I have to admit, I have not yet completed my track. My many excuses include the process of changing jobs, ill grandparents living next door and needing extra care, finances, and a general lack of time. Excuses, excuses. Sheesh! I will say, however, that I only have to put about 20 posts in and put up the electric tape, and now that the ground is finally wet, that wouldn't take me very long. Unlike in the summer, when every single posthole has to be soaked for days on end to have any chance of penetrating our concrete that passes as dirt! I am hoping to get time for finishing the project soon. No promises though...
In other ways I am doing my best to give the horses a healthy life, including:
Fed 3x a day, with grass hay almost constantly available. Hay is placed in several small piles to encourage movement.
Only fed enough alfalfa to keep protein at the proper level.
Barefoot and trimmed regularly.
As much exercises as I have time for now, and more as things settle down.
Regular work/play with their minds as well as bodies to keep them stimulated.
Outdoors 24/7 with a run-in shelter when it rains.
Varied terrain (more varied than I'd like, in fact!)
Thorvin kelp in addition to their regular salt and mineral blocks.
I am very happy with how healthy they both are, and Mira, who has naturally great feet, is almost self-maintaining her trim, and has been for the last few months. Very little ever needs to be done to them. Andolu has only been here for about 6 weeks, so I am still getting to know his feet, but he seems to have pretty good ones. They are a little flat, which I believe is typical for a TB, but he is quite sound. He only shows a tiny amount of tentativeness on gravel.
Both horses look very satisfied when you watch them in the pasture. Watching them is fun, because even when they are bickering they look contented overall. They are always ready to get fed, of course, but since they are basically munching all day, they are not desperate at any time. I believe this is one reason why The Dude has gained probably 50 pounds since he arrived - he is a "hard-keeper TB," remember, and is on grass hay and alfalfa with almost no concentrates, but he has gained quite a bit of weight. I like the benefits to their digestive systems in being able to let them "graze" all day.
Other than that, it gets kind of hard for me to describe the benefits of a more holistically-oriented way of keeping horses. It just feels right to me, more and more as I keep making little changes. The horses will show you how much they like it.
To me, health in humans or animals, total health, means not just absence of disease. I believe that the ultimate goal is to have vitality and contentment that radiates from the animal or human. I am seeing more & more of that in the horses, so I know I am heading in the right way. So, if you are considering changing some of your horse-keeping habits to a "Paddock Paradise" or other holistic strategies, I definitely would encourage you to do so. You will not regret it.
However, just as with humans, I strongly believe that the most important aspect, the part that truly affects everything, is the attitude and the love shown towards the horses. I grew up wanting my own horse, and because I never got one as a child, it became a passion. I still can't believe I have 2 horses, and I know the horses can feel how thrilled I am to be around them: You can see it in their expressions. Just like children, it makes them feel secure.
So, the biggest single piece of advice I have for anyone who has horses, or wants to learn how to deal effectively with them, is, be a little kid again! Rediscover the joy of these wonderful creatures!
Well, it looks like this turned into a book, but I won't apologize. :-) I know a lot of you reading this feel the exact same way I do, and for anyone who is still new to horses, I hope this will serve as a reminder to keep your attitude of excitement. Work hard at the skills of horse keeping and horse training, but do it with an attitude of PLAY!
And I will TRY to get that track finished SOON!