Our Horsekeeping Model
A horse is a horse and he knows that he is a horse.
We are continuously developing our own management model that is inspired by zoological and ethological understanding to meet the physical, emotional and social needs of the band members. It's not perfect, but we're making improvements all the time and are constantly studying and trying new concepts in our living laboratory. As any experienced horse person will attest, even in a lifetime, we will never know it all when it comes to relating to our horses, but - an open mind, a true intention and a lot of motivation all go a long way. Of course, it takes a village and we are grateful to have the benefit of a wonderful team to help us care for them. In addition to all of us who labour around the property every day, we have a fantastic hoof trimmer, veterinary team and support from fellow horse people in our community. And, we can't forget - all of our friends around the globe who are providing new ideas and resources as we all move forward together for the horses of the world.
Our horses are valued as sentient beings who have a home with us for life. They provide many gifts and in exchange, they seem content with a nice pile of hay, the sun on their backs, a good roll, a mutual scratch, a snooze in good company, a feeling of security and quality time hanging out with their horse - and human - friends! They, like us, want to be comfortable, have plenty of good food, feel safe, enjoy the company of their friends or family, have things to occupy their minds, and healthy bodies. Each of them has a unique life story and personality- and all of our activities begin and end with our healthy, wise, content, SMILING horses.
An Evolving, Integrated Model
There is no doubt that one of the biggest things to happen in the horse realm in recent years has been the building awareness that quite often, what needs 'fixing' in our horse/human relationships can be as much a result of how they are kept as how we relate to them. Many are practicing and promoting a model that is based on the needs of the horse rather than on tradition, convenience and the human tendency to relate to the horse from an anthropocentric viewpoint.
We have been exploring different approaches for many years - and we are learning more and more all the time as new information becomes available and discussion between clever, creative and open-minded people pushes the envelope of understanding and knowledge - all for the benefit of the horse. We take a 'whole horse' approach to management because we have found that it's not possible to separate how horses are kept from how we relate to them. Everything about how we all relate to each other is integrated. We have discovered - when they are content with their lifestyle, allowed to eat, socialize and move as they need - the result is a group of happy beings who are always more than willing to interact with us in a calm and fuss-free manner. We don't have the need to 'fix' behaviour problems that are often the result of a stress-inducing lifestyle!
Are we 'Natural'?
Yes, and no. We are inspired by the 'Natural Horse Keeping' model described above and we practice the principles. However; we use the term 'natural' very thoughtfully when describing our activities or environment - for a few reasons. First, the word has been so overused, misinterpreted and marketed in our contemporary equine culture that it has become difficult to arrive at a common understanding about what it actually means in any particular scenario. The 'natural' state for the horse historically could be considered - out on the plains in a herd environment with no human interference whatsoever. Due to their adaptive potential, they would likely thrive as a species as has been proven over time, whereas on an individual scale, life could be a challenge due to illness, injury, climate or other circumstances and nature, as always, would take its course.
As it happens, their status as a domestic animal and their adaptive nature lead us to a place where we all co-habit in an environment that is created and managed by us, the humans, so we start with that and work our way toward our objective. In this domestic case, we can often realize advantages for the individual horse. Ours will never have to suffer the fate of dying of starvation or thirst, or indeed of ever being hungry. They will never be chased by predators, suffer of lingering injury or freeze to death. They have immediate medical care and a team of professionals to provide various services. They have an easy life in many ways - from a human perspective, but there is much lacking when compared to a wild, natural state - starting with the fact that they have no control over anything to do with their situation. In nature, they would be living in a family unit of their own choosing, moving as they wish and finding comfort and security in their own band, although as individuals they may not exist at all without the human desire to produce them for our own reasons. Our 'services' may be small compensation for the lack of a natural lifestyle, but unfortunately we have no way to compare a wild life to the one we provide in captivity in simple terms. To be sure, there is more to freedom for a horse than simply having unlimited space. Within the confines of our domestic model, we can provide freedom from mental stress and physical discomfort, which we believe results in a content life for them.
At the same time, we strive to remain conscious of the fact that although our intent is to care for them as truly and sincerely as if they were our family - they have species-specific needs that are not equivalent to our human family needs and cannot be met from that standpoint. We realize - a horse is a horse and he knows that he is a horse. If he is lonely and in need of horse companionship, no amount of human interaction can change that fact. If he wants to be out moving in the fresh air, all the treats in the world can't replace that need if he is locked in a stall. That is the view that makes sense to us.
So, what do we do?
We break down the components of our horsekeeping model and make an effort to mimic a nature-inspired condition that is based on their biology and ethology. We try as much as we can to provide an environment and care that is compatible with their physical, mental and emotional needs, while at the same time, enjoying the parts of the construct that are mutually beneficial for both species. At least, we hope that the benefits are mutual and in some areas perhaps even 'better than natural', and that is the best that we can do!
The other pages in this section talk about the how's and why's of the different components of our management scheme and the inspiration page has all kinds of links that we have found to be helpful as we have evolved our model over the years.