Monday 2 May 2016

Horse Keeping Style

There is a huge variation in how horses are kept around the world. I don't think there's necessarily a right answer, and I am willing to modify any of the below if my horse ended up having different needs. This is how Kachina lives right now though:

Home/Living Conditions

Kachina lives in a pen/paddock with two other horses. She is outdoors 24/7 but has a shelter to use if she wants. The pen is 45'x60' so is big enough for them to trot around.

Ideally I would love her to live out in a big pasture. However, the barn I am at only has one big pasture, it is full of cattle at the moment. In the summer, the cows go out to community pasture and horses get the home pasture. However, Kachina still doesn't get to go out there because one of the barn owner's geldings lives out there and he is pretty aggressive. My last mare lived out there because she could stand up for herself, but Kachina would probably get run through a fence and I won't risk that. The lack of pasture space for Kachina is the biggest con about my current barn, but the pros outweigh it for now, and it does have larger pens than the two other places I looked at.

Width of pen, shelter, round bale in econet


Kachina has 24/7 hay in the form of a slow-feed net on a round bale in her pen. The hay is mostly grass hay but has a bit of alfalfa in it.

I like the slow-feed net for the following reasons:
A) she maintains a good weight
B) I don't have to worry about her being the low horse in the pecking order. Since the hay is there 24/7, there isn't the same competition for food
C) I don't have to worry about pulling her away from her food if I come out to ride at suppertime
D) I have a smaller slow-feed net that I take to shows and so I'm not disrupting her usual way of feeding.
E) Supposed to be better for ulcers, teeth, etc.
F) She has hay at all times if she needs extra to keep warm in the winter

All the pens have access to an automatic heated waterer. There is a salt block in her pen, and the owner of Kachina's pen-mates throws in some Hoffman's Horse Minerals in a couple times a week that Kachina has access to.

Otherwise, that's all. Kachina doesn't get any other kind of feed. At one point she was getting a tiny bit skinny so I supplemented with some senior feed after rides, but she's looking good now so I just let her live on hay.


I have a heavy weight winter blanket for Kachina and a rain sheet. I use them when required, but that doesn't end up being very often. I use the winter blanket when it gets consistently below -15C. We had a super mild winter this year though so that was only for a few days (I still can't believe that winter is over, it almost feels like it never came!). She wore the winter blanket more last year. I use the rain sheet for bad combinations of cold rain and wind chills. We don't get much rain though so that also doesn't happen very often.

January 2015

For the rest of the time, Kachina has her natural hair coat. I used to blanket a lot more when I lived farther north, and with my last mare who didn't grow as thick of a winter coat. Kachina grows great winter hair though. Also, where I live now, we get large and fast swings of temperature. It can be -10C at night and warm up to +15C the next day. My barn doesn't blanket, and it doesn't make sense for me to come out multiple times a day to change blankets. I know that Kachina can much better regulate her warmth by flattening and fluffing her own hair, so I let her do that. She also has two other horses to stand with and a shelter to use.

Naked fuzzy pony
(when they get to the bottom of the round bale, they rip the hay out of the bottom)

For the reasons above, I don't clip. With how Kachina lives and our climate, she needs her winter coat. It does mean that I sometimes need to spend 2 hours cooling her out and drying her off after a half hour ride in the winter though.


Kachina is barefoot all around. She has great feet. I can even ride down gravel roads with her barefoot and she is totally fine. If she needed shoes I would get them, but she doesn't so I am very happy to keep her barefoot.

Back feet, mid-trim

Reasons I like barefoot:
A) don't have to worry about her losing or twisting a shoe
B) she can eat out of her slow-feed hay net and I don't have to worry about her getting a shoe caught on it
C) less snow pack in the winter
D) cheaper

I am looking into the option of hoof boots in case we want to go trail ride in the Rocky Mountains.

Vet/Health Care

Kachina gets dewormed four times a year (by the barn).

She gets annual dental work, vaccinations, and a check up by the vet.

Chilling at the vet clinic, waiting for vaccinations
Her blue eyes look freaky in lots of photos, but this blue/red combo is new

She doesn't regularly get any chiro or body work, but I am getting a chiropractor to come look at her this spring for the first time.

I feel like my horse-keeping style is pretty bare-bones compared to some of the bloggers I read about. How does your horse-keeping style compare? If your horse gets extra care (e.g. custom shoes, indoor board, etc.), is it because your current horse has a special requirement for it, or would you do the same with all horses? What would you do differently if you had no constraints on where you keep your horse?


  1. My last horse had some requirements but I was also willing to spend a lot more on him (plus I had a larger disposable portion of my budget I could allocate for it, currently Ramone just gets what he needs, some luxuries are requirements (like being in a Mare Motel because he's a very slow eaters vs being in a pasture).

    1. Budget is certainly a consideration, but I think we'd all try to find a way to make it work if our horses needed expensive extras. I like outdoor board anyways, but the fact that it's cheaper than indoor is a nice bonus :)

  2. I think I'm going to steal this idea for a post. I find it fascinating to see what everyone else does.

    1. Steal away!

      I find it fascinating too. There's a bunch of different components of horse-keeping that I never even considered until reading about them on other blogs. Like people giving horses daily baths and keeping fans in stalls, it makes sense for hot and humid climates, but it's something I've never seen in person.

  3. If it were possible I would have Stinker live out 24/7 with shelter (separate when eating). Better quality hay (region problem not barn problem). He is shod all around but that is due to his hind end being weak. If there wasn't a need he would be barefoot. He is going to get a massage soon but that is more of a curiousity thing than anything. I am big fan of letting horses be horses rather than baby them because shit happens either way.

    1. I subscribe to the idea of letting horses be horses when possible too.

      Sorry to hear about the quality of hay in your region. In dry years (like last year), we sometimes have to truck it in from far away to get enough hay, but quality isn't as much of a problem.

      I get the curiosity thing for trying a massage, that's kind of where I'm at with trying chiro. There's no serious problems but I'm interested to see if it helps with a couple of small quirks Kachina has.