Why we shouldn't be stabling our horses
Updated: Jun 9, 2020
We really need to talk about our habit of stabling horses. Horses are social creatures who need the ability to move amongst their herd in order to be free of anxiety and boredom and to feel secure, stimulated and at their physical peak. Habitually stabling our horses does not provide any mental, physical or social benefits and can in fact have a detrimental effect on their well-being... The stable does not resemble a natural life for a horse, in fact, it borders on imprisonment. Horses were designed to move constantly and in the wild they cover great distances in a day, sometimes only resting for a few minutes. Part of this is due to the fact that they are prey animals and instinctively feel safer when able to move freely, away from potential threats. Despite being domesticated, these instincts still remain and we can create unnecessary anxieties by restricting their mobility. Furthermore, by being forced to stand around in stables, unable to run, roll, play and explore as their nature dictates, stabling can lead to all manner of behavioural and emotional issues stemming from a lack of stimulation and the resulting boredom.
On top of this, horses are naturally social animals. In the wild, they move in family bands using distinct formations and are very rarely left alone and isolated. However, that is often how domestic horses are kept in stables. In order to remain psychologically healthy, it’s important that horses have physical contact from their buddies by way of ritualistic grooming to maintain bonds and by moving about as a band. Even fighting should not be entirely discouraged - it’s a fundamental way of discerning a pecking order and animals need this hierarchical system. We should be facilitating these integral, social behaviours as much as possible, rather than isolating our horses in stables.
Worried about your horse’s ability to cope outside the safe warm confines of his stable? Just remember that horses are designed to cope with extreme weather conditions. In the wild, their habitats can range from -5 to 32 degrees. Nature created them to be survivors and it’s simply up to us as owners to encourage and enable their innate behaviours and instincts in order to own happy, healthy, natural horses.