Saturday, November 26, 2011

Back On Two Feet

And So I Start All Over Again

Right now, both my knees feel about the same, so the left one has pretty much recovered from my fall. I'm not sure how it will be after I go out to feed the Boys, or after a bit of walking around, but so far, so good.

I did find the last couple days rather interesting. Not doing a lot of walking for the two weeks of my recovery was not good for either leg.  My right one had gotten pretty stiff and gave me so pain again. Nothing too terrible, but certainly a setback from where I was before I went off my horse. Just goes to show how quickly our muscles will lose their strength if not properly exercised.

It makes me think of horses...what doesn't?  In particular, of horses kept in the stall for most of the time. I've heard of many situations where perfectly sound horses are in the barn all the time except for the hour or so they are exercised or ridden.  Aside from being incredibly boring for their minds, what does it do to their bodies?

In a natural setting, the horse is a grazing, relatively nomadic animal. Even on the lushest grass, you will see a horse move about from place to place as it eats. You will also see a horse take off an run for no reason at all except to move at speed. I was told my PJ used to walk all the way to the far end of the pasture at one boarding stable and then gallop back several times a day, as if he were engaged in some kind of self-exercise program.

Now, I do understand that some horses need specialized turnout--individual or limited--due to personality or physical issues, but that is most often the exception. Personally, I believe a horse needs to be in a herd situation, or at least with a buddy, turned out for the better part of every day in order to be healthy, sound, and content. Otherwise, it's just not natural.

And here's where the lesson of my knees come into the equation. If two weeks of limited activity made my legs weaker, what would days of confinement in a stable do to a horse's legs/muscles?  Somehow I can't imagine that an hour or so of exercise can quite make up for hours of freedom and movement in turnout.

My Boys have 24/7 turnout here. Sometimes they are muddy messes, sometimes they just hang out in the stalls and run in sheds instead of wandering about the paddocks. Tucker loses shoes, and turnout sheets get ripped.  Now and again we get hoof abscesses (this year was a bad one), and dings and cuts and scrapes. My Boys rarely look acey deucy "show ready," on an average day, but they do seem happy.

I'd rather have that than a perfectly groomed horse any day.


  1. Anonymous9:45 AM

    I do stall Drifter and Dawn at night, but they're usually out at least 10 hours a day, and Pie's usually out 24/7. Pie and Drifter are both on solo turnout - they're the only two geldings, and Drifter's just too aggressive, but they are close by other horses and seem pretty content.

    Couldn't agree more about how important movement is, for horses and us - I learned that lesson during my 6-week layup.

    Hope the legs get back to normal soon.

  2. I agree with horse managment that is respecful of their nature. Horses are herd roaming nomadic herbivore animals.
    They all would be happier in turn-out tailored to their needs.
    I still think a horse should be comfortable to be equally stable and turn-out without losing his mind in either condition.

    Where I disagree with you is that Horses have a different physiology than us, being prey animals.

    For example, it takes a human 30 seconds for stretching a muscle, it only takes 4 seconds for a horse to stretch.
    Something to bear in mind when doing stretches to a horse !!!!

    So I do not know what stall confinement do to a horse at a physiological level.
    However, most performance horses are kept that way, with only a couple of hours/day or a day of turn-out/week. They still are in good shape. So I do not know???
    I would love to read more research about it that is for sure!

  3. I agree that horses need as much turnout as possible. As a matter of fact they all refused to come in last night and I can't blame them it was warm. They have the option of coming in or staying out and usually prefer to come in during winter or bad weather.

    We boarded once at a show barn where they only let them out for an hour a day and they were miserable. When one of them saw my car pull up they started neighing and carrying on. We only stayed there a month, they were not happy. Even my older guys keep themselves in pretty good shape by walking all the paddocks and playing with each other. I can't see how they can keep in shape with only an hour or so of controlled riding exercise a day, it's not natural.

    Glad your knee is doing better. You'll be back to where you were in no time.

  4. entirely agree. rather think top horses/racehorses/the like are kept in a lot in case of field injury ....

    ours are out dawn until dusk in the winter, 24/7 in the summer bar injury...where we are it's yard rules in the winter anyway, but i would hate one of those places where they are in 24/7 in the winter. Even if there's nowt to eat, they should still go out for a bit!

  5. I couldn't agree more! It's hard to find more turn out in this area than what we have now (9:30 - 2:30). I try to compensate as much as reasonable by riding Tetley either before or after turnout so as to maximize his time out of the stall. In addition, if I am there when they feed I split the hay so he has to walk back and forth. Except for the coldest weather (their waterers are not heated) he always has access to his outdoor run, which is three times the size of his stall. Granted it's not the same as being out in the pasture but it's better than being stuck inside in a small space with poor air quality.

    I hope your knees stand up (ha!) to feeding and walking around.

  6. It all comes down to money, really, at least for boarding facilities. Turnout costs money: mortgages, property taxes and time spent bringing horses in and out make turn out a luxury for most. Plus, an injury could present a real financial hardship, especially if the horse is your livlihood. That's why I'm glad I don't have to rely on horses for my livlihood!

    Glad to hear the knees are feeling better!

  7. yea - I think back to my days and years on the track as a groom - and those horses on grain in a stall 23 of 24 hours a day. I am sooooooo grateful Stormy learned to be an outdoor horse, 24/7. he's had some scrapes, bad ones actually, but... neither I or nor he would trade this for his old stall life ever again!
    - The Equestrian Vagabond