We all keep our horses differently. The following in an attempt to explain how we keep ours.
Our start with our location. We are on a 60 acre farm, which is chalk and allows for year round turnout. That is important to me as i personally like to keep my horses out for the majority of the year. Th e farm is on a hill which ensure it is free draining and also provides us with a breeze for most of the year to reduce the incidents of flies. A few times a year it means we are hanging onto our hats as that breeze becomes a gale force wind but the bad days are made up with plenty more good. I often see our horses flat out in the field and sometimes wonder if i should remind them that one of them in the group should be stood up keeping guard. To me though, this indicates that they feel safe.
If i had a chance to get the horses out and about we have miles of bridleways which start at the entrance to our farm. Sadly i dont take advantage of this and it is something i should rectify.
I don't like horses being kept on their own. I sometimes do it for one reason or other but will try to avoid this and they will be in view of other horses. This isnt the case for visiting mares, who i keep in their own field as the length of time they are here for and the necessity to prevent any injuries makes it harder to integrate them. They will always be in view of other horses, usually the stallion so they can get to know each other before covering starts. For young horses in particular, living in a herd ensures they are taught manners and learn how to be a proper well rounded horse.
The majority of the time the stallions do live in a separate field but most of the time are in touching distance from mares and if not definitely in sight of them. I wouldn't keep a stallion here that i couldn't keep next to mares, they wouldnt suit our setup or our aims. When appropriate i will run my stallions with a mare and usually leave them together until she is getting closer to foaling. I havent yet been brave enough to leave them for foaling etc which i know is ridiculous. I would just worry that the mare may become too protective and chase the stallion away and the foal could get caught in the middle. Also foaling heat occurs very shortly after foaling and i wait at least to the following season to cover my mares. I will one day let nature takes it course (and probably panic watching everything unfold from my window with one hand on the phone ready for the vet), after all nature has a funny way of doing things right.
Apart from running with mares, we cover visiting mares in hand so we have more control over the situation. Some mares are all keen until they get nervous right before the stallion mounts so having control over both animals reduces the risk of animals being injured (usually the stallion). We use covering boots on visiting mares. These are made of felt and fit over the hoof. They dont restrict movement, they just cushion any blows she gives the stallion. Most of the time though, we have found that the mares are pretty obliging. We try to put her in a field next to the stallion so they will at least have an idea of who each other are before we get this far.
We offer stallion semen for AI also. We have a dummy mare and collection equipment. Our young stallions are trained by Sue Carden here on
We breed small scale, even though we have plenty of space. I would rather breed fewer quality animals and not be in a panic to sell. I feel i can give people a non pressured experience when they come to look at our horses. If the horse is the right fit for the person, then they are likely to keep it and look after it. If it isn't then its not a good experience for horse or owner.....something we all want to avoid. I wean late......well i don't think it is late but I read not long ago on a breed societies facebook site that 7 months was late. Well that makes what i do, very very late. As long as mare and foal are doing well i am in no hurry to wean. In most cases i would keep the foals on the mares over the winter and then wean early spring. It helps me reduce the weight of the mares (i have to keep an eye on my ladies who can be on the large size) and also ensures they get the best start to life. I like to be able to wean the foals of milk but not of visual contact with their dams. So far this has worked for me but obviously it may not work with every foal. I think because we wean so late, they are often ready and confident enough to not have any issues with being parted. I have a track running between two fields and i put the mares one side and the foals the other, usually with other horses who they have been living with and it seems to work. They are quiet, graze happily and then when it comes to snoozing they do it at the same place either side of the track. This means they still have the security of mum keeping watch. Call me lazy but i don't like hassle and stressed horses are hassle. If we can keep the stress levels to a minimum we are all happy. I would normally breed from a mare every other year which also helps with the late weaning.
Unless specifically required i don't feed hard feed. There will be times that a certain horse requires a top up but usually a balancer with dried grass etc. We try to feed ad lib forage and usually have a fair bit of grass late into the year and then supplement through the worst months once the grass has gone. We have old pastures full of herbs and different plants and the horses seem to thrive on it. Mineral licks are available if they need them. I find that this means we are able to keep our horses in small herds without any stress of a certain feed time and buckets flying everywhere (especially in the wind during the winter months). We do keep an eye on the youngsters condition but the first winter they are usually still on their mothers and seem to do really well. I worry about the feeding of hard feed to push for growth as that's when problems with joints occur. We are aiming for a horse to have a very long life so good steady growth rates are our aim. Spanish horses have a low tolerance to sugar and many horses these days seem to have ulcers. I am convinced that a lot of this is down to the management of being kept inside a lot of the time, being restricted on forage and then fed on hard feeds which upset the balance in the horses digestive system.
Our worming regime is helped as we graze sheep on the pastures which disrupts the life cycle of the red worm. Up until now we have followed a routine to ensure we hit the right worms at the right time and then do for encysteds once a year. We are now looking to move onto testing before worming to check if it is required.