Herd liv­ing

Your Horse (UK) - - Horsecare -

Horses in the wild live in groups. As a prey an­i­mal, they rely on their herd for pro­tec­tion. Es­sen­tially, it’s a case of safety in num­bers. As a herd they have more eyes and ears to de­tect threats, plus more bod­ies to help con­fuse preda­tors and pro­tect their young. A study in 2015 by Not­ting­ham Trent Univer­sity showed that horses kept in isolation were more stressed than their coun­ter­parts kept in large or small groups. A sta­ble herd is prefer­able to a chang­ing herd. When a group of horses are fa­mil­iar with each other, they en­gage in mu­tual groom­ing, feed­ing to­gether, play­ing and mov­ing around to look for for­age and wa­ter, pro­vid­ing pro­tec­tion and watch­ing over herd mem­bers as they sleep. Liv­ing in a group also helps lower stress lev­els, mak­ing the horse calmer to han­dle and work with. Of­ten he’ll have a more con­fi­dent de­meanour too. “Many peo­ple are con­cerned about group turnout and the risk of in­jury, but horses can also in­jure them­selves in the sta­ble, over

fences and while be­ing rid­den,” says Lau­ren. In­tro­duc­ing a new horse to a herd must be done safely, sen­si­bly and never rushed. “Ev­ery horse we bring into our herd is as­sessed dur­ing an isolation pe­riod and a plan for their in­tro­duc­tion is for­mu­lated,” says Lau­ren. “In a larger group, it’s rarely as sim­ple as turn­ing out and hop­ing for the best. “But, in my opin­ion, be­ing able to pro­vide a life for your horse that’s in tune with his phys­i­ol­ogy and psy­chol­ogy makes the risk worth tak­ing.”

Group liv­ing helps lower a horse’s stress lev­els

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