No Sugared Coating
By E.J. MacDonald
We humans are a weird bunch, having all kinds of different likes, dislikes, habits, interests, etc. And, while our social schedules, activities, food intake levels and times vary greatly (which for people is totally fine), forcing our horses into that same box isn’t.
ike it or not, horses absolutely NEED to have hay around 24/7. As I have said in a previously written article, their very lives and health depends on this fact. To have a two to four meal per day ration not only marks humans as insensitive but it also shows us that we are overstepping the rules nature laid out. Horses produce stomach acid 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Imagine having heartburn for that duration and ulcers so bad you feel like you just want to pack it in. Without that roughage in his gut, this is exactly how it is for your horse. And those equine gastric discomforts often lead to us having a lot of meetings with teeth, hooves and the ground. Acid splashing up against one’s stomach walls would put anyone into a bad mood, and your equine pal is no exception. Only he can’t pop Gaviscon or Zantac for it, and those ulcer medications are only masking the issue. The issue would likely not be an issue if only we fed them the way they eat naturally. Sorry, but I have to go on. Bits are another issue that humankind has imposed on equinekind. With so many people NOT using bits and getting incredible results and solid relationships with their horses, it makes me wonder why there are
hardly any bitless classes at breed shows. Take the time to do a little poking around on the Internet, and you might just find that bitless is the way to go. Not only do many horses respond better without bits, but many dental issues very often disappear. Still, get your horse a dental checkup every year. Shoes are great for some horses, and some horses do need them. Corrective issues, lameness, riding on hard terrain. Valid reasons. But please take the time to talk to your farrier, and if he/she only pushes for shoes, get a second opinion. You may well find that your horse is a barefoot candidate. Feet (our own included) flex when they meet pressure surfaces, as we know, and that flexion is nature’s way of providing traction. Someone once told me the frog is the “heart” of the hoof and acts like a pump to send blood throughout the hoof. Given that it also acts as a shock absorber, it would seem that shoeing would cause the loss of that give and take of energy the leg naturally uses. Running shoes meet the demands of our legs and feet, so perhaps consider hoof boots instead of shoes. Not only will you save money on metal shoes, but they do come in different colours, so you can accessorize to match tack. Who doesn’t like doing that? None of this (aside from the way horses were designed by nature to eat) is set in stone, so experiment a little. Your horse’s attitude could amaze you, and having a happy horse can mean more trophies and ribbons, or a more relaxing trail ride; for all of us -- a better relationship with our horses all around. With the nicer weather coming around more often, isn’t it time we really got to enjoying our time with our horses? In future, let us remember, “For the good of the horse,” and ask ourselves if it’s for them or for us. E.J MacDonald is an artist, an author, and active in the racing industry since 1997. Active in the equine industry since 1989, she is an advocate of bitless riding and natural horsemanship.
22 • Saddle Up • May 2015
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