Room to Roam: With a View
The nature of the horse IS movement.
Life 'Outside the Box'
We live in a fairly challenging climate in Eastern Canada. Summer is great, but fall and spring are damp and winter is cold - and long. On a February night, it is normal to be -20 or colder with the wind chill. Our horses live outdoors most of the time. There are a few nights each winter when they stay in the big barn, usually due to a combination of wind, temperature and precipitation. They also enjoy a break from the summer biting flies at dusk. Sometimes they like to lie down and snooze for a couple of hours on their dry and comfy mattresses inside when the paddock is too wet for that activity. In fact, we can usually tell when they are all in need of a super-rest because they get a bit cranky with each other - just like us! But most days and nights they are outside in the paddock and use their three-sided shelters when needed.
The paddock is on a hill. It's not a huge space, but those of us who pick the manure can confirm that walking up and down is a good workout! Dry hay is spread out over the whole space several times each day so they have to walk around it to get to all of their food. There are two shelters placed back-to-back - one side faces south and one side north, so they can get in from the weather at all times. They are just big enough for three of them to snuggle in comfortably. The shelters have gravel with rubber matting on top to keep them dry at all times and there is also rubber matting placed in various areas around the paddock to create dry spots for hay in wet weather.
There is lots to look at and they become very engaged in our little corner of the community. They can see the main street and have fun following our neighbours up and down their property and watching their activities. The train passes by directly behind and they don't mind it, although they have a run sometimes when weird vehicles make different sounds on the tracks or when the kids go down the street on skateboards. They don't mind fireworks, sirens, helicopters, tractors or any kind of noisy equipment, but they are very wary about the cat who walks on the train tracks!
We put different things in the paddock to enrich the environment. In summer, we add a cut tree stem like poplar to play with and chew on. It doesn't take them long to strip it bare. There are various toys to throw around and Skip plays with those the most. There are broom brushes fastened on the sides of the shelters where they can have a good scratch. One fun activity is to tuck small pieces of succulent treats in crevices all around the paddock and they will spend a long time searching for them - and never miss one!
The outdoor lifestyle keeps them fit, calm, content and healthy. It's good for their feet, digestion, thermoregulation, lungs and minds. We are making improvements all the time and finding inspiration from people all over the world who are designing cool new environments for their horses.