Horses at a livery stable do not always have it easy. In fact, at livery stables, the amount of changes in herds is generally higher than at a private one. And as horse owners, we all know that a horse is a herd animal. But did you also know that a change in the group causes stress and therefore reduced resistance? Read how this works in this blog.
Stable herd = safety and security
Horses naturally live in herds, with a clear leader and mutual friendships and relationships. Each horse is at a certain place in the hierarchy in relation to another horse. For one horse, they will step aside and for another, they will not. This creates a balance in the herd. And this balance is important for overall safety and a sense of security. The herd can then calmly graze, rest, play, groom and be relaxed. Stress is then only there when there is danger, but as soon as the danger has passed, the herd returns to relaxation.
Unstable herd = stress and unrest
At many (livery) stables, there is a regular coming and going of horses. Horses stay for a few months to a few years and then leave for another place (with or without the current owner). Horses are sold, move or die and this ensures that the herd does not get a chance to form.
With every horse that leaves or joins, the ranking will have to be redefined. Even if it is a submissive/easy/stable horse. Relationships will be re-examined, horses will have to learn to trust the new horse and the new horse will have to learn with whom what is allowed and what is not. New friendships are made, but it is also determined who is or remains the boss. A herd change therefore means a lot is happening in the herd! On the face of it, it may look like there is peace and quiet, but underneath, a lot is happening. Also realise that it can take up to a year for a horse to become completely familiar in its new place. So a move has a huge impact and always causes stress.
Stress causes reduced resistance
The horse’s resistance is always put under pressure by a move. There are other bacteria/viruses/organisms in the new environment, which will trigger the horse’s resistance. On top of that, the horse experiences stress, maybe it is not physically visible, but in the body there is stress. Everything is new, smells different, the daily rhythm is different, there are other horses and other people. Really everything is different for the horse and that causes internal stress. And stress causes reduced resistance, as the body goes into survival mode and in an acute stress situation, more cortisol is produced which is anti-inflammatory in the short term, but with a move you can actually speak of chronic stress. And then the stress in the body starts to produce a lot of waste products, which actually causes more inflammatory reactions and reduces the horse’s resistance.
Not for nothing do many horses get a runny nose right after a move, are not quite fit or even develop colic.
Limit herd changes!
This is especially important for stable owners, but also if you have your horses at home. Try as much as possible to limit herd changes. The fewer changes, the more stable the herd and the less stress the horses experience. Not only does this provide a more pleasant living environment for the horse, but it also benefits the overall resistance and thus health.
If there are many changes at a livery stable, this often also says something about its policies. Keep this in mind when looking for a new place for your horse!