Improving leisure horse welfare

windand rain

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Think everyone is pretty much singing from the same script but arguing the extremes of which there will always be advocates. Horses in general with some medical exceptions should have the 5 freedoms and yes all horses should have turnout for hours in every 24. Again there are a very few exceptions. They should be kept in good fit healthy condition which needs rebooting away from obesity. Injuries and illness treated promptly and have access to suitable food and clean water. The big but is there is no way you can legislate. Personally I wouldn't own a horse if it couldn't live out daily for between 8 and 24 hours a day 99% of the time. I have and always will feel that ownership of horses is a privilege not a right so if my standards of care cannot be met as much as I would hate it I would not own a horse. I am not rich but they get everything they need and for their health. Dentists, injections, vet when needed, saddle fitted and physio. They are natives so by definition need to be carefully fed but they are fed daily. Not everyone will have the same standards but the majority will be doing the very best. My guess would be care would fit very neatly into a normal distribution curve with very few awful and equally few perfect but most doing this best in the middle. Be interesting to see how that was in a statistical analysis 🤔 but no one will do the research needed
 

smolmaus

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It is not a question of they are truly wild, semi feral, who owns them or the land or even about responsibility. They were born there, grew up there and they live the "wild" lifestyle. It is easy to say there is a responsibility to keep them healthy and safe. In practicality that is impossible because of the size of the area they live on and the inaccessibility of some of it.
Well this is a thread about what you would hypothetically want to do to improve welfare. I don't think I can wave a wand and make every feral pony safe but I would if I could. It's my opinion that if you aren't willing to take basic responsibility for the safety and welfare of the animals on your land then they shouldn't be there, you shouldn't have them. I'm not saying they should all be handled and backed but if you can't guarantee they won't starve to death for lack of basic dental care or spend a week dying of sepsis from an injury that is an ethical failure. If you have too many then stop them breeding, if you have too much open land to monitor them then tag a few mares so you know where they are. I'm not saying it would be easy, none of the suggestions in this thread necessarily are, but it would be the right thing to do.
 

paddy555

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A lot of the problems with lack of turnout etc, could be eradicated if livery prices were realistically expensive. If the old arrangement of an acre per horse, plus one, was to be kept to, then turnout would be much more achievable, that would however cost more than most people are prepared to pay. That along with unsuitable land being used, is part of the issue.
to my mind there are other issues. Firstly stable design. There are a few enlightened people on here but ask many and they would design a row of 12 x 12 boxes with an overhang looking out onto a concrete strip with hanging baskets. Look at most of the adverts in H & H for stabling and there are lots of pretty pics of this traditional stabling.
Alternatively there is the equally awful American barn arrangement. Great for the owners and staff to work indoors.

We should be promoting different stabling. Promoting adapting existing stables and building better.
I gave up stabling 25 years ago. I don't have a lot of space in the yard for the number of horses I have and I didn't have a lot of money to do it but it was about adapting and imagination. Opening stable doors, making small yards or even larger ones, short tracks etc for some so all could wander. Every bit of space I had was adapted with a lot of gates into being a space a horse could move to give them a better environment that did not mean being shut in and gave them access to talk to others. Some of my land floods easily so I have to take into account keeping the horses off it in winter ie yarded but making sure they have a good quality of life off the grass. By opening and shutting gates I can get everyone out of their stables (not that some want it :D) and they can cope well in bad winter weather. If I can do that on a small budget and little space so can others if they have the will.

If we look at the average livery yard or many other horse yards there is a lot of space. The living conditions of the horses could be made lots better. They could have much larger pens so 24/7 shut in would be lots nicer for them. LIke me they no doubt have wet grass problems in winter so this would make it easier to deal with. You could have small herds of compatible horses living together in a barn type arrangement.

However there is a battle for this space. Large pens and a different and better way of living for the horses or indoor school, outdoor,, schooling paddocks, jumping paddocks. to a large extent the punters choose the latter.

Just a suggestion as to how the QOL could be improved for leisure horses. I'm sure it won't go down well with many :p
 

Goldenstar

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I have over four acres per horse here and even at that we have to mange the grazing because of where we are and the type of soil .
I think commercial yards need to invest in hard standings and horse walkers ( I don’t like horse walkers but they have a place ) and owners are going to have to get their heads round paying more to cover their costs .
It all comes back to money .
I bought a field last year lovely old grass never ploughed since it stopped being a medieval rig and furrow it cost 20k then it cost 5 k to get the fencing up to scratch and I still need to sort getting water to it . A solar electric fence energiser was £300 and I spent £200 on rope and stuff but used some I already had and had some stuff left .
It would do two horses at three it would get trashed it’s just under four acres .
How much would I get for that for grass livery ?
I don’t know I would interested to hear your thoughts .
 

paddy555

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Well this is a thread about what you would hypothetically want to do to improve welfare. I don't think I can wave a wand and make every feral pony safe but I would if I could. It's my opinion that if you aren't willing to take basic responsibility for the safety and welfare of the animals on your land then they shouldn't be there, you shouldn't have them. I'm not saying they should all be handled and backed but if you can't guarantee they won't starve to death for lack of basic dental care or spend a week dying of sepsis from an injury that is an ethical failure. If you have too many then stop them breeding, if you have too much open land to monitor them then tag a few mares so you know where they are. I'm not saying it would be easy, none of the suggestions in this thread necessarily are, but it would be the right thing to do.
the ponies are not on the owner's land as I explained earlier. They live on commons. The common owners eg the Duke of Cornwall are not the pony owners.
How on earth are you going to give them basic dental care? you can't get near them to handle them even if they were shut in a stable having gone through all the trauma of getting into one.

It is like saying because domestic cats get good vet care, teeth checked, vacs and every little cut and bite dealt with by the vet that we should do the same with wild cats. (not feral cats but true wild cats)
 

honetpot

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Nowhere in the post you have quoted have I said that.
No, but you seem to imply that wanting to use one method of management other methods have no value.

I gave the example of the pit ponies, that I would say is the most extreme man managed environment you could think of. When I was about twelve we would sometimes get ex pit ponies, my granddads first job at fourteen was looking after them. We never had a problem with them, they would be turned out with twenty strange ponies and settle like they had always been there.
I have worked in yards where they are in all winter for work, I have hunted off 24/7 grass turnout at DIY livery, kept a horse in work in the garage of semi-detached house suburb of Sheffield, now the majority than mine live semi-open barns in winter on less quarter of an acre turnout, but I always start from a what have I got to do to make this work for the horse, to make them 'happy' with the tools and time I have, not how can I make the horse fit to make me happy. Keeping the horse, 'happy' usually is less stress for everyone. I think as a whole all of the methods were a success as they ended their lives with no injuries, lameness or stable caused health conditions or vices.
You also have to think about the vested interests who are making money off an almost 24/7 boxed equine, clean hamster horse.
The yards that can fit in more boxes.
The companies that make rugs, calmers, treatments for behaviour problems.
The horse 'professionals' who treat the consequences of behavioural issues, health issues due to poor air quality, or being overweight.
The breeders that are sometime culling stock that is not fit for purpose, but still breeding from animals that produce that stock.
If the hamster horse management style worked would we have so many problems both with handling, being ridden and soundness of wind and limb? We have more knowledge, more technology, so somewhere something is wrong.
 
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Goldenstar

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I dealt a bit with horses used for ecology schemes in the past .
They got very minimal management but they could be corralled and sedated if stuff needed doing .
It was interesting they where pretty well like cattle and seemed happy enough they gained weight in summer lost it in winter ( there was provision for giving hay in really severe weather) , some got moved in winter it depended on the type of land and what the scheme was trying to achieve .They where Exmoor types .
 

Wishfilly

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Well this is a thread about what you would hypothetically want to do to improve welfare. I don't think I can wave a wand and make every feral pony safe but I would if I could. It's my opinion that if you aren't willing to take basic responsibility for the safety and welfare of the animals on your land then they shouldn't be there, you shouldn't have them. I'm not saying they should all be handled and backed but if you can't guarantee they won't starve to death for lack of basic dental care or spend a week dying of sepsis from an injury that is an ethical failure. If you have too many then stop them breeding, if you have too much open land to monitor them then tag a few mares so you know where they are. I'm not saying it would be easy, none of the suggestions in this thread necessarily are, but it would be the right thing to do.
I don't disagree with you, and I would wave the same wand if I could BUT in general there is no landowner, or the landowner is not the owner of the ponies. We're talking about ponies who graze mainly on common land. There are organisations that try to look out for their welfare, and will help if a pony is injured, but the ponies aren't (can't be) checked so it relies on a member of the public spotting an issue and phoning it in.

I do think breeding should be reduced massively, but then the ponies have even less value, so even less is invested in their care- I do think welfare has improved now the ponies have a bit more value and you don't have them going through the sales for £5. I think if they weren't allowed to breed, the ponies would effectively become abandoned. The ponies do also have a role in the ecosystem of these places, having lived there for 100s, if not 1000s of years, and removing them all could have unforeseen consequences for the environment.

We're also talking about 3000+ ponies, if you consider Bodmin, Dartmoor and Exmoor. There is no capacity to take in that many unhandled ponies, if they were to be removed from the moors, the only options would be to cull.

FWIW, I'd be against the loss of some of the last common grazing in the UK on political grounds, but that's a separate issue.
 

SEL

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It would do two horses at three it would get trashed it’s just under four acres .
How much would I get for that for grass livery ?
I don’t know I would interested to hear your thoughts .
Around £35 per horse per week here in the south east.

Which is the reason the land I bought last year will need time to recover and one of the reasons that I'm not interested in offering livery. Its suffered from too many horses for too long without time to rest.

Mine all get fat so live on a track from April until the grass sugars die back which fortunately gives most of the land time to recover. But yes, they get hungry because they get to nibble not stuff themselves and I know a lot of landowners don't like grass tracks. I can please myself obviously but I can see both points of view.

I wouldn't get planning permission for a surfaced track
 

tristar

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to my mind there are other issues. Firstly stable design. There are a few enlightened people on here but ask many and they would design a row of 12 x 12 boxes with an overhang looking out onto a concrete strip with hanging baskets. Look at most of the adverts in H & H for stabling and there are lots of pretty pics of this traditional stabling.
Alternatively there is the equally awful American barn arrangement. Great for the owners and staff to work indoors.

We should be promoting different stabling. Promoting adapting existing stables and building better.
I gave up stabling 25 years ago. I don't have a lot of space in the yard for the number of horses I have and I didn't have a lot of money to do it but it was about adapting and imagination. Opening stable doors, making small yards or even larger ones, short tracks etc for some so all could wander. Every bit of space I had was adapted with a lot of gates into being a space a horse could move to give them a better environment that did not mean being shut in and gave them access to talk to others. Some of my land floods easily so I have to take into account keeping the horses off it in winter ie yarded but making sure they have a good quality of life off the grass. By opening and shutting gates I can get everyone out of their stables (not that some want it :D) and they can cope well in bad winter weather. If I can do that on a small budget and little space so can others if they have the will.

If we look at the average livery yard or many other horse yards there is a lot of space. The living conditions of the horses could be made lots better. They could have much larger pens so 24/7 shut in would be lots nicer for them. LIke me they no doubt have wet grass problems in winter so this would make it easier to deal with. You could have small herds of compatible horses living together in a barn type arrangement.

However there is a battle for this space. Large pens and a different and better way of living for the horses or indoor school, outdoor,, schooling paddocks, jumping paddocks. to a large extent the punters choose the latter.

Just a suggestion as to how the QOL could be improved for leisure horses. I'm sure it won't go down well with many :p

i would do away with loose boxes altogether, lots of other way to house without confining to a space and immobilizing
 
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Exmoor ponies all belong to someone and are ‘managed’ to a great or lesser extent by those owners. The Exmoors used for conservation grazing in Scotland and/or those managed by the MMT are checked daily by rangers and volunteers and do get vet treatment. They are halter broken etc. there are people using Fell young stock as conservation grazing and likewise, they are checked and handled and go on to become riding ponies.
 

ycbm

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There are bad practices in all walks of life and I do not claim that all farmers are angels however to say all are bad is like saying anyone who keeps a horse is bad.

Nobody said that. Somebody did say most farm animals have better lives than most leisure horses and that's all I was disputing.
.
 

YorksG

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As an aside, I also don't feel great about paving the countryside with plastic mud control mats - in environmental terms.
They must reduce the surface area for water absorption, and also presumably eventually degrade releasing more plastic into the soil.
To be fair about the mud control mats, they drain more effectively than the soil they cover does, when that soil is disturbed by hooves. The degradation of the plastic is another matter.
 

Wishfilly

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Exmoor ponies all belong to someone and are ‘managed’ to a great or lesser extent by those owners. The Exmoors used for conservation grazing in Scotland and/or those managed by the MMT are checked daily by rangers and volunteers and do get vet treatment. They are halter broken etc. there are people using Fell young stock as conservation grazing and likewise, they are checked and handled and go on to become riding ponies.
All ponies in the UK belong to someone legally. There's no such thing as a truly wild pony in the UK.
 

Goldenstar

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Around £35 per horse per week here in the south east.

Which is the reason the land I bought last year will need time to recover and one of the reasons that I'm not interested in offering livery. Its suffered from too many horses for too long without time to rest.

Mine all get fat so live on a track from April until the grass sugars die back which fortunately gives most of the land time to recover. But yes, they get hungry because they get to nibble not stuff themselves and I know a lot of landowners don't like grass tracks. I can please myself obviously but I can see both points of view.

I wouldn't get planning permission for a surfaced track

So by I am finished sorting things I would have to rent it for eight and bit years before I saw any return without adding in the cost of maintenance and the hassle of managing it .
That’s not calculating in any return for cost of my capital .
That’s one of the issues it’s not a sensible business proposition .
 

Tiddlypom

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Stopping the car while a large herd of cows were being brought in across the lane for milking a couple of days ago was :oops:. Not my local farm, but one a few miles away. Most were lame to some degree, and maybe 20% were properly hobbling on at least one leg.

Grim.

Who does one report lame cattle to? Think my dash cam footage of the cows limping will have been overwritten now, unfortunately.
 

ycbm

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No, but you seem to imply that wanting to use one method of management methods have no value.
No such implication was intended. However, I still maintain that it is not true that most farm animals live a better life than most leisure horses.
.
 

Wishfilly

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I wasn’t sure about the Bodmin, Dartmoor and some of the Welsh ponies.
Legally all are owned by someone, and are meant to be microchipped and have a passport. Some owners have very little input, whilst others will have more. Most of those on Dartmoor and Bodmin are actually out there with the idea of producing youngsters that will be saleable to someone, and people do buy ponies straight from the moor as pets and to use ultimately as children's ponies (and lots of them do actually do well in this job).

The owners vary hugely in terms of how much input they have in the ponies' lives, and some do pretty much live a wild lifestyle with very limited contact- on occasion this has sadly resulted in some quite serious welfare issues. Some have much more contact, and the ponies are well looked after, albeit in a very different way to leisure horses.
 

smolmaus

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I don't disagree with you, and I would wave the same wand if I could BUT in general there is no landowner, or the landowner is not the owner of the ponies. We're talking about ponies who graze mainly on common land. There are organisations that try to look out for their welfare, and will help if a pony is injured, but the ponies aren't (can't be) checked so it relies on a member of the public spotting an issue and phoning it in.

I do think breeding should be reduced massively, but then the ponies have even less value, so even less is invested in their care- I do think welfare has improved now the ponies have a bit more value and you don't have them going through the sales for £5. I think if they weren't allowed to breed, the ponies would effectively become abandoned. The ponies do also have a role in the ecosystem of these places, having lived there for 100s, if not 1000s of years, and removing them all could have unforeseen consequences for the environment.

We're also talking about 3000+ ponies, if you consider Bodmin, Dartmoor and Exmoor. There is no capacity to take in that many unhandled ponies, if they were to be removed from the moors, the only options would be to cull.

FWIW, I'd be against the loss of some of the last common grazing in the UK on political grounds, but that's a separate issue.
If the ponies have an owner, even if they are on common grazing, that makes the issue even simpler though. Their owner should be making sure they are generally safe and healthy. They are already legally required to have microchips, if they are considered someone's property, no? And if they have a role in the ecosystem, if they are doing a job, I would argue that gives them even more of a right to basic welfare, not less. I am not saying they need to be taken in and kept as pets, they can have basic herd management procedures if they are basically well adapted to where they are. But to leave them to fend completely for themselves while also restricting them from migrating or mixing bloodlines with other herds as would happen in a truly wild situation just isn't right to me. Just to shrug and say "its too hard, let nature take its course" is of course the reality but I dont have to like it.

And believe me I know there are not enough homes for feral ponies, even less the ones with permanent health problems from inbreeding, overbreeding, injury, chronic heavy worm burdens and god knows what else.
 

humblepie

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I never understand why stables are only 12 x 12 or 12 x 14 - I get it in commercial yards on land where space is at a premium and income is needed, but if you were building your own stables why limit to that size.
 

Goldenstar

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I never understand why stables are only 12 x 12 or 12 x 14 - I get it in commercial yards on land where space is at a premium and income is needed, but if you were building your own stables why limit to that size.
I have no idea, my horses have big stables and are not in them that much but if you where able to build from scratch I would never build 12 by 12 stables .
I was told once it was to with standard timber sizes and therefore cost .
 

Tiddlypom

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I never understand why stables are only 12 x 12 or 12 x 14 - I get it in commercial yards on land where space is at a premium and income is needed, but if you were building your own stables why limit to that size.
Err, cost? 12' x 14' is a perfectly generous size for normal sized horses, especially if the horse is in there for only half the day.

What my 'cramped' 12' x 14' stables do have is plenty of light and ventilation, a good view out, a high insulated roof so cool in summer, talk grilles, windows to the front and rear. Cramped they are not.
 
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Wishfilly

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If the ponies have an owner, even if they are on common grazing, that makes the issue even simpler though. Their owner should be making sure they are generally safe and healthy. They are already legally required to have microchips, if they are considered someone's property, no? And if they have a role in the ecosystem, if they are doing a job, I would argue that gives them even more of a right to basic welfare, not less. I am not saying they need to be taken in and kept as pets, they can have basic herd management procedures if they are basically well adapted to where they are. But to leave them to fend completely for themselves while also restricting them from migrating or mixing bloodlines with other herds as would happen in a truly wild situation just isn't right to me. Just to shrug and say "its too hard, let nature take its course" is of course the reality but I dont have to like it.

And believe me I know there are not enough homes for feral ponies, even less the ones with permanent health problems from inbreeding, overbreeding, injury, chronic heavy worm burdens and god knows what else.
I don't think they really are restricted from migrating or mixing bloodlines in most cases (in some cases the covering is done off the moor, but these herds are way more managed and not what we are talking about)- except by the fact that they are surrounded by private farmland and towns etc. Some of the ponies do roam over quite a large area, but I suppose it's a bit like the deer, in general they choose not to go into more urban areas and are restricted to some extent by fencing and major roads. I'd say all wild animals in England face some level of restriction on their movements due to habitat loss.

Obviously they have a right to basic welfare, but my point is that this arguably does not actually fit into the five freedoms- you have to choose whether to prioritise vet care or freedom from distress (ime, there is a level of distress involved, even if sedation is used)- that was my original point. I also raised the point about strangles on the moors, which is a major issue for both the ponies, and people who keep horses around the moor, and absolutely ought to be dealt with- but there would be distress involved to the ponies.

If their welfare needs are truly not being met, then there are charities which remove them from the moor and care for them, but again, this involves a level of distress to the pony (or at least, of all the charities/people I know who do this, they all think there is stress involved for the pony). There's a small number who seem to never truly cope with "domestic" life, as well. FWIW I try to support one of these charities when I can, so I'm not just shrugging my shoulders.

The only way to avoid/reduce the distress would be for them to be a lot more well handled from an early age- which isn't really possible when they are roaming over miles and miles of moorland. So either you have to choose a "freedom" to prioritise or accept there can't be feral ponies- which I genuinely think would be a shame and I do believe the majority of them have reasonable/good lives.

My point is really that the five freedoms are reductive, and whilst they might be a useful guide for the general public keeping an animal in a pet situation, they are not the be all and end all of animal welfare, and in the real world, we have to acknowledge competing needs and that not all freedoms can be met all of the time.

This is not really directed at you, but I have actually studied animal welfare and have been involved in research into farm animal welfare at one point in my career, and all it has persuaded me is that there are no easy answers.
 
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