For Natural Horsecare and Barefoot Horses
The basic essentials for natural horsecare and barefoot horses.
With your horse care if you give some time and organise the basics well, this will go a long way towards helping you maintain and improve, the health of your horse, as well as, save you valuable time.
Hay and How to Feed It.
Horses need free access to meadow hay. You need to find a good local source and then decide whether you are going to collect it
or have it delivered.
It is the main feed that you will be feeding your horses, see Equine Nutriton to find out more. However, it can be very messy to feed.
Hay Feeding Problems
With horsecare feeding hay in paddocks and fields can be a problem because:-
- It gets bedded down with mud and droppings when fed from the ground
Which results in:-
- a lot of wastage
- and it gets eaten all at once and not grazed on throughout the day.
With all aspects of horsecare it is so important to make the day to day work easy and efficient and so a pleasure to do.
Hay Net – Problems
Using traditional hay nets in fields, in order to prevent the above problems however, produces other problems because:-
- they are not quick to fill.
- they don’t hold very much.
- horses are not grazing at ground level when grazing from them.
- you may well need several depending on the number of horses you have.
- they bounce around unless you secure them at the top and bottom on your fence line, which is time consuming when done on a daily basis.
Hay Net – Solutions
Fortunately, there is a solution to the above horse care issue. There are now ‘ground hay nets’ that you can buy. They are quite superb and have helped us hugely with our day to day horse care.
They are designed in Germany by Barefoot trimmers Melany Clahsen and Christoph Gehrmann.
They come in different sizes. They are designed to be attached to a fence line or between two trees/posts. When attaching them to the fenceline you secure them permanently at the top and bottom, i.e. the four corners.
They are easy to fill on a daily basis due to the way they are secured. You just pull open the top. Depending on the size and number of horses grazing they may not need to be filled up everyday.
Due to their design and the way they are fixed it means that the horses have access to hay but at ground level, so stretching the whole of their topline (Muscle) when grazing. The large hay nets can hold around a bale and a half of hay. This is especially good if you are feeding several horses.
Depending on your requirements, you may have several nets along a fenceline in your paddocks, or you can place them in different areas around your field.
I cannot recommend them enough for your daily horse care.
If it rains heavily, the hay remains usable and still gets eaten and does not get trodden down amongst mud and droppings.
When not to use these Haynets
If your horses are shod however, these hay nets are not advised due to the possible risk of the horses getting their shoes caught in them.
Hard Standing for Hay Area
In the hay feeding areas you can put down some scalpings/stones, so the standing area where the hay nets are:-
- Remains dry
- The scalpings will create good ground drainage
Above is a picture of a hard standing surface by a haynet area.A more detailed picture of the hard standing.
Without the scalpings the area can become very pouched in the winter months. Alternatively you can use some rubber mats. There are noq companies that manufacture rubber mats that are suitable for use in fields.
This is not essential horsecare, but it makes the area much cleaner and easier to manage.
(NB. before putting stones down remove/scrape off the topsoil first.)
Access to a good mineral block is essential, minerals are the foundations of good health, which is why they are included here, under essential horse care.
We have tried a number of mineral blocks, some get demolished within hours of putting them out. While others are so sticky the horses get covered from licking each other and the block at the same time. Ugh!
Many of them contain high levels of molasses which is essential to avoid. See Feeds to Avoid on the Equine Nutrition page.
The ones that are excellent and that I can highly recommend are the Himalayan Salt Mineral blocks, as shown below. These can be tied to the fence line or gate posts in the field.
You can see clearly in the above photo on the right, a “well used” himalayan salt lick
Access to water is an essential for your basic horsecare. Ideally you want a water trough in a field on a mains supply. It will still need checking and the troughs can freeze up in the winter.
If you live in a muddy area, to reduce the mud around the trough, scrap off the topsoil in the summer months and put down some scalpings/stones.
This will stop the area becoming too boggy as well as providing a harder surface for their hooves.
Or of course, utilize an existing water hole or spring if you have one available in your fields.
Keeping the Troughs Clean
To keep the water troughs clean you could put some goldfish in them!
Quite fun and rather lovely.
They oxygenate the water and eat much of the debris. This is done by some farmers in the UK.
Shelter for Horses.
Another essential horse care requirement is, providing some shelter for them in their fields and paddocks. They may need this to protect themselves:-
- In the summer months, from sun and flies,
- In the winter months, from driving rain and snow.
It maybe just some:-
- Trees and overhanging branches
- Or a timber field shelter.
You can now buy ‘mobile’ field shelters which in the UK require no planning permission. You can put them in your field and if you wish, you can put some rubber horse mats inside to protect the ground so it does not become too poached.
Our Shelter Experience
First we did not have any real sheltered area, but the horses survived. Then gradually they showed us where they liked to stand and shelter.
There were some large over hanging branches in several areas around the field and these have provided quite a bit of shelter. Interestingly, they use it much more in the summer than the winters which surprised us.
The picture below shows one of these areas. The area is quite a bit deeper and more protected than it appears in picture.
Finding Shelter in Your Fields
It is worth spending time looking at how the ground lies, where the wind comes from and where they tend to stand. From this you will then be able to work out:-
- Whether there is enough shelter already,
- Or whether you need to buy or build a field shelter for your horses.