Horse welfare is of paramount importance to many horse owners and fortunately also to more and more authorities. We at HELTIE horse think a happy horse is extremely important! It is therefore our goal to bring horses closer to nature, with optimal health and well-being for all horses. But what should we as horse owners actually pay attention to and take care of?
Good and enough nutrition
Many horse owners depend on their stable owner when it comes to feeding their horse. But we as horse owners have a responsibility for the health of our horse and therefore also the nutrition. Horses must have access to sufficient roughage of good quality. Our preference is always for unpackaged hay, as packaged hay has several health disadvantages. In addition, we prefer to see horses on unlimited roughage, but a maximum of 3 hours without it.
The roughage/grass nowadays no longer provides sufficient minerals and vitamins, so the supplementary feeding of a balancer/vitamin pellet is really necessary. We are not anti-concentrates, but most horses in the Netherlands do not need large amounts of concentrates. And that scoop that most horses receive is not enough to provide vitamins and minerals. Therefore always look critically at your ration!
Lots of free movement
Horses are made for walking, hours a day. The so-called snack step principle. Standing 23/7 in a stable is therefore really outdated. Horses should be given sufficient free movement in which they can do their own thing and make their own choices between: resting, eating, exercising or social interaction. Horses should be given at least 6 hours of free movement in a spacious paddock or meadow per day, but our preference is of course for many more hours. We consciously keep training outside the free movement, because that is separate from it. During training, a horse cannot make its own choices.
A clean and dry place to lie down
In winter this can be difficult to achieve with horses that are outside 24/7, but all horses should have a clean and dry place to lie down. A box should be sufficiently scattered and horses that live outside should have a place that is dry and clean. Horses don’t sleep long, but they must have a place to stretch out in order to enter REM sleep. The space must therefore also be large enough, for most horses a box of 3x3m is really too small.
Lots of contact with other horses
Horses are highly social animals that naturally live in stable herds. Horses should be able to romp and cuddle with each other. The presence of another horse simply provides peace and relaxation and gives security. Horses should therefore preferably be kept in a (stable) herd so that this social contact is possible. As a horse owner, every now and then we have to take for granted a spot, wound or minor injury. Also stallions can be offered social contact. Many stallions can stand together with geldings or with a wire in between so that they can at least nose.
Unfortunately, many horses experience stress during training. A little (healthy) stress cannot always be prevented, especially when horses are learning something new. Only it is up to us to avoid prolonged or a lot of stress during training. Therefore, always take your horse’s physical and mental capabilities into account during training. Do not overload your horse, take age into account and adjust goals if they are not achievable for your horse.
Always make sure that you have suitable harness, leave bandages and warm leg protectors in the closet and only use leg protectors because it is necessary, not for the looks. We are not pro bitless, but look at your horse! If your horse is very restless in the mouth, try bitless or another bit. Don’t be blind to bitless either, some horses find a bit nicer than the pressure on the nose. And don’t forget to have your saddle checked regularly!
Currently, the aspect of safety also plays an important role in animal husbandry in the Netherlands. Of course, as horse owner, we must ensure a safe fence, no protruding parts and no attributes in the paddock that could hurt the horse. We must therefore ensure a safe living environment.
The wolf is very active in parts of the Netherlands, in the area where we are located as a HELTIE horse this is becoming a major problem. Sheep are frequently killed, but now cows and the first horses have also been attacked. Many horse owners therefore choose to store their horses during the dark hours. Unfortunately, this is not possible for all horse owners and they can only improve fencing as best as possible. But this obviously causes stress for the owner, but it is also noticeable that horses are a lot more restless and more alert.