About Confinement

Humans seem to spend a lot of time concocting ways to confine and restrain horses — stalls, paddocks, halters, bridles, crossties, bits, side reins, tie downs — the list is endless. Horses that are confined too much without any turnout to run and romp like a natural horse often get depressed or develop bad behaviors from all that pent-up energy. The following are the two best things you can do for your horse from the beginning of your relationship, whether you are raising a foal or starting with a newly bought horse of any age.

Consider the Whole Horse

Consider the horse's happiness and mental fitness as important as her physical well-being. A horse with a calm mind will be able to listen to you and learn from you. Too many people concentrate on fussing with a horse's body because it is more accessible and, therefore, a little easier to figure out. If you don't understand the horse's mind, how she thinks, and what she needs, find someone more knowledgeable to help you, and read books on the subject to increase your understanding.

Your horse needs some freedom to be a horse, to graze in a field and socialize with his own kind. If he stays penned up in a stall twenty-four hours a day, he will almost certainly suffer some confinement stress — and your ownership and riding pleasure will suffer for it, too.

Establish a Bond of Trust

Develop a mutually respectful relationship that allows you to trust your horse enough to give her some space to be a horse. If the horse has to be on the end of a lead rope, then at least she can have two or three feet of rope instead of being gripped at the clip. Many people can't give their horses that much space because the horse will constantly dive for grass or prance around. On a trail ride, they can't give their horse a loose rein because she constantly eats the bushes and branches along the way. This is where it is your job to teach the horse from the outset that such behavior is simply unacceptable and will not be tolerated.

Give your horse a better life by teaching him to be respectful. This allows you to trust him, which in turn allows you to stop trying to confine him so much. A horse that knows he can move if he absolutely has to is more likely to be okay about standing still when you want him to.

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