Living outside 24/7 in all seasons on supportive ground
Living outside … all year round? Most people don’t have a problem with that and claim to do it, except when it’s too cold, or too hot, too many bugs, too windy, too wet, too dry, too humid … or “we just bring them in at night”.
I have had the pleasure to live all over Canada. The winters here are long, cold and either very wet or extremely dry depending on location . Lots of snow, freezing rain, ice pellets, slushy rain, slushy snow, with extreme fluctuations in temperature…..all in one day!!
When it comes to 24/7 turnout, the number one concern of horse owners is the winter. BUT 👉🏼The natural horse loves the snowy winter. No pesky biting bugs, plenty of white stuff to make ‘snow angels’ and when you have a custom fitted fur coat it’s not too hot and not too cold.
A healthy natural horse can and does adapt to any weather presented to him. He is made to do so. Living outside within the EQ-system gives the horse all the necessary stimulus they need to produce an incredible winter coat for the climate they live in.
Exposure to the elements and the changing hours of sunshine per day triggers all those physiological changes to take place. This innate programming has been present in the horse for millions of years. There are different ways the horse adapts and deals with the changing seasons. It has to start with being outside 24/7 all year round and being exposed to the environment in which they live.
In our fall, we notice an increase in the amount of hay the horses eat and even how they eat. They follow nature's built in plan by putting on more fat for the winter and building a brand new winter coat.
IF you have ever seen a natural winter coat you would never think that they could get cold … or wet. A thick, soft undercoat is formed much like that of a seal's. It’s job is to ‘seal’ out moisture as well as provide excellent insulation. You can even warm your hands in their fur. The hairs in the top coat are longer (guard hairs) and their job is to shed excess moisture and prevent leaking through to the skin. The little muscles on the end of each follicle in the skin can raise and lower the hairs to allow for more or less air passage. (Similar to the way those little hairs can stand up on the back of your neck) The natural horse's coat has a built in thermostat to regulate body temperature despite the weather. We just have to keep their ‘furnace’ stoked with grass hay and supply shelter (in the form of trees, wind walls or man made buildings). Movement, as always, is key. Penned horses are restricted in space and movement and therefore not able to function naturally.
Riding in the winter is easy … saddle up and go. Then simply make sure the horse’s breathing is normal and put the him back out. They usually take a roll in the snow (or you can put out shavings /straw pile for rolling), shake and fluff out and continue on their merry way … eating and moving. They dry very quickly. The horses will even sweat themselves up when playing hard, far more than I ever would when riding. They steam like crazy and just roll and shake it off the skin.
The health benefits of living naturally are absolutely essential. Ideally the horse would be living in specifically designed EQ system. You don’t need large amounts of land to do this; we have had successful EQ Systems for 5 horses on less than 5 acres.
Summer and coastal regions give more to consider in designing, maintaining and developing your dynamic EQ System living space.
Living this way, helps to ensure a healthy functioning foot, a healthy body from increased movement, as well as mental health. Outside 24/7 with fresh air to breath, NO MUCK and in tune with other horses and nature … you get the idea. Life is never the exact same day twice.
Living in an EQ System also allows for …
… freedom of choice. Good for the horses’ emotional and spiritual well being.
We have a great run-in shelter. In a snow storm you might expect the horses to chose to be inside … but they don’t. They remain outside, in different areas of the field (living space), depending on the weather. Since the horse evolved as an animal of prey, it makes sense that his instinct would be to avoid a place where he cannot see (or flee) potential dangers. We know that when given the freedom to chose, the horse is happier and healthier. It may not be what we humans would chose to do but we respect Mother Nature to take care of her own. If instinct says to put your butt to the wind and ‘hunker down’ for the storm … who are we to question. We accept that to be a whole horse, his mind, body and spirit needs to be out in open air and in touch with the elements of the earth.
Some horses can fool their owners into thinking they ‘like’ the barn and want to go in. They stand at the gate (at feeding time) to come in. They come in and get a reward … usually the highlight of their day. It can take up to a week to wean them off the gate and engage them in their EQ System living space. Feed more hay and spread it around to keep them busy foraging. This keeps the mind calm and the body functional.
High sugar and processed feeds are not used in the EQ System as they are addictive and totally unnecessary. Whole foods feed the whole body and mind.
We talked a lot of winter but summer or extreme hot is hard on the horses. Then we look to provide shade and shelter from the heat, bugs etc. Many ideas and philosophies are found in the Triminology 101 Book or go BEYOND BAREFOOT and learn to trim for yourself.
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