Category: General Health & Well-Being

What Are The Instinctual Needs Of Your Horse? - Meeting instinctual needsTo have a Healthy, Happy Horse, we need to meet his instinctual needs as well as his physical needs.  In the wild, the herd teaches him how to fill these needs.

Unfortunately, today we usually place the horse in an environment that is of our own making and that is convenient for us, and often this environment is nothing like the natural environment that the horse’s body and mind is programmed for.  If his emotional needs are not met in this artificial environment, many physical problems and emotional behaviors are manifested.

So what can we do about it?

Marijke de Jong has written a thoughtful article in which she discusses the following issues in great detail, supported by explanatory photos and illustrations:

  • the needs of the horse
  • what happens when these needs are limited or even absent
  • what problems result from this, and
  • how to avoid them.

By Marijke de Jong


To be successful with straightness training we have to meet the instinctual needs of your horse first.

Given their characteristics, horses have a number of needs. These are:

  • Certainty and safety, because the horse is a prey animal with a flight instinct
  • Routine, because the horse is a creature of habit, so require a regular routine of eating, resting, grooming etc
  • Grass and roughage, because they are herbivores
  • To eat small amounts throughout the day, because with a full belly it’s not easy to flee
  • Variety, because it’s boring and frustrating to be 23 hours in a stable
  • Constant movement, because they are steppe animals
  • Connection with other horses, because they are social animals
  • The nead for leadership, because they are herd animals and like to follow a confident leader

Limitation of horse needs

Understanding how horses behave in nature can help us to better fulfill their needs. In the domesticated world, most horses are limited in their ability to fulfill their natural horse needs because of the way they are kept. The overview displays the differences:

Collecting food Horses spend 60% of their time on feeding (14 to 15 hours per day). This leads to 55,000 chewing movements. Sometimes horses spend 2 x 5 minutes eating pellets and 3x 1 hour eating hay. This leads to 7,000 to 10,000 chewing movements.
Amount of food Little bits throughout the day 3 times a day a lot at one time
Movement 5 to 10 km spread over the whole day Sometimes only 1 hour a day
Rest 30% of their time (7 hours per day). The horse can lay five minutes per day completely flat out Sometimes 23 hours in the stall. Laying down completely is sometimes not possible at all
Social contact A lot of contact with other horses. Sometimes the only contact is with humans. Many horses (especially stallions) are kept alone in the pasture and alone in the stable.
Foals Foals spend half of their time playing with other foals.Weaning: Separation at 9 months. Sometimes the foal’s only companion in the pasture is the mother. Weaning: Separation at 4 months.
Young horses Living together with other horses. Developing friendships. Education provided by counterparts. Behavioral rules, learning horse language. Developing social skills. Sometimes alone or with only one other horse. Often in a socially inadequate living environment. Education provided by human.
Young adults Stallion: bachelor band. Mare: first foal when she is 5 years old. Stallion: often castrated. Mare: frustrated oestrous cycle
Protection Coat, strong legs, good natural immunity. Less immunity, often ill because of the stable climate; too humid, too dark, too dusty, blankets and bandages.
Grooming Mutual care. Rolling. Humans brush the horse. Rolling sometimes not possible.
Hooves Hooves wear out naturally. Farrier takes care of trimming the hooves. Because the horse is not able to move sufficiently in a stable which is too dry or too wet, hoof and leg problems can develop.

Problems by not fulfilling the natural horse needs

By not fulfilling the natural needs of the domesticated horse, physical and psychological problems can arise:  [Read more here …]



The more you fulfill the natural needs of your horse, the better you will be able to connect with your horse and the more smoothly your training process will be.

You will succeed the most when you work with Mother Nature.

Horses Need Sunlight For Vitamin D

Horses need sunlight for Vit D - Photo by Stefan GustafssonHorses, like us, need sufficient sunlight for vitamin D production and bone formation. Pastured horses, or those turned out to graze every day, receive enough sunlight for their needs.

However, horses that constantly rugged during the day as protection against insects and coat fading, or are stabled during the day including due to injury or illness, can suffer from vitamin D deficiency over time. Even the shorter amount of daylight such as in winter in the northern hemisphere, especially when accompanied by prolonged bad weather, can result in the horse becoming Vitamin D deficient.

Healing For Horses“Horses need some free time in daylight every day for optimum health and a fully balanced energy field.If your horse is confined because of veterinary treatment/instruction, see if you can use a stable where the horse can put its head over the door into good bright light and use a light airy stable. Check with your vet in case of contraindications.”
~ (from Healing for Horses by Margrit Coates)

It is also important to remember to provide shade for horses that are turned out so they can get out of the sun if they want to cool down.