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 Post subject: Giving horses a vacation
PostPosted: Sun Jan 23, 2011 4:30 am 

Joined: Thu Jan 06, 2011 5:39 pm
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Hi all, I am wondering about your feeling and thoughts on giving the horse a vacation? I had never done this before, other than a week or two because of weather or because I was on vacation, but it is an extremely important part of the cultural practice in Iceland, and some other places.

The horses in Iceland seem to be very seasonal; more extreme than I have seen in many other breeds... Perhaps because of such dramatic shifts in light there, although that does not explain their behavior here in the U.S. Apparently most Icelanders will put the horses out for vacation in the fall when the horses show a serious drop in energy as they begin to grow their very wooly coats, and attempt to gain weight for the long harsh winter (that they will not have here! But I guess their body does not realize that). In January, after the solstice, the horses that will be in training for riding or competition, will be brought up to a stable and brought out of vacation. Usually they do fitness work for the first few weeks, using the herd motivation, by "driving" them down tracks and roads, and also extensive use of ponying. I appreciate that for the Icelanders, they put a very high value on the spirit of the horse, and try to use the horse's natural motivation to use energy with other horses.

Anyway, it was a surprising idea for me, but this year both my husband and I did this, and now his mare has begun running up to him in the pasture... Indicating that she, too, is ready to return to activities. She was off for six weeks.

I should mention that my trainer believes that vacation is truly NO HUMAN work of any kind, and as little interaction as possible. The belief is that by allowing them to just be a horse again, they will return refreshed, especially if you set the vacation according to their own natural cycle of energy. So far, I am starting to be a believer in the practice! It is difficult when the horse is in your own property, to just try to ignore them. And also, my trainer does not believe a horse kept in a stall can be put on vacation unless moved temporarily to at least a big paddock with one or more other horses.

I know the Spanish Riding School gives the horses quite a substantial vacation each year, though of course those stallions work very very hard.


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PostPosted: Sun Jan 23, 2011 6:56 am 

Joined: Sun Jan 18, 2009 12:03 am
Posts: 760
I got very interested when I saw this topic. Here is why: I had just been thinking yesterday how much many people, including me, are affected by the length of daylight, ranging from very mild mood and energy changes to severe symptoms of Seasonal affective disorder (SAD). I realized that all of our animals, including dogs, cats, ducks, rabbits and our horse have lower energy levels and have less interest in exercising outside during the short days in winter. This is equally true for animals that live outside in the barn as for the dogs that live in the house. It is also equally true for our short-coated, cold-sensitive dogs as our heavy-coated Northern breeds that live outside year round. I wonder if I should regard this as a milder form of hibernation.
SAD may be just a variation of this in people that is caused by the fact that people don't have the freedom to sleep 16 hours when the daylight hours are short. Having to work when our bodies say rest may have similar effects as if we were to work long hours on far too little sleep/rest during other times of the year.
If this is the case then I'm wondering if horses that live in colder climates with shorter days parts of the year would benefit a lot from a vacation, not in the sense of no interaction with people, but in the sense of being able to choose how much activity they are ready for.
We live in Washington State and I know that the two icelandic horses who live in our town that are used hard for long trail rides during 8 months out of the year are on the same long winter break (no work at all) as our quarter horse mare Blue who shows no interest at the moment
to follow us up a small hill for any play nor does she show any interest to leave her pasture and go for a walk.
This is all just speculation of course but I'm wondering if SAD, hibernation and a horse's need for vacation are all connected.
I would love to hear what experiences other people have with their horses, esp. from different climates and locations around the globe.

Birgit


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PostPosted: Sun Jan 23, 2011 8:55 am 
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Very interesting indeed! I have never tried to set a vacation for the horses, but as I train in the pasture and they can come and go as they like, Titum does this for himself.

There are times, sometimes more than a week, when Titum just leaves me to the other two. Then he is not very active, prefers eating over offering exercises and when he comes and offers them, these are only little tricks or stretching exercises, but no collected moves or other things that he finds difficult.

The timing of his self-imposed vacations seems to have to do with the weather, my own fitness in terms of being able to focus and reward wholeheartedly, and probably many other things that I am not aware of.

Great that Draumur benefitted so much from his vacation! :)


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PostPosted: Sun Jan 23, 2011 1:54 pm 
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Joined: Thu May 17, 2007 11:57 am
Posts: 1983
Location: provincie Utrecht
What a nice question.
I give my horses twice a year a view weeks of. And they love it. They get more happy out of it with a new fresh and clean mind.
The first time is during our holiday and i give them some extra more weeks off, before and after our holiday. And in december they get free time. Most of the time i am very bussy then all things must be ready before the end of the year X-mas days and so on.
For me are those times that i live with an "agenda" and that is not working for my horses. They will walk away or dont wanna do anything at all. So i had decided to give them time of. Last year (2009) they had a extreem long time off, from november till march.
I think they love it. In the months they get their wooly coat i do less intensive work but keep them on a light base at work.

What you wrote about iceland is true for some horses i think, it depents on what kind of work they have to do.
The horses who used during the summer season for ridingholidays by tourists get the winter time off. And they will need it ;) It hard work for them. I know it i have seen them many times.
I do not like such big trips with lots of people some can ride and some not. (only pulling reins) I have ridden their too but only me and my husband and the woman who run the farm outthere. We have visit them several times.
Almost bought a horse too :D
They get the winter of because there is not enough money to earn from visitors and there is too much snow to make long trips. So it is not only for the health of the horse but also a supply and demand.

The horses who are used for competition are working during the winter time. They get stabled and have to work. As soon the spring is comming they go back in the mountain fields the get their rest. They go in big groups with lots of youngsters.
It is so beautyfull to see those horses in long lines along the hills. Trotting and tolt next to eachother.

The horses who have reached a certain age get trained in the early spring for a 3 months and they get rest after that period. And in The winter they get some schooling again. Then if they are lucky a new long holiday and then they have to go for the real work.
So yes people out there have a bit more dependent on the seasonal times then we have to do.

The difference i see with my ponys, when they get time off, they are very close to eachother. The day's exist of eating and sleeping and sometimes depents on the weather of that day some play time. During the first snowfall they are very playfull.
The day after when everthing is white, they only wanna eat and sleep :)
They will only food from me, no play interactions or what ever, just food...food....food....

i am not worry about that, it is there special time off. Get their minds free of our human interactions and must do's and dont's. Or what every we wanted from horses. When the time is ready for work again, they are pleased to go out again and explore the new world. With fresh new green leaves and flowers .

I can't hardly wait for it :f:


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PostPosted: Wed Jan 26, 2011 4:00 pm 

Joined: Fri Nov 07, 2008 2:02 pm
Posts: 1072
Location: UK Worcester/Hereford border
Interesting.
IMO:
It seems to me that 365 days a year ridden or training is a late 20th Century idea,
at least amongst horses in the leisure industry.
Polo ponies tend to come in for fittening, then play the season and are returned home, shoes off to spend down time at liberty with their herd buddies.
Hunt horses were brought into fittening work through August, then hunted to the end of March or early April, and then had their shoes removed and were turned out to pasture.
Logging horses might have a contract to clear a section of woodland and remain busy with carting, but often had time off between jobs that were tendered for.

With all weather arenas, indoor schools, artificial gallop tracks the corporate side of horse industry could extend the season and increase the revenue.
Dressage competitions are seemingly all year round with horses expected to 'perform' whenever prize money is offered by a generous sponsor, who may wish to schedule an event outside the known calender for exclusive advertising, without realising how much extra is requested of a horse maintaining peak fitness indefinitely.

Exercise physiology is a serious subject, that first bringing to full fitness for a horse expected to race, whether on the flat or over fences, very much matters and sets the horse up for the future.
Even after six months down time it is easier to refitten than to initially reach those peaks, horses do appear to maintain themselves well.
Race fittening done well the first time; it takes a lot of steady, slow, patient work before beginning fast gallop work outs.

The race season was not intended to keep a horse in work throughout the year, although courses try to regain the money lost to cancellations for weather or other track problems.

It is human entertainment and 'money' that causes horses to work more than 6 months a year.
Sometimes though, I believe a change is as good as a rest, so for a performance horse to enjoy trail rides with children or in-hand ambles to picnic in wider environments can be an alternative to " no work at all ".?
xx

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PostPosted: Wed Jan 26, 2011 4:36 pm 
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Interesting topic... I'll need to revisit and I definitely want to see different people's experiences.

Personally the idea of a long break seasonally is alittle foreign to me. I did grow up competing in hunters and while the show season was spring through fall, we "trained" or atleast rode all winter long. Part of this was my mother's influence though and had nothing to do with competition: 1) she believed it was my responsibility and duty to exercise my pony since I wanted one, no matter the season, weather or my health ;) 2) my pony was often prone to being overweight especially in winter. Later, with Diego when we were in competition dressage my trainer did have a habit of taking 3 months off during the winter, or she would take herself and her horse to Florida for warmer temps. :roll: I was still very much in the rut of compulsive exercise. I knew Diego would remember everything but I felt somehow it would decrease our ability to accomplish movements properly without the constant work. I admit I was ignorant and afraid of the idea of having to "bring him back" into fitness after a long break.

Then again a bit of a sad realization about that idea shows up now: previously 80% of my interaction around D revolved around riding or prep for riding. Even grooming was seen as prep for riding (instead of quality emotional time). I rarely did any in hand work (didn't know how). Had I given him a riding break I'd have been lost! Not having anything constructive to do with him. :ieks: :roll:


Granted now the idea of a break doesn't seem so bad. He has had more lately and maybe next winter we will have a fully scheduled "break" from riding.
I have to admit though I' not sure I could ever do the "no interaction" thing. I think that depends largely on horse and human too. I know some horses that are so bonded - they would be distressed at the lack of their human companionship over a long period of time. On the otherhand it is definitely a valid idea to explore - giving the horse a mental break from requests by us, even if it's "please stand still and let me brush you".



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PostPosted: Wed Jan 26, 2011 6:46 pm 

Joined: Fri Nov 07, 2008 2:02 pm
Posts: 1072
Location: UK Worcester/Hereford border
Quote:
competing in hunters and while the show season was spring through fall

I am wondering if this is just for the show ring or whether it is "Hunters" as I would recognise them, out galloping and jumping for two full days a week over varied terrain?
Is this like the UK "working hunter class", where a horse shows walk, trot and canter with a few brush fences and a small gate to jump, or are the horses actually fox hunters who have been ridden to hounds regularly?

I tend to think of the "show" people and "dressage" people as those who do work 365 days and can have a slightly overweight horse who has never been fittened for fast galloping and jumping.
In my area, these dressage horses seem to have heart rates pumped by stress and adrenalin rather than aerobic workouts.

When we look at working horses, perhaps a cowboy's horse in Montana, then there might be every day jobs and ranges to ride but there will be more work twice a year when turning cattle to Summer pasture and when collecting from 25,000 acres of mountain into Winter pens where hay can be fed and calves born before once again returning to late Spring until Autumn undisturbed pasture grazing for cattle. A cowhorse needs a quick turn of speed to head off a group of cattle that might be a mile ahead and travelling in the wrong direction onsteep inclines, and he needs to be able to think for him/herself, anticipating the cowboys requests.
But much of farming is seasonal, so work rates for horses involved varies through the year and there will be time off.

Quad bikes are now more familiar than a good Section C pony for shepherding on the Welsh Mountains, but a good pony is better able to help make life saving decisions. xx

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PostPosted: Wed Jan 26, 2011 7:06 pm 
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PiePony wrote:
Quote:
Quad bikes are now more familiar than a good Section C pony for shepherding on the Welsh Mountains, but a good pony is better able to help make life saving decisions. xx


Those are also very handy to ride all day with a little wagon behind it to put some sheep in *LOL* We make always jokes about it at home. Sorry i dont have made a picture of that, next time i will. :)
Why...once we sat in a pub and we saw a man i think at least passing by for 7 or 8 times with his quad and a scheep wagon behind it. And each time the same sheep. :funny:
At an other pub we saw the same again, other man other wagon...but you know what we thought :funny: :funny:


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PostPosted: Wed Jan 26, 2011 7:33 pm 
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Colinde~

My experience these past three years with nutritional and endocrine issues for horses, specifically Insulin Resistance strongly suggests that for whatever her or your reasons might have been for year around work, the result was a pony whose health and well being benefited.

Ponies are especially prone, and those with similar body type, and "easy keepers," to the devastating results of Insulin Resistance. They founder all too easily, and they can go into long term and severe laminitis. Even day to day they will be prone to hoof problems that may miss detection but nevertheless by breaking down the hoof over time.

Few people think to check the temperature and pulse at the hoof regularly, but we with these horses do. Even a slight change upward in sugars and starches can trigger laminitic symptoms.

The best source I know of on this subject, the ECushings forum and list, plus their website, recommneds four things for these horses ... dietary controls, diagnosis regularly, proper hoof trim to support hoof strength, and EXERCISE.

The exercise balances the metabolism and helps promote the correct insulin reactivity and correct and safe processing of sugars and starches.

The issues with rest, I think, need to be tempered with coinciding with the needs of the individual horse. Putting a hard working pony or other easy keeper (the desert and spanish derived breeds usually, like our mustang) out to grass for rest is, for some horses, a death sentence.

That's why some horses succumb to "Spring," colic. Those are the sweetest grasses of the year, with fall being the next, especially after a drout period.

I thought, for a time, that a special low starch how sugar forage diet with mineral supplementation was for only IR horses. It finally sunk in that should I ever get another "easy keeper," or spanish or desert derived breed that I should be following the same regimen for his or her best health.

I have Bonnie, just a kid of two years old, on just such a balanced diet, her being both Spanish, and a bit of Arabian ancestry.

All the gaited breeds, and the pony breeds especially, are in this classification. Good for your mother.

I encourage all, regarless of breed of horse you migth have, to look into the issues of starch and sugar metabolism and the use of Exercise for health.

Horses in nature do not ever take long rests - the move every single day often for many miles, and now and then take runs for fun as a herd.

Because of our enclosure lifestyle for them, even our pastures being too small for the natural horse, daily vigorous exercise regularly and year around is important I think.

Sure doesn't hurt us either. I get mine daily on the end of a apple picker. LOL

Donald, Altea, and Bonnie Cupcake (both of whom gallop daily in their big paddock for no other reason than the fun of it, and the urge).

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PostPosted: Wed Jan 26, 2011 7:53 pm 
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Joined: Wed Jun 23, 2010 4:15 pm
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Location: Georgia (USA)
PiePony wrote:
Quote:
competing in hunters and while the show season was spring through fall

I am wondering if this is just for the show ring or whether it is "Hunters" as I would recognise them, out galloping and jumping for two full days a week over varied terrain?
Is this like the UK "working hunter class", where a horse shows walk, trot and canter with a few brush fences and a small gate to jump, or are the horses actually fox hunters who have been ridden to hounds regularly?


:blush: I've had next to no 'international horse world' perspective till joining here, aside from a few girls in my 4-H group who spent some time in Ireland and came back.
Yes the hunters/huntseat I refer to are Hunter/Jumper show people. Actual foxhunting is not common around here and I have only witnessed one in person once in my entire life, on the sidelines as they came over a few coops. Instead I grew up with the "hunter" show ring - walking, trotting and cantering endless laps for a judge hoping to be perceived as the most "elegant and smooth". A very superficial looks contest really. I imagine our show system separates itself even from the show hunters in the UK only I haven't the slightest idea how... :blush:



Quote:
I tend to think of the "show" people and "dressage" people as those who do work 365 days and can have a slightly overweight horse who has never been fittened for fast galloping and jumping.
In my area, these dressage horses seem to have heart rates pumped by stress and adrenalin rather than aerobic workouts.

I haven't seen that as much - but it could be the barn I was at. My trainer refused to have anything resembling a stressful show barn. The horses were probably some of the most well adjusted competition dressage horses I've seen to date. Alot of them were owned by people who like me, did combined training so they jumped, did trails etc. and few long breaks were taken but riding was also 'light" in the winter and heat of summer. I admit it wasn't exactly natural horse keeping, nor was it AND based, but at the same time it was a pretty positive experience. (which is why I stayed there 10 years :yes: )


Donald- (sorry just read this as I was posting)
I do agree... and that's one of the reasons I would find it very hard to take a FULL break with Diego. For his own health reasons/age I feel like he needs more constant movement than he gets himself in the pasture, even with 15 acres to roam. I have not ridden nearly as much this winter as I did last because of health problems, bad weather and a host of other issues but we have started talking long foot-walks together and are increasing the distance. He seems to just radiate an "I am SO fit compared to you" aura on these walks and I think even he would be dissapointed not to get the opportunity to show off for me were I to leave him out for a few weeks or more.

It's my own personal preference of course. I think the obvious answer is it greatly depends on individual horse and human. 8)

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PostPosted: Wed Jan 26, 2011 8:05 pm 

Joined: Fri Nov 07, 2008 2:02 pm
Posts: 1072
Location: UK Worcester/Hereford border
Donald, I entirely agree with what you write.

When I say Hunters were turned out for 4 or 5 months of the year, I do not mean in a half acre strip grazed paddock, but out in spaces of 10 or 20 or more acres, with room to run, gallop, play, interact and fully exercise.

My own horses spend much time grazing, dozing, munching hay, resting inside the barn, but they play and gallop daily, sometimes they run more than 2 miles at canter and gallop, other times a half mile, then a roll, then another mile, and without fear, this is their free play together, because they have food available and energy to spare.

For a small pony confined to a restrictive space, then popping a child on top and walking a few miles daily can be good for the whole family.

Working horses rarely succumbed to IR or laminitis, barge horses, agricultural horses, hunters, race horses, their metabolisms enjoyed the time off, their hooves healed whilst the shoes were removed.

Horses have always had incidences of laminitis, mostly in domestication this is in under exercised ponies who have been outgrown by "want" or physically outgrown by children, and these ponies tend to live in tiny restricted paddocks, with little mineral variety and no open spaces for a herd to really stretch a pace to top speed.

Add to that the tendancy to offer ready mixed feeds with a cocktail of chemical preservative and immune problems are not surprising.
The human population also suffers from dietary lack of digestible minerals, the new GM wheats produce larger seeds but lack ability to draw nutrients from the growth medium, and the nutrients are depleted by intense, industrial farming. Most humans on Western diets are found to be low or deficient in Magnesium and Zinc.

It would take huge acreage for the plant diversity to have access to draw the balance of minerals from the soils, and most horses do not have unfenced access to travel and browse over many miles to manage the mineral uptake in a single field.

In working horses and performance horses, downtime for recuperation on vacation with good spacious turnout and some equine friends to party with can be restorative. xx

_________________
Susie xx
http://www.flickr.com/photos/piepony/


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PostPosted: Thu Jan 19, 2012 9:26 pm 

Joined: Thu Jan 19, 2012 8:51 pm
Posts: 1
kathyIceHorse wrote:
Hi all, I am wondering about your feeling and thoughts on giving the horse a vacation? I had never done this before, other than a week or two because of weather or because I was on vacation, but it is an extremely important part of the cultural practice in Iceland, and some other places.

The horses in Iceland seem to be very seasonal; more extreme than I have seen in many other breeds... Perhaps because of such dramatic shifts in light there, although that does not explain their behavior here in the U.S. Apparently most Icelanders will put the horses out for vacation in the fall when the horses show a serious drop in energy as they begin to grow their very wooly coats, and attempt to gain weight for the long harsh winter (that they will not have here! But I guess their body does not realize that). In January, after the solstice, the horses that will be in training for riding or competition, will be brought up to a stable and brought out of vacation. Usually they do fitness work for the first few weeks, using the herd motivation, by "driving" them down tracks and roads, and also extensive use of ponying. I appreciate that for the Icelanders, they put a very high value on the spirit of the horse, and try to use the horse's natural motivation to use energy with other horses.Best Las Vegas Hotel Pool

Anyway, it was a surprising idea for me, but this year both my husband and I did this, and now his mare has begun running up to him in the pasture... Indicating that she, too, is ready to return to activities. She was off for six weeks.

I should mention that my trainer believes that vacation is truly NO HUMAN work of any kind, and as little interaction as possible. The belief is that by allowing them to just be a horse again, they will return refreshed, especially if you set the vacation according to their own natural cycle of energy. So far, I am starting to be a believer in the practice! It is difficult when the horse is in your own property, to just try to ignore them. And also, my trainer does not believe a horse kept in a stall can be put on vacation unless moved temporarily to at least a big paddock with one or more other horses.

I know the Spanish Riding School gives the horses quite a substantial vacation each year, though of course those stallions work very very hard.

I think it is really important to give your horses a good vacation and rest. They become much happier when they are treated well like this. The Spanish Riding School is probably the rule of thumb when it comes to giving horses vacations if you can afford to do it. Give your horse a long vacation and dont make it do any work!


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