Horses have played an important part in human history – as day to day transportation, agricultural workhorses in the fields, in war as highly trained battle horses, in the pits and mines for coal production and more recently in equine assisted therapy.
Today, horses in developed countries like the UK are mainly used as leisure, sport, companion or therapy animals and for those lucky enough to care for, own or ride horses the benefits of being outside in the natural environment, getting exercise whilst caring for or riding along with developing and sharing a bond and understanding with the horse provides huge physical and mental wellbeing benefits.
Management of horses today is infinitely different from how they would live in the wild, where, as selective grazers, they would roam across huge areas of land, be predated by wolves, lions and the like and receive no additional winter feed or shelter.
Today, horses are kept in managed paddocks, with their manure often being used as fertiliser for local arable land, water courses being protected from them by use of troughs and a rotational system of grazing allowing soil and grasses to recover, often being cut for hay that keeps the horses well fed during the harder winter months.
For those animals that are housed indoors overnight, locally grown straw provides a comfortable bed and helps keep food miles down.
Maintaining a balance of keeping land and environment sensibly managed in terms of horse pasture is a challenge – muddy areas, selective grass preferences and compaction of soil are all aspects that have to be addressed to keep land in good shape for the horses and wildlife that share the space.