller spaces play a big factor in how the herds behave and whether the combination of mares and geldings works or not. It also depends on the personalities of the horses in the herd. As well, I have to accommodate the needs of my boarders and consider the wear and tear on my property. This is the reality I have to deal with. I know of a place around here that absolutely refused to take in mares and only accepted geldings. I’m sorry, but that policy wasn’t developed arbitrarily overnight. Doesn’t mean I have to support it but I’m sure they had good reasons.

Personally I’d love to give horses as natural an environment as possible, and if I could give them 70 acres I would, unfortunately not all of us have 70 acres to our disposal. That amount of space allows you to accommodate the natural needs of the horses much better than I can. In this area it is very rare to come across 70 acre properties and you certainly will not find horses living as you describe around here, unless you go further inland well away from the cities. It’s simply not a reality that many people have access to, let alone can afford.

For many of us our horses live in a very unnatural and unhealthy setting. Around here, available choices vary greatly and what I see over and over is that people make poor decisions because they simply don’t know any better.

And that’s why I’ve written my book and write this newsletter. This is not about providing an in-depth education about nutrition. And, I would like to mention that I didn’t give you the wrong information saying that hay loses its nutritional value when left in the sun. There is plenty of information out there in books or on the net that will tell you that especially vitamins in hay will be lost completely within a matter of weeks. My horses do get most of the nutritional value out of my hay and I supplement minimally, but I should also mention that I’m situated between two regions that produce beautiful quality hay.

I certainly was speculating when writing about the ranch with too many horses in a pen. That’s all I can do – with any of the information you give me. I’m not there; I don’t have the full story. But you can still learn from my observations. Seeing some of the practices that the ranch supported, I don’t think they would have been overly concerned about the condition or quality of the hay or how it was kept. I was making you aware of possibilities. On the other hand, if you saw hay outside and it was a bit off in color but the place was immaculately kept and the horses looked healthy and happy, you’re likely to have a very different opinion.

I want to give you a foundation to work from so that you can comfortably sort through the overwhelming amount of information that’s presented to you. And empower you to make a good decision from the get-go. You’ll develop your own believes over time as you gain more experience and learn more. After all – it’s not about me; it’s all about you and your horse and your journey together. And nobody has the right to tell you what you should believe. I just want to see you off on a good start and avoid the avoidable.

M. … I appreciate your comments and I’m sure you’re very knowledgeable. Looking after 125 boarders and horses is a big task and not something I would particularly enjoy taking on.

Next time I would appreciate it if you went on an exploratory route with me and actually tried to get to know me before making your accusations. You should read my book, in fact I’ll send you a copy. I think you’ll get a rather different opinion about me or perhaps not. I certainly do not profess to know everything. I understand horses and their natural ways and I talk about that in my book, perhaps not to the depth you would like to see but that’s not the objective of my book. There are other books that are passionately devoted to that subject. I’m sure our opinions will differ regardless and if you decide you’d like to be part of something that could help others; I would welcome your suggestions on a positive and constructive note.

Do keep in mind that my information is related to smaller facilities in urban areas and the typical commercial facilities I see around here. This is the world I know but also the world in which many people need to make choices for their horses. I would love to develop something that would provide region specific information but in order for that to be successful I need to hear from people in other areas. I would also love to expand the information on facilities that are focused on specialized activities or disciplines but I can’t do that without the help from knowledgeable people who can tell me how things work for them and their experiences with good and bad practices. That time will come.

That’s it for today,
I’ll talk to you again soon …

Your fellow horse lover

P.S. If you have any questions that you would love to see covered or have a story to share, send me an email.

P.P.S. And don’t forget to share my web site with your friends if you feel they would benefit from the information as well! [You can also follow me for free on Twitter HERE!]

Reader's Comments

One Response to “Keeping Things in Perspective …”

  • One comment – I disagree with the grain statement. Hay is the most important feed of horses. Grain should be just a supplement and used in appropriate volume where horses are having a problem keeping on weight.

    Also the statement on mares with geldings and what they do in the wild. My boarders don’t want to see their horses all scratched up, cut, or get broken legs like in the wild– we protect them by carefully selecting if they need individual turnout to stay scar free or can do well with another buddy.

    If an individual owner has a mare and gelding and wants them turned out together– I’ll do it. Usually the problem with a mare and gelding is not that they don’t get along– it’s the gelding who starts to take on stallion characteristics and I have had cases where the otherwise mild gelding charged the owner of the mare when she wanted to take her mare out of the paddock.

    Actually that can happen with any mix but is more likely when it is mare and gelding. We look to turn out 2 horses that don’t get protective of the other and don’t get too rough with each other.


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    Do you have that nagging feeling that you may be paying too much for board and are worried that your horse may not be happy? Finding the right horse boarding stable doesn't have to be that overwhelming ... When you have the RIGHT information at your finger tips! Pick up a copy of my book How to Find Trouble Free Horse Boarding, Even if You are New to Horses.

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