Environmental Enrichment

After 25 years+ of ‘being the sensible one’ – opting to always be the sharer, loaner, rider, carer, therapist for other people’s horses – I am proud to say I am finally taking the plunge and buying a horse of my very own (well, shared with my hubby…in theory 😉 ).

It was starting to become apparent that as a soon-to-be massage therapist, I was essentially the equivalent of a mechanic without a car…a bit unusual! Frustrations at learning and preaching best practice, but being unable to practise it myself, were becoming more frequent. So…this is my chance to give it a go, in the hope that not only will it make me a better, more empathic massage therapist, but that I am able to fulfil a lifelong dream in the process.

Our beautiful mare-to-be is arriving tomorrow amongst much excitement and huge pressures I am putting on myself to follow the guidance I am all too quick to give out! Despite having picked out a fantastic new home for her, without land of my own and a herd to utilise freely(!), inevitable livery limitations are already causing the need for compromise. The importance I place on horses enjoying natural herd living, varied grazing and terrain and on having freedom to choose preferred shelter options are all needing to be put on hold for now.

However, this does give me the opportunity to take on the challenge of attempting to enrich her environment. Already I am formulating a track system in her paddock, in which she is currently the sole inhabitant, at least until she settles in. Despite her being alone, she does have multiple neighbours, the company of whom I am hoping to take advantage of, making her grazing track span the whole length of their ‘over-fence’ contact areas, and allowing all stretches enabling passer-by interactions to be accessible. I will provide an alternative forage area, mineral lick and watering area, spacing these out around the tracks to add variety and the need to move around in a more natural way to meet her daily needs. Within these areas, I will add challenges to increase stimulation – increased difficulty in access to forage storage, apples to bob in a water bucket etc. These additions are only small changes, but I hope to be able to add to these ideas as I go – any suggestions welcome!

I expect a sleepless night tonight, but hope that we can make a positive start tomorrow, aiming to enrich not only her environment, but also the start of the relationship with our very own new equine partner.

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