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Posts tagged ‘horses’

5 things I like about my horse

Yesterday when I was at the barn, there was still some daylight left. Although it was windy and a bit chilly I decided to work with Kyra outdoors so we could enjoy the last few sunbeams.

When I walked into the barn to get her, I changed my mind about the work and decided to let her loose and just observe her and enjoy the moment. She was actively seeking juicy patches of grass and it was a joy to see her displaying a lot of exploration behaviour. She went into the round pen where there is only sand. We usually only use it to make video’s in there, so it involves a lot of bridge signals and reinforcers. I guess it is the reward history she has in there, that made her want to enter the round pen.

While I was observing her I realized that I really like my horse. Why?

Kyra is curious

_HLhippologic_talking to the horseShe wants to explore new things and she seems to enjoy learning. I like it when she shows curiosity and I encourage it. When we walk in the isle she wants to sniff things and I let her. She will come with me, the sniffing only takes a few seconds.

Kyra is cooperative

_cooperative_horse_hippologicShe really likes to find out what it is I want from her. Of course using positive
reinforcement in training helps a lot. She is also very forgiving. Sometimes it happens that I cause frustration because I raise my criteria too early (lumping instead of splitting the behaviour). When I correct my mistake she is willing to please again. I really like this in horses.

Kyra communicates clearly

I work a lot at liberty and I don’t have sanctions for walking away. If she walks away from me or walks towards the exit of the arena, I interpret this as a sign that she is not interested anymore and I change plans.

In the pasture she is very clear about her boundaries towards the other horses.

Kyra is gentle

_HLhippologic_listening to your horse_clicker_trainingI am always very surprised how gentle and patient she is with people in general and with children in specific. She stands perfectly still when children groom her, even when they are a bit nervous or clumsy.

Kyra is beautiful

I like her soul, her character and her appearance. Since she is a grey her coat changes every time she sheds. She is like a jaw breaker: changing colours all the time. I like her big open eyes and her soft muzzle with the long whiskers that tickle in my face when she greets me.


What do you like about your horse?

Sandra Poppema
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Slowfeeder nets

A slowfeeder net is a hay net with much smaller mazes/holes than regular hay nets. Whereas the regular hay nets have mazes varying between approximately 8 – 15 cm (3,1 – 5,9 inches), slowfeeder nets have mazes of 3,5 cm – 6 cm (1,2 inch – 2,4 inch).MINOLTA DIGITAL CAMERA

The goal of a slowfeeder net is to slowdown the intake of hay the horse eats so he spends more time eating and less time doing other behaviours (vices).

Why a slowfeeder net?
Horses are built to eat 16 hours a day. A big difference between a human and a horse is that we humans only excrete acid in the stomach while we are eating. The stomach of a horse produces acid weather he is eating or not.

The upper part of a horses stomach doesn’t have a protective layer against the acid. So if the horse is not eating and doesn’t produce a lot of saliva to neutralize the effects of the acid on the stomach wall, horses can get ulcers.

I can’t help thinking that it must also give them a miserable feeling when they have an empty stomach when Mother Nature want the relatively small stomach always filled with high fibre and low nutrient grasses.

Most domestic horses don’t have the possibility to spend approximately 16 hours a day grazing. If they do get to forage we often give them a flake or few flakes of hay which they finish very quickly. Slowfeeder nets mimic grazing._slowfeedernet_hippologic

Other advantages
It can save a lot of work. If you purchase a big net for your horse(s) that you can fill, you could skip meals. Depending of the size of the net and the amount of horses you have to feed, you could go from feeding hay 3 or 4 times a day to one meal of hay.

Hay doesn’t get spilled, blown away by the wind outside or spoiled by horses peeing and pooping in their hay anymore. This can save money in the long term.

It also saves work because you don’t have to spend time raking spoiled hay. It might even save disposal costs because the manure pile isn’t filling up with spoiled hay.

In general it extends eating time, prevents boredom and helps the horse mimic his natural behaviours.

As a bonus it saves you time and money you can then spend on your horse in a different way.

How to deal with the disadvantages 
Filling a net can be time consuming. Make sure you buy a net with a big opening that makes filling the net quick and easy. There are “hoops” available that keeps the opening open if you use the round shaped nets. For the square nets I found my own way of filling it quickly. See this video:

Slowfeeders can be very expensive to purchase. It can take a while before the hay saving costs cover the price of your net. In general you will be saving money by buying the more expensive ones instead of trying the cheap ones first. The cheap ones I tried broke quickly and were frustrating to use. I recommend doing some online research about size, shape, material and maze size.

If you choose a slowfeeder with holes that are too small for your horse it can create frustration or your horse might not eat the amount of hay he really needs.

To prevent frustration when introducing a slowfeeder net to your horse, it can be a good idea to give only half or less of its normal portion in the new net and provide the rest of its ration the way you always do. Most horses learn quickly how to eat out of a slowfeeder net.

Depending on the way your horse has to keep his neck and head while he is eating out of a net, it can cause an unnatural position which can cause health problems.

Be aware that you are introducing a new activity and be alert for any changes this causes in your horse.

Sandra Poppema

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