Small patches of hay, scattered around the pasture (instead of one big wad all in one place) keeps the horses moving, which naturally wears their hooves and keeps their hooves flexing, creating better blood circulation, thus healthier, happier horses.
Feeding hay at ground level, which is the natural way for horses to eat (instead of a feeder at table height),
keeps the respiratory system working properly. Particles, germs and viruses can easily travel all the way to the horse's filtration system which puts them in their proper place. When the head is up while eating, those same particles, germs and viruses cannot not travel a clear and open path, so they ram against the throat and embed themselves into the mucous membranes where they can stick, breed, enter the tissues, and make their way into the bloodstream.
See the Large Pasture
When we were in southern California our one-and-a-half acre natural pasture was based loosely upon Jamie Jackson's model in his book Paddock Paradise. For updates on our herd and their response to their new digs in middle Tennessee see the The Soul of a Horse Blog.
In her book, A Lifetime of Soundness, Doctor of Veterinary Medicine Hiltrud Strasser says that "most of the common health problems and lamenesses afflicting domestic horses are a direct result of man-made violations of their natural lifestyle, and can be prevented or cured through a removal of the cause and a return to natural lifestyle." In nature, horses are in virtual constant motion, foraging for food, moving to water, staying ahead of predators. Because we humans are cave dwellers, we have have tried to force upon our equine partners the things we prefer. We put them alone in box stalls when they much prefer to be with the herd in wide open spaces where they can see predators coming. We make them stand on soft bedding when their natural lifestyle is a preference for hard ground and near constant movement. We restrict their movement when Mother Nature has designed them to move ten to fifteen miles a day in the wild. We make them stand in one place and eat, when in the wild they are constantly on the move. We do all sorts of things that confound their natural ability to control their own internal body temperature. We put metal shoes on them which eliminates the natural flexing of the hoof that not only cushions impact but actually pumps blood through the hoof and back up the legs, taking load off the heart, providing a better circulatory system and better overeall health (see Going Barefoot). For more on all this, read the books linked above. It's amazing stuff and so very logical. All of our horses are now barefoot and living in "Paddock Paradise."
I understand that not everyone has access to an acre or an acre-and-a-half. But everyone who really cares for their horses can figure out a better way than standing around in a box stall day in and day out. Natural boarding facilities are popping up all over the country. The more we bear down upon traditional boarding, the more natural boarding there will be. And our first two natural pastures were barely larger than the footprint of a big barn. But they worked and kept the horses moving.
"But, Joe," I've been told, "if my horse is with a herd 24/7, he will no longer love me or want to be with me."
"Then, he doesn't love you or want to be with you in the first place," I say, "because when you have properly "joined up" with your horse, as Monty Roberts teaches, you have given him the choice of being with you right from the get-go, and when your horse has made that choice on his own, he will not change his mind unless you do something that causes him to do so."
When you are with your horse, you are a herd of two, and if you have proven to her that you are a good leader and partner, she will trust you, feel safe with you, and will want to be with you.
Ours are out, with each other, virtually all of the time when they are not with us, and they are always happy to see us coming.
To take your horse barefoot in Valley Center, we recommend Dani Lloyd, Equine Foot Specialist in Temecula.To find a natural hoof practitioner in your area, go to www.hoofrehab.com or www.aanhcp.org Or the bottom of our "barefoot" page. For natural boarding in the Ramona area, contact Rebecca Bailey at firstname.lastname@example.org or 619-719-7903.
To build a natural pasture yourself is way easier than you think (if I can do it anyone can do it!). Often, depending upon how many horses you have, you need little more room that required for a barn (see our small pastures on the left). See Jaime's book linked above, and check out Premier 1 Fencing for Horses
Being out with the herd 24/7 is more than just being with buddies. Fifty million years of genetics have embedded within the horse psyche that being with the herd means safety. Being away from the herd creates fear and emotional stress. Being locked in a box stall does not replace the herd or give your horse a feeling of safety. Nor does it allow the opportuinity for movement that makes for a much healthier horse. In the wild a horse will often cover ten to fifteen miles a day.