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Herd Dynamics: Keeping the Peace

Allowing horses to live naturally in stable, social groups is the panacea for a litany of equine ailments. It improves fitness, all but eliminates colic, cures ulcers and reduces or eliminates cribbing, weaving, and other stereotypies associated with compromised psychological well-being. Undeniably, there is a robust literature suggesting that keeping horses in stalls benefits only one half of the horse/human dynamic, and that beneficiary is not the horse. Still, owners are often reluctant to subject their valuable horses to the potential risk of herd turnout. The typical life for today’s sport and many pleasure horses is to live in box stalls for approximately 16 hours of a 24-hour day, and the remainder (the lucky ones) are turned out in small individual paddocks with no horse-to-horse interaction. Owners and trainers could afford to take a second look at group turnout, however. The research evidence suggests that although equine aggression does happen, the…

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