horses grazing Cabaret, Freedom, and Phenom enjoying some early morning grazing on a weak and weedy pasture in June 2007.

The equine industry has been aware of "natural horsemanship" for years now and the whole time I have thought well, yeah everyone wants to have a trusting and easy relationship with their horse; it seems very common sense. I couldn’t help feeling as though something was missing.  Natural Horsemanship is far from a holistic approach in that it is missing out on one major point…

"Natural Horsemanagement"

Too often I see horses living nearly 24 hours a day, 7 days a week in stalls that confine and restrict with very little fresh air, natural light, or visibility, and with little or no contact with other horses.  If they get turnout it is very limited in time, space, and/or companionship and rarely includes ample grazing.

Superior Care plus Socialization and Freedom
In 2006, when we bought our farm it was nothing but weeds, brush, and areas of bare dirt from being over-grazed by the previous owners. For two years we practiced Intensive Rotational Grazing, spring through fall, all of the horses received 14-16 hours each night of turnout on lush grass, together, in the same temporary electric paddock. This paddock was ~150' x 200', nylon rope and plastic posts, and was moved around the farm every day (depending upon how quickly the grass got eaten down). This provided the horses with plenty of socialization, fresh nutrients, and room to exercise; and it provided the grass two weeks to one month of recovery time in order to encourage it to grow thicker and thicker like a lawn (which gets mowed frequently but never completely trampled). Now, when over-grazing is evident those areas receive a heavy dose of manure from the stalls; horses will not graze where they detect their own waste. Spreading the manure not only prevents over-grazing, it enriches the pasture with valuable nutrients, provides valuable bio-mass to prevent erosion, and helps it to retain more moisture. Now that the pasture is greatly improved we are able to keep the grass 6-8in tall even with up to 10 animals on just 10 acres.

During wet weather the horses have daytime turnout in a 60'x60' paddock that is supplied with indoor kept round bales .

horses grazing

In 2007 our young chickens started their work de-bugging freshly spread manure; they are still performing this important function today.

The pasture, in 2010, greatly improved from manure spreading, selective weeding, and dusted with white clover.

Many breedsof horse have been distanced from nature for hundreds of years by the pampering of humans and most would suffer without additional calories from grain and protection from cold, heat, rain, and insects.  But, stalls can and should be built with consideration for socialization, freedom, and visual stimulation.  My stalls are 11’x 12’, 4’ tall structural steel grate fronts with double-walled white oak dividers which are strong and safe but allow each horse to stretch his head out fully on the front and sides of the stall.  All of the stalls are built such that they face one central aisle and every horse in the barn can see and hear every other horse.  Often times they can be caught investigating a cat lounging on the ledge, catching the breeze coming through the big doors at either end of the barn, or grooming each other.  They are arranged in the stalls so that bullying is minimized - they rarely bite each other. 
In the summer, I bring them in when I too want to be inside to avoid the heat and bugs.  In the winter, they enjoy protection from colder night-time temperatures and have time for their feet and legs to dry in wet weather.

Environmental Responsibility
Ventilation - Our barn is built such that the prevailing winds come through the large doors and down the aisle; the stalls are built with shorter walls to allow circulation, eliminating the need for fans, reducing electrical consumption as well as the chance of electrical fire.
Lighting - Lights are turned off as much as possible and there are no yard lights; at night we enjoy the stars and the lightning bugs.
Water - is supplied by a cistern to provide horses with flourine and chlorine free drinking water.
Landscaping - buckets are dumped and refilled to provide horses with fresh water at least once per day (twice per day in summer).  The water is reused to irrigate landscaping around the barn enabling a beautiful environment without using potable water.
Fertilizer –The manure on our farm is booked up for years to come so there is almost never a manure pile.  We spread it with a manure spreader and a top dressing of grass seed most of the time but we also use it to mulch our fruit trees and vegetable garden.  Keeping the manure constantly at work helps to maintain healthy grass and reduce the pest population (fewer flies and fewer intestinal parasites). It also naturally deters the horses from grazing specific areas so the grass has nutrients and time to recover.
Fuel - Stalls are cleaned and bedded, and manure is often spread manually to reduce reliance on petroleum and to maintain indoor air quality.
Maintenance - Wood is left natural where feasable to reduce maintenance costs and eliminate the possibility of ground water contamination from paint, paint thinners, and brush cleaning.
Pest Control – is provided by our chickens, instead of chemicals and poisons, as they rotate around the farm in their “Egg Mobile”, working to break down the horse manure into rich topsoil by scratching down the piles and eating fly larvae and other insects.

 
Potential Future Projects
Wind and/or Solar Power – place windmills around the farm and/or panels on the roof of our barn to generate electricity!!!
Compost Source Heat – use the heat from composting manure to heat the inside of our house and/or other structures!!!
Biomass Reclamation – use manure to generate natural gas for cooking in the house as well as to power trucks and tractors???
Get Off The Grid!!!