Ethical training methods, equal respect and harmony between horse and human are extremely important to me when I’m around Batman. But I’m only spending a couple of hours a day with him. How he lives when I’m not there is what matters the most. So, how does Batman live?
Since I got Batman in 2009, he has lived outside in a herd 24/7. I chose turnout over a traditional stable because horses are herd animals, they are made to wander many miles a day, and locking him up in a tiny stall was not even in our minds.
Since 2011, his home has been a lovely stable south of Oslo. He is living in a balanced herd with other mares and geldings, and he thrives. He is always down to earth when we are training, he is always coming to the gate to greet me and he is happy and calm. I LOVE being able to let him live like this, and I’m gladly traveling 3 hours every single day to cover Batman’s natural needs.
When I’m not in the stable, he is free to do as he pleases. He has free access to high quality haysilage, temperated water and shelter. He can walk among the trees and dig for roots, he can run around and play, he can go inside the shed and sleep in the soft bedding, he can eat, he can be social and interact with the other horses, and his needs for natural behavior are well covered. When I I arrives and he hear my voice, he will immediatly say bye to his buddies and walk towards me to greet me, not because he has been waiting for me all day, bored to hell, but because he wants to hang out with me.
«I think traditional stables where you place a 500 kg herd animal, a result of 45 million years of evolution, made for roaming free, in a 4×4 meter box for 12 hours a day will soon be old fashioned as we learn more about their natural needs.»
The modern way to keep horses will, hopefully soon, be in large paddock paradises. We don’t see boxes as cages, but many non-equestrians do. Horses will of course need time for themselves every now and then, and they need rest. Studies have shown that horses boarded traditionally rests more than horses in turnout, so we must find a good way to make sure the horses can lie down and rest when they need to. The area must be built in a way that makes it easy for the horses to have their own space, and rest without getting chased away or disturbed. But horses are made for movement, interaction with other horses, and a social life in a herd. In Norway, the normal is to keep the horse in a box, and the law only requires 2 hours outside in a paddock a day. That is, in my opinion, not a good life for any horse. We have no law on keeping horses together, and many live in isolation. Yes, horses are extremely adaptable animals, and they can get used to living in small paddocks without company. But that does not mean it is the best solution.
In Denmark, we can see a very positive trend; most young horses grow up in herds. I hope it will continue to develop this way, and other horses soon can run around, play, eat, sleep and interact on larger areas outside. The result will be more harmonic horses with a better health, both mentally and physically. We must listen to science when it comes to boarding horses in the future.
We must set the horse’s natural behavior as the priority number one, before of our own comfort. Horses that live in herds together with other horses, free to run around, play and eat when they needs to, will be more calm, relaxed and mentally balanced.
Peace, love and Friesian hugs,
Batman & Matilde