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NATURAL HORSE BLOG

ENVIRONMENTAL ENRICHMENT FOR HORSES:

Showing my daughter with our family dogI've always loved animals.....and some of my older relatives still like to tell all the embarrassing stories about my love of them throughout my childhood, like when I used to sleep with the family dog in his kennel, or when I let all the dogs go free at a visit to the RSPCA shelter, or when I was a toddler that I actually learned to walk with help from our beloved family german shepherd.....which is probably true as I still remember her as she was such a beautiful soul, and we were the very best of friends.

In fact I don't actually know how I would have survived my childhood without the animals I was blessed to have in my life, so my love of animals started very early for me, and if there was any way I could interact with them I was there......

I remember on one occasion, a school friend's parents took us to a local Zoo, where my excitement of being there quickly turned into despair, after I witnessed one of the most distressing scenes of a polar bear banging his head on a wall, with glazed eyes that expressed he had given up his fight of being confined in captivity, as all he did was robotically walk like a zombie to the opposite wall to do the same, repeating this for his entire existence.

It absolutely broke my heart to see this massive but broken soul behave like this, and for me it was the brutal evolution of a child's innocent but dreamy views of keeping animals in captivity to the harsh reality of it.....and it was so very cruel.

That day was nearly 40 years ago, yet I still vividly recall on how I drove everyone insane, including the staff at the zoo, as I asked so many questions about the bears behaviour..... and how we could help him, and I can honestly say that I haven't stopped asking questions about animal behaviour since.

A polar bear cub plays underwater with a ball at the Toledo Zoo-where toys are encourage to help enrich these animals lives Thankfully most of the zoos of that era have learned more about the Ethology of the animals in their care now, and they strive to provide environmental enrichment for their charges these days, as it is so much better understood that to stimulate natural habitat and encourage natural behaviours reduces stress on both the animal's psyche as well as their physical welfare too.

And I guess it was back then that I learned that trying to keep animals in a captive lifestyle did more harm to them than it ever did good.....and I stick by that outlook even to this day, especially with horses.

Showing exuberance from one of our rehab horses, Otto, enjoying himself as part of our daily play So if you have a horse, I implore you to put his needs before your own by providing as much of a natural environment as you possibly can for his mental health, that is both rich in stimulation for his active mind, as well as to offer plenty of turnout with others of his own kind, so hopefully the lessons from that poor polar and all the other animals that suffer mental trauma due to captivity, weren't taught to us in vain, as surely the beauty of having a horse in your life should be about keeping his spirit alive and intact, rather than being about how high he carries his head when he is ridden, or how spiffy his new clip pattern is etc...