HOLD­ING STEADY

EQUUS - - Tack & Gear -

with hay, the hap­pier they will be.

I could, the­o­ret­i­cally, keep hay in front of Sally at all times but that did have some sig­nif­i­cant downsides. For starters, she is a very easy keeper. I’d have to be care­ful about the hay I chose and cut back in other ar­eas of her diet to en­sure she didn’t pick up too much weight. In­creas­ing her hay sup­ply to “un­lim­ited” could also quickly be­come pro­hib­i­tively ex­pen­sive. Un­lim­ited hay, then, didn’t seem like the best idea for us.

• Uti­lize slow feed­ers. If un­lim­ited hay wasn’t a vi­able op­tion, I could try stretch­ing her usual hay ra­tion as far as pos­si­ble by us­ing a slow feeder. Th­ese feed­ers reg­u­late a horse’s hay con­sump­tion by al­low­ing them to only get a few stems at a time. Slow feed­ers help repli­cate nat­u­ral graz­ing be­hav­ior, oc­cu­py­ing a horse’s time and mind with­out the downsides of weight gain and a strained bank ac­count. Slow feed­ers come in a va­ri­ety of op­tions, rang­ing from what are es­sen­tially hay nets with very small holes to elab­o­rate boxes with mesh lids. There are also plans avail­able on­line for build­ing your own if you were so in­clined. I saw very lit­tle down­side of a slow feeder for my mare and filed the idea un­der “very pos­si­ble” in my mind if she seemed to be­come bored or anx­ious.

• Get a goat or a don­key. If bring­ing in an­other horse wasn’t a good op­tion right now, per­haps a smaller com­pan­ion an­i­mal might be. I, like most horse own­ers, had heard tales of race­horses with ded­i­cated goat com­pan­ions that trav­eled from track to track with them. Or of faith­ful don­keys who, al­ready be­ing nat­u­rally flu­ent in equine body lan­guage, stepped eas­ily into the role of fel­low herd mem­bers. Hon­estly, the idea of a goat or don­key sounded pretty fun. But tak­ing a step back, I re­al­ized that nei­ther of th­ese op­tions seemed like a good fit for our farm. From my large an­i­mal back­ground I knew that the fenc­ing, feed and the sim­ple day-to-day care of th­ese an­i­mals can be quite dif­fer­ent from those re­quired for horses. The re­spon­si­bil­ity of tak­ing on an­other, dif­fer­ent crea­ture was a big one that I wasn’t pre­pared to take on just yet.

The days stretched to weeks as I re­searched and con­sid­ered th­ese op­tions. All the while I kept a close watch on Sally. And, to my sur­prise and relief, she con­tin­ued to do fine. She was eat­ing and drink­ing nor­mally, was her typ­i­cal laid­back self when I han­dled and rode her, and she hadn’t de­vel­oped any signs of anx­i­ety, like stall walk­ing or wood chew­ing. Per­haps most re­as­sur­ing was the fact that I’d of­ten find her stretched flat out to sleep in the early morn­ing hours or for a nap in the af­ter­noon sun. I knew that horses who are fret­ful about be­ing alone of­ten don’t feel se­cure enough to lie down in such a vul­ner­a­ble po­si­tion, but she seemed to have no qualms about it.

I had made no changes to our

Slow feed­ers help repli­cate nat­u­ral graz­ing be­hav­ior, oc­cu­py­ing a horse’s time and mind with­out the downsides of weight gain and an empty bank ac­count. The idea of a goat or don­key sounded pretty fun. But tak­ing a step back, I re­al­ized that nei­ther of th­ese op­tions seemed like a good fit for our farm.

rou­tine and not only was Sally cop­ing well, but our re­la­tion­ship thrived. We calmly went out on trail rides alone. She sought my lead­er­ship. I trusted in her abil­i­ties. I de­cided to not try to fix what wasn’t bro­ken.

Af­ter a few months, I did have to make an ad­just­ment, but it wasn’t one I’d ex­pected. I dis­cov­ered, iron­i­cally, that af­ter longer pe­ri­ods of soli­tude

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