BarnBoots, Exploring Horse and Human Horizons


horses living outdoors in winter

Healthy outdoor living, winter pasture

The horse’s entire circulatory system, lymphatic system and digestive system depend on the horse’s ability to have access to continual movement on firm terrain that supports proper hoof mechanism. This movement is vital for bones, tendons and muscles to develop properly and remain healthy.

Their environment should be as varied as possible: terrain that includes hills, trees and rocks are beneficial for muscle development and co-ordination and the inclusion of some hard and abrasive surfaces within the paddock area encourages the hoof to function, develop and grow properly.

The horse’s lifestyle should reflect its herd-based evolution and allow for the comfort in numbers, and the freedom to move through open spaces. Sufficient space on the right terrain however, may still not provide the domesticated horse with a reason to move – beautifully fenced square paddocks rarely provide enough stimulation of the domestic horse. Layouts that hide part of the paddock from view (i.e. the barn in the middle of the fenced area) tend to create more movement and stimulates the horse’s curiosity, as does separating the resource locations (water, hay, gate access, shelter).

Blankets drastically affect the horse's own ability to thermal regulate, which can actually compromise the horse’s health. Their ability to loft or lower their hairs in response to the environment is severely compromised through the weight of a blanket. And since a blanket only covers part of the horse, the horse’s bio-mechanical system is unable to properly read its environment: the sensory nervous system becomes confused and/or overworked, usually causing the horse to sweat at inappropriate times, and unable to dry under the blanket. In the end, this actually makes them colder, and eventually, the underlying hair follicle muscles cease to work altogether and begin a series of events that can compromise the horse’s overall health.

Providing free choice access to a sheltered location (for wind and rain) will do more for the horse than any external clothing. Horses allowed to grow a winter coat have an amazing ability to adapt to their environment and are usually much healthier – their skin’s temperature regulatory systems are kept in excellent working order through the constant stimulation by temperature changes. And yes, you can ride a horse with a heavy winter coat – it just takes a bit more time and commitment to ensure the horse dries out naturally after your ride!

The horse world is often steeped in “tradition” that may very well complicate the care and jeopardized the health of our beloved equines. Simply providing our horse(s) with their basic biological and behavioural needs - rather than imposing our own human preferences and needs upon them - is the essence of creating a happy, healthy natural horse that is physically, mentally and spiritually prepared to be the best it can be.