The horse evolved to move. The importance of adequate movement cannot be stressed enough, writes Narayan Khalsa.
So many problems in the domestic horse world could be alleviated and completely nonexistent if only horses were granted the freedom and given the incentive to move.
Too often horses are simply labeled as “colicky.” Research has shown that when naturally boarded within a ‘paddock paradise’-like system, the amount of colic is significantly reduced. After all, colic is a product of unnatural management practices. This isn’t to say it’s impossible for a naturally boarded horse to colic; of course, anything can happen. My point is that colic would not be as big an epidemic today if natural boarding was the norm.
A horse in the wild moves on average 10 to 20 miles every single day. This is the demand of the natural world, which the horse instinctually meets – it’s who they are. At a base genetic level, these horses are the same creature you have within your care. The lessons learned from the wild equines of the Great Basin are profound and are being increasingly applied to domestic horse care. The success of these methods are concrete proof of their health-giving benefits.
Take a human for instance – it is practically common knowledge that a sedentary human is generally not a healthy human. While people have not evolved the need to move 10 to 20 miles a day, their health will be negatively impacted without at least some physical activity. Horses, on the other hand, are required to move that much, and yet many are confined to a stall for as much as 23 hours a day. Can you see how dire a situation has been created?
The horses shown here in the Association for the Advancement of Natural Horse Care Practices (AANHCP) paddock paradise held by Jill Willis and Jaime Jackson represent the current gold standard of natural boarding. I’ve been there and walked the “track” with my friends and mentors Jill and Jaime. I’ve shared space with the magnificent horses that live there, and observed them on all levels. I have not once in my life seen such impeccably healthy horses.
They have a completely different energy than the horses I see on my trim routes or at stables or anywhere else for that matter. They embody a quality that’s, unfortunately, absent in most domestic horses. It’s as if their presence is permeating vitality in the space. It is truly remarkable. If anyone was on the fence about whether or not to create such a living environment for their own horses, I encourage you to at least connect with the Paddock Paradise Facebook page, and also consider taking a tour of the track with Jill and Jaime.
The beauty of the surrounding wilderness alone is worth the trip, let alone seeing their eight-year-old gelding, Chance and his mates gallop the half-mile track, which is located almost a half mile and a 400-foot incline above the source of the horses’ water. Furthermore, the track is comprised of hard and rocky soil, so it closely mimics the natural conditions they’d find in the wild. Their obvious happiness and healthiness would leave no doubt in anyone’s mind that these conditions are beneficial.
To discuss their feet, of course, would require an entire book. As Jaime says, “They are nearly at the brink of wildness.” Their feet are so well-maintained and self-trimmed by nature’s input alone, that Jaime’s tools meet them only about three times a year. If people could only comprehend the amount of money saved by creating an environment like this, I imagine there would be many more paddock paradises.
First, you’d be able to eliminate vet bills caused by the practice of anti-holistic care, such as stalling. You’d also come close to eliminating the need for visits from a natural hoof care practitioner every month, which would save hundreds of dollars a year. Nature’s trim is not just superior – it’s free.
Before you feel hopeless that you do not have miles of potential track for your horses, please realize that these conditions can be closely mimicked even on a few acres of land. However, the amount of space needs to grow in relationship to the size of the herd. The larger the space, the better. The key is to create the space of “movement necessity”.
Horses are cognitive creatures of necessity and curiosity, and move according to their biological needs for food, water, exploration, and the presence of predators. This means that even though you have a giant dry lot paddock, they will not move through it unless presented with biological necessities to prompt them or interesting things to explore. By adding multiple slow feeder hay stations at different spots, the horses will walk to and fro all day.
If the ground is naturally comprised of sand or other soft materials, consider adding rocks to help toughen their hooves by facilitating natural wear. Make sure to put their water at the far end of the paddock too. It is the inherent energy of herd dynamics and biological necessity that create the feet of the horses that live in the paddock paradise I refer to.
I have seen with my own eyes the magnificent feet of horses blessed with even a small natural boarding setting. It does not need to cost an arm and a leg to create these conditions, just rather some creative reflection on your paddock space and some brainstorming on how to optimize it. Using Jaime Jackson’s book “Paddock Paradise,” will give the foundational understandings of why and how to create such a space for your horses.
It’s never too late to optimize your horses’ living situation for the better. Just start with what you have and keep moving forward. Find the fun in continuously blessing another animal’s life.
Narayan Khalsa is a co-founder of Effective Pet Wellness, a company specializing in horse wellness and clearing infectious disease is equines, cats, and dogs.
Effective Pet Wellness provides 100% guaranteed herbal formulas that are designed to eliminate all known infections, including strongyles Lyme Disease, and even EPM.
Narayan also has a successful hoof care practice in Colorado, whose methodology is based upon the Great Basin wild horse model taught within the AANHCP.