Kilgobbin Stud

When I started to study natural horsemanship in order to get a better understanding of what my horse expected of me as his riding partner, I realised that my ideas on horse keeping were going to have to change as well, since horses like to live in a holistic way….how they live, how they eat, how they are trained, how they are feeling, are all interlinked. You can't address a perceived behaviour problem that crops up in training unless you look at the environment that horse lives in the other 23 hours of the day, what feed he is given, what shape his body is in (yes he gets aches and pains just like we do after riding!), and guess what? If you keep it as simple and natural as you can, many so called behavioural issues seem to lessen. Horses are social animals whose bodies are designed to trickle feed, not to eat only 2 big meals a day and have limited access to grazing and roughage, and their skeletal and muscle structures are designed to move continuously throughout the day and night and as soon as we place restrictions on these basic needs, we start creating a host of potential problems. So I had to take a look at my horses and change some of my livery practices. Stables became hay sheds and paddocks were expanded, herds were created in such a way that each horse, whether he was a young foal, or an adult breeding stallion, or an old mare, had the perfect pasture mates. If your horse has confidence in his environment, in his pasture mates, and confidence in his humans (the grooms are as important as the trainer), then he has a very good chance of being confident in himself.

So my horses now live outside in large paddocks, rain or shine, snow or hail, 24/7 and they survive perfectly happily. I changed their feed from concentrates filled with high proteins and unnecessary additives to Speedi Beet and an organic mineral block. I started to test before I dewormed so that I could deworm more specifically rather than dosing my horse with guesswork, and I added diatomateous earth into their meals 3 times a week to make their digestive system tract an unsuitable habitat for worms, so now I need to deworm even less with chemicals. They are on a homeopathic regime for African horsesickness as well as the required vaccinations, and if they get sick or injured I use a Bemer blanket on them. And now I am in the process of installing a paddock paradise track, a concept designed by Jaime Jackson, where the herd lives in a large track, rather than paddocks so that movement can be continuous and the horses need to move as they search for food and water and mineral blocks and such, rather than having it all in one small area where they don't need to work for their food. My train of thought is such: if I keep horses as naturally as possible, interfere with them as little as possible with chemical and unnatural feeding regimes, handle them in a way that is compatible with their herd behaviour and instinct, then surely I will have horses that will see me in a more positive light than the usual prey animal's reaction to “oh my word, here comes the pesky friendly misguided predator!” And I think that I have managed quite well. Most of the horses here are well adjusted individuals who look forward to human interaction and the ones who aren't so impressed with humans, we give them their space and continue to show that we are consistent, persistent but patient and will wait for them to make the mental shift they need to make to feel they can trust humans. It takes the time it takes…..

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Raising a foal



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