Great to be discussing a bit of research with a B.Sc student from one of the Equine Colleges this morning. She is hoping to look into the "Time Budget" of stabled horses and how to enrich their environment. This is a subject close to my heart as I am often asked how to help horses cope with long periods of box rest. We had all the standard texts out and discussed all the pros and cons of stabling horses.
It's also great to hear that students being encouraged to think for themselves and to be thinking about the psychological and physical effects of the way we manage our horses. When we are told that between 33% and 66% of horses kept in for any significant period of time suffer from gastric ulcers, then we do need to realise that that means 1 or 2 out of 3 of OUR own stabled horses. It's an inconvenient truth that it may be one of yours. You will never hear me say never these days and it gives me great comfort to know that Chancer is being stable kept at night in his loan home - there's one horse for whom a big barn and a few vaguely warm pigs wasn't enough home comfort. It's a question of weighing things up and then guarding against gastric ulcers with plenty of fibre in the diet and the most relaxed environment. Chancer has other horses right next to him.
Sometimes college lecturers do say the most outrageously ludicrous things. A friend's daughter was told that a horse could never be long reined unless he had been taught to lunge first and should always be long reined in a bit. Really? Where does this poppycock come from? When she retorted that her own horse had been long reined without a bit and without ever being lunged first she was told that it must have been lunged in it's previous home - since it arrived as a semi-feral foal I hardly think that is likely. If the staff haven't go an open mind and swallow everything that they were told hook, line and sinker, then how can they expect their students to develop their own ideas. So much of what is purportedly the right way has actually evolved for human convenience or because there is a military, competitive or financial imperative.
I've got a college student coming for work experience in March so I am looking forward to unpicking some more of these misconceptions....