Horses: Box, Paddock and Pasture

Unfortunately, there are still problems with keeping horses at many horse farms – many animals do not get enough exercise or are kept in much too cramped spaces. In order to make it as beautiful as possible for your own horse, we show you what to look out for when keeping horses in the box with and without a paddock or pasture.

Pure Horror: the Stand Position

The guidelines for keeping horses have made significant progress over the past few decades. It wasn’t too long ago that horses were kept in a standing posture. That means that they stood tied next to each other in the stable and were only tied for riding. Often they were saddled and bridled before the first riding lesson and only released from the saddlery after the last pupil.

Pastures and paddocks were only known to most horses in their dreams, and they only saw green meadows next to the riding arena. So it’s no wonder that the animals got sick quickly and died prematurely. That is why the stand was slowly abolished in the mid-1980s and banned completely in 1995.

One Step Forward: the Box

Many farms switched to boxing after this ban. This is certainly an improvement but unfortunately does not offer an ideal solution in most cases. On average, the boxes in a stable are approx. 3 × 4 m in size and thus a rather cramped space for the animal who loves to move around. In addition, the horse may be able to see its conspecifics through thick metal rods, but cannot touch them, let alone play with them.

These circumstances alone show that the boxing pose is rarely recommended as a standalone pose. If possible, it should be combined with other types of husbandry. If the horse spends the night and a few hours in the box during the day, this is not a problem. Even a day in the box here and there will not affect the horse. In any case, he has to be given a change in a paddock or a paddock so that he can make contact with other horses and move around extensively.

It is different with work and competition horses. These are so physically challenged during the day that boxing is usually unproblematic here – the animals are given exercise throughout the day. Nevertheless, care should be taken to ensure that the horses are allowed to have contact with their conspecifics on a paddock or in the pasture.

The Scent of Freedom: Pasture and Paddock

Pasture and/or paddock are a must when keeping horses because this is where our darlings can really let off steam: They can roll around, trot, and gallop to their heart’s content or just enjoy the sun. If a horse is given the possibility of this freedom, it is much more balanced and much less stressed than if it just had to spend the whole day in the box.

“Quality time” with friends – also important for horses.

We, humans, know it ourselves – every now and then we want to have our peace and quiet, but then we need the company of others again. It is the same with the horse – after all, it is a herd animal and needs time with its fellow species. Every horse enjoys being sniffed a bit, scratching each other, or just spending a little time with other horses.

Pasture and Paddock – That’s the Difference

While the pasture is adorned with grasses and herbs, the paddock is devoid of vegetation. Here the floor is mostly covered with sand or sawdust. A paddock can be the alternative if you cannot find a suitable place for pasture. Here, however, particular attention must be paid to cleanliness. Since the paddock is relatively small compared to the pasture, excrement, and urine quickly collect here. To prevent these from becoming a paradise for bacteria, the paddock has to be pecked regularly.

By the way: It is most beautiful when you can offer the horse both pasture and paddock. If that is not possible, however, the paddock is often the better option, as it does not get muddy as quickly and can withstand most weather conditions. While horses should not be put out on the pasture immediately after the downpour, otherwise they will destroy the sward, this is not a problem with the paddock.

What Has to Be Considered

Pasture and paddock not only have to be kept clean, but they also have to offer the horses a lot. First of all, there should be enough feeding places where there is room for horses of all ranks. Furthermore, a shelter, either naturally in the form of a group of trees or artificially in the form of a building, on the pasture or the paddock is important.

In addition, the pasture and paddock should be varied and inspire the horses with different sensory impressions. This ensures that the horses can occupy themselves and do not get bored. The so-called paddock trails, on which the horses can always experience new adventures, are a great way to implement it.

The Horse Paradise: the Open Stable

The open stable comes closest to natural husbandry. An open stable is placed on the edge of a pasture or a paddock. The horses can go in and out of this open space as they please. This means that the animals are always in the herd and can decide for themselves whether they want to romp around or relax in the barn.

It is important to ensure that sufficient feed resources are available for horses of all ranks. In addition, the area should be large enough or the herd small enough that the horses can get out of the way.

But be careful! Even if the horses can theoretically decide for themselves when they want to stay where horse owners should keep an eye on the outside areas. If these are too muddy, they have to be cordoned off for a while so that they are not dangerous for the animals.

Conclusion: This is How Species-appropriate Horse Keeping Works Properly

Basically, it can be said that the mix has to be right. Only outside or exclusively inside doesn’t really work – at least not in our Central European climate. In order to make life ideal for your darling, there are a few points that you should pay attention to when keeping horses appropriately:

  • Sufficient exercise and exercise opportunities in the fresh air;
  • Contact with other horses and carefully assembled herds;
  • Sufficient feed resources, shelter, and resting places for all horses regardless of rank!
Mary Allen

Written by Mary Allen

Hello, I'm Mary! I've cared for many pet species including dogs, cats, guinea pigs, fish, and bearded dragons. I also have ten pets of my own currently. I've written many topics in this space including how-tos, informational articles, care guides, breed guides, and more.

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