Natural horse boarding

Natural horse boarding is a philosophy as much as it is a model.  Our ranch is set up to accommodate
the horse’s natural tendencies & needs in the most natural way possible.  With that said, boarding in
and of itself, is an un-natural way of life for a horse, so we do all we can to take into consideration
what they would choose if they were not confined.  At HMR, the horses needs come first.   

Feeding the horses is one of the areas in terms of “natural” boarding that is the most important from
my perspective.  The horses body is built to graze slowly over long periods of time.  This is what
works best for the health of their bodies and the health of their minds.  Here at the ranch we try to
mimic that by using slow feed hay nets to slow down the eating process and I deliberately feed
enough low cal hay so that they have access to feed 24 hours a day.   I only purchase hay that  is
lower in sugar and lower in calories.  The reason being is that the horses can eat far more of a lower
sugar/lower calorie hay than they could a highly caloric hay such as alfalfa.  I believe this is one of
the strongest reasons the horses who come to live here do so well in terms of health.  This constant
flow of hay helps to reduce stress, increase digestion to “normal” levels, relieves almost all food
aggression toward other horses, and it really seems to help the horses enjoy their lives more fully,
with out gaining too much weight and without adding to the metabolic problems you see in so many
older or stalled horses.     

We also feed a variety of organic non treated hays at one time; this makes it a little more interesting
for the horse and benefits them nutritionally.  I test all of the hay that we purchase or the hay that we
personally grow, so we know exactly what the horses are or are not getting.  I provide the owners
with that information, so they may supplement what is missing from their horse’s diet, should they
choose too.  

All of the horses live with at least one friend in an over sized paddock with a 3 sided shelter.  The
paddocks are large enough for the horses to get exercise if they feel so inclined.  If they want to lay
around while their friends choose movement, there is enough space to do that too.  All the
paddocks are lined with multiple mature oaks and willows i.e.; natural shelter.  Most horses strongly
prefer to choose their cover when its raining or windy and that cover is rarely a man made shelter
(although there is the rare horse who chooses the shelter over the tree cover) Most horses like to
be out of the rain & wind but its very important to almost all of them, that they can get away quickly
should they feel the need.  It’s always fascinated me to see a horse spook away from a tree before
you here the crack of the limb.  Imagine being confined in a stall during a storm and not being able to
move when you here the crack of the limb outside the barn.  Most horses learn to live with that
situation as best they can, but it certainly isn’t “natural” for them and it doesn’t do much to reduce
their stress.  

We always allow the horses to choose their paddock mates.  If you simply put any two horses
together they will adapt in varying degrees, but if you put those same two horses in a larger group,
they generally find another horse that suits them better.  As much as I would like to decide who lives
together from an ease of care perspective, this isn’t in the horse’s best interest.  It means more
work for the care givers until a good match is found, but once that match is found, it means a very
comfortable, serene, stress free environment for the horses and subsequently, for the people who
love them.  

The footing in each paddock is primarily sandy loam.  So over the years we have amended areas with
in each paddock with varying sizes of rock and paving gravel.  This gives a slightly more varied
terrain to passively condition the horse’s hooves.  

This gives you an idea of what this ranches definition of “natural” boarding is, there are many other
smaller factors that add to my definition of natural, if you would like to talk, see the ranch and meet
some of its residents, please feel free to call or email to set up a time to take a tour.  707-292-4308 or
mkgbuegel@yahoo.com