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Why Horses Don't Belong Behind Bars: Debunking the Myth

Stallion with friends on a track

In my years as a horse lover, professional and boarder owner, I have had countless conversations about the proper way to care for horses. As far as I'm concerned, there's no conversation possible about: horses don't belong in stables. It's time to think outside the box. Science and common sense are crystal clear on this subject.

If you've read the scientific literature, you know that confining horses for long periods of time, in a small space, is detrimental to their physical and mental health. Studies have shown time and time again that limited exercise and social isolation lead to a range of health problems, from lameness and stomach ulcers to behavioral problems such as weaving and air sucking. But even without this scientific background, we can use common sense to understand why locking up horses is a bad idea.

Horses are herd animals by nature. They feel safe and happy in the company of others of their own kind. It is inherent to their being to have social contact. Locking up a horse individually deprives it of that essential interaction and can lead to stress and anxiety. In addition, horses are made to walk kilometers a day and have no day and night rhythm. In the wild, they travel enormous distances day and night, always in search of food and water. Their bodies are designed for movement. Locking a horse in a stable, where it can hardly turn around, goes completely against this natural need. The physical and mental damage this can cause is significant.

Horses sleeping together, they feel safe in a herd

At Equine Visions we believe in creating an environment that respects the natural behavior and needs of horses. This means as much free movement and social contact as possible. We have an ethical responsibility to put the welfare of horses first.

Behavioral problems, welfare problems and basic needs

I am regularly asked to help people with their horse's behavioral problems. The first thing I always ask is about the horse's housing and whether its basic needs are met: friendship, freedom of movement, unlimited roughage and water, and shelter. If this is not met, unfortunately I cannot help. This is the foundation for a healthy and happy horse. If your horse does not have unlimited acess to this and problems arise, you will be treating symptoms instead of addressing the cause, and I don't do that.

Horses make careful contact with the help of a boundary

There are no exceptions

After more than 11 years of experience, I have been able to refute countless myths and misunderstandings. Too often there are situations where people think it is not possible to meet the basic needs of their horses. Every day I prove the opposite. For example, we have been able to successfully place a stallion that has always been alone from an early age into a herd with friends. We have helped several stallions to live together with other horses. In addition, we were able to successfully rehabilitate three horses with colic surgery without locking them in a small stable. These horses were always given space to move, a choice between being indoors or outdoors, access to social contact and unlimited roughage and water, which aided their recovery.

Why do stables still exist?

The only reason people still lock their horses in stables has to do with tradition 'because that's the way it should be' or human challenges in terms of space, money and adaptability. This has nothing to do with the health of the horses. Every horse company could at least create outdoor stables, so that all basic needs can be met day and night.

Only the limitations of humans still limit the horses.

Let's work together towards a future in which all horses get the freedom, exercise and social contact they deserve. If you have any questions or would like to know more about how we approach this at Equine Visions, I am always open to a constructive conversation. However, for me there is no discussion about locking horses in stables: it is simply not an option.

Herd of horses resting together

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