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Barn Buddies Companions and toys provide an outlet for a horse’s need to socialize and romp By Denise Steffanus

By nature, horses are social creatures. Wild horses establish a complex society within the herd and work off stress by play fighting, running and exploring new surroundings as they wander in search of forage. Domesticated horses live a life remotely different from their natural habitat, especially performance horses. In human terms, being housed in a 12-by-12-foot stall, never touching another horse, amounts to solitary confinement. Show horses have the opportunity to be turned out in a paddock for a few hours a day, or even overnight, but racehorses are generally not as fortunate. Trainers count on pent-up energy to launch their horses out of the gate. Racing provides an outlet for a horse’s need to run in a herd, competing against each other for the lead. Horses, like people, develop ways of coping with stress. If they can’t fulfill the basic emotional needs of their nature, they can develop neurotic behavior and ulcers—just like people do. Solving this problem would be simple if we could turn our performance horses loose to roam the plains in herds. Since this is not a workable solution, we should instead provide a means for them to satisfy their need for companionship and rowdy play. Barn buddies and toys serve this purpose well. AMERICAN RACEHORSE • SEPTEMBER/OCTOBER 2016 45

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American Racehorse - September/October 2016  

This issue of American Racehorse magazine features a long-form article about the magic of Ak-Sar-Ben racetrack in Omaha, Nebraska, plus a lo...

American Racehorse - September/October 2016  

This issue of American Racehorse magazine features a long-form article about the magic of Ak-Sar-Ben racetrack in Omaha, Nebraska, plus a lo...