I bet everyone here can relate and say you know someone as a kid (or adult) that was the kid who was never allowed to climb the tree.
I also bet most of you are scratching your heads right now going "say what?" How does this relate to horses? Well it does, let me elaborate.
See I work at many different places. I see, handle and take care of many different horses.
Seeing how different people manage and take care of their horses on a daily basis made me realize how I want to keep my horses, and how I will never keep my horses.
A common theme I see is keeping horses by themselves, in small paddocks and with no contact to their own kind. I would be generous in saying these lot of horses get 2 hours of turnout a day, even if they are worked regularly. They do not have direct contact with their own species other than seeing them over the fence, watching them walk down the barn isle or trying to gnaw the others faces off at feeding time over the stall wall next to them.
The result? Sometimes you will get a quiet horse that sucks everything in and takes their solitary confinement in stride. That is if they don't have some sort of stereotypie to begin with.
The seeming regular behavior? A horse that is batsh*t crazy! Something seems to short fuse in their brain from lack of being able to be a horse. Handling them can be a nightmare, they run through fences and kick the living crap out of other horses if they have the virtue of a pasture mate. They can't just stop and graze, they have to run, run, run, run, attack, attack, attack, attack! Then they get solitary confinement when it comes to turnout.
FYI- A stereotypies is the correct word for what we call a "vice. Stereotypical behavior such as cribbing, weaving, stall walking etc is caused by a lack of natural locomotory or oral behaviors in horses. A "vice" is something that is deemed inconvenient. Head bobbing, stall kicking, cribbing or weaving are things convenient to the horse because his natural behaviors have been removed from his environment. eg- Walking and grazing at the same time and socialization with other horses. "vices" as we call them are only inconvenient to humans when horses destroy stalls, colic themselves or cause joint damage. Stereotypies is for a whole other post.
Quite frankly in my opinion the horse came before the barn did. The "blanket" of mud keeps horses skin healthy and them happy. The scientific view of not blanketing a horse to me makes a lot of sense. When you or a horse is cold your hair stands on end. The hair standing on end traps the heat from escaping into the open and keeps it closer to your body longer than when the hair lies flat. By putting a blanket on a horse that is not shivering you flatten the hair, stopping the bodies natural heat shield from engaging properly. A lot of the time this can make a horse colder. However for old horses or ones that seem to lose weight in the winter, blanketing can be a good idea to prevent shivering and weight loss. Don't get me wrong. I have a blanket for Indigo, just in case but it's just a rain sheet to keep the wind and elements off her. I have never used it. I also take time to cool a horse down in the winter after working them rather than plastering them with layers of blankets and putting them under lights to keep their coats fine so they cool out quicker. Horses evolved, lived and survived many years before blankets were in use.
Another FYI- Did you know that it is actually the horses body reacting to the increase/decrease in daylight hours that causes the thyroid to adjust hormones in the horses body and grow hair/shed it? Not the change in temperature.
This brings me to the point of this post: The kid who wasn't allowed to climb the tree. Everyone knows one. The kid who's parents never let them do anything that might get them in trouble, hurt or possibly give them any ideas other than the angelic protege poster child might have. They grow up, have issues making and keeping friends and have issues with all sorts of other stuff, sometimes life itself. I had a few friends like that. Their mother did not let them do anything, have any friends over or get into any normal kid mischief. Now they are growin up, have issues because they are doing things now as adults they should have done when they were kids. It's getting them into a lot of trouble because they were the kids who didn't climb the tree.
So having said this, don't let your horse be the horse who wasn't allowed to climb the tree. Let them be horses. Roll in mud, probably get into a fight or two and be bullied (hopefully so they learn some horse manners in the herd) by their herd mates and buck and kick and be a horse. In the end isn't it worth having the horse that climbed the metaphorical tree? Even if they did fall out and hurt themselves a few times along the way?
How do you keep your horses? Are they stalled 24/7, blanketed, wrapped in bubble wrap? Did you ever see horses that were unhappy with their living arrangements in their behaviors? If you could make any improvements to your current barn/pasture etc to make it more acceptable for normal horse behavior what would you do? Speak up I would love to hear how you all keep your horses.