We moved in the late summer to a new horse property just a few miles away from our previous home. Easy, right? Of course not! But the upside is that we were able to design a unique natural horse pasture for our 3 horses.
What is a “natural horse pasture”? This is a horse living area that is designed around the physiological needs of the equine. If that sounds odd, that’s because “typical” horse living arrangements are based on human needs, not horse needs. Case in point: the stall and/or barn. The truth? Horses should never be stalled. Never! Not “just” at night (horses have no day/night cycle like us), not to keep them safe from pasture injuries (confinement creates worse injuries), not to help them heal from an injury (healing needs circulation – movement!!!). Stalling a horse is extremely damaging, particularly due to the stress involved with the confinement of an animal designed to travel 15 miles or more every day! The tradition of keeping horses in small confined spaces, often isolated and separated from other horses is an archaic harmful practice which is not in the best interest of horse health. I’ll share more in coming blogs, but if you’d like to learn more right away, please considering reading books by Dr. Hiltrud Strasser (A Lifetime of Soundness) and Joe Camp (Horses and Stress, The Soul of a Horse). For optimal health, horses must live in a herd, and they must have freedom of movement 24 hours per day.
We live in Arizona (just SE of Phoenix) on natural desert property, so our “pasture” is a dry, sandy area with natural brush encompassing about an acre. We created our natural pasture to incorporate a large tree for shade and shelter, and structured it to be long and narrow, with an adjoining 60 foot round pen popping out of the middle.
The pasture fence is Electro-Braid, which is an electric rope designed specifically for horse fencing. Our fence posts are wooden, to keep them highly visible.
When the round pen is not in use for training, the large gate is open and the horses are free to use it. This gives them a nice area free of “electric fencing”, and I’ve noticed that they prefer to sleep laying down inside the round pen. Fun fact: horses only sleep a few hours a day, mostly standing up, and usually only lay down for an hour, at most!
To complete our natural pasture, we have slow-feed hay nets (with small holes to simulate grazing), and plastic slow feeder boxes filled with bermuda grass hay throughout the enclosure. The horses wander around to “graze” on the various hay sources. They enjoy a variety of salt, minerals, and a large supply of fresh water, in addition to a daily supplemental bucket of whole oats, timothy pellets, vitamins (Dynamite Specialty Products) and clay.
It’s been a couple weeks now, and the natural pasture is working out great! The horses love it, and we love it, too. There’s simply nothing better for the soul than watching horses play in wide open spaces.