Environmental Enrichment is highly regarded in the Zoo environment. It is about preventing, eliminating or at leave reducing stress and boredom that the animals experience. We do this by providing opportunities that are the same or similar to those found in nature, in order to encourage normal behaviours.
So how does this relate to horses?
Below is an article written by Suzy Maloney on this very topic...
"When I was at university doing my Equine Science degree, I chose an elective called Captive Animal Behaviour. I had completed Equine Behaviour and Horse Training as part of my degree and was fascinated by animal behaviour. Captive Animal Behaviour brought in a whole new field of information, as it focused on wild animals within a captive environment. The strongest component of the course was the topic of Environmental Enrichment.
This dictates that the human handler of any animal is responsible not only for the physical needs of the animal; food, water, shelter, etc, but also for the emotional and social needs of the animal. How this is achieved is to enrich the environment such that it resembles as closely as possible the natural environment. For wildlife parks and zoos, this is a primary concern. Animals provided with an enriched environment are happier, healthier, live longer, breed more easily, and are easier to handle.
While this is recognised in the field of captive animals, it is often not addressed with domestic animals. Horses are kept in small stables and yards, without other horses and sometimes even without basic needs such as shelter. A horse’s environment needs to be interesting and varied and provide social interactions for them to thrive. Inside every domestic horse is the original wild horse.
Our new Parallax Products are a great way to add enrichment to managing your horses and ponies.
The natural environment for horses is the open plain. They can roam up to 40km per day in search of food and water. Every day they move over varied terrain, rocky areas, hills, waterways. They live within a herd of other horses and have regular interactions with the other members. Social structure and friendships within a herd are extremely important. When horses want to lay down to sleep, others stand guard over them so they can relax and sleep safely. Horses are forever on the lookout for predators and the safety provided by a herd can never be replaced by a human.
Our history with horses started with them being food, first, we ate them. Then we discovered they could pull things for us and carry us on their backs. The use of horses enabled humans to expand their geographical horizons, go to war and embark on large-scale agriculture. As the number of humans grew, we started living in cities, and horses were put in stables as there was no longer room for more natural environments. Somehow, we retained this idea even after it was no longer appropriate.
In our contemporary world, we have cars, tractors, etc. In most instances, horses are now relegated to the position of leisure. They are kept for pleasure riding and competition. To have happy, thriving horses we need to try and provide an environment that resembles a natural horse environment as much as possible. As an absolute baseline, they need pasture to eat, water, room to roam and run, a herd (or at least 1 other horse), varied terrain, and adequate shelter to seek refuge under during storms and hot summers. These seem simple things, but there are quite a lot of horses in the domestic environment who don't have these. If it is not possible to provide any of these basics due to your circumstances, perhaps a compromise of some sort could be found? Or maybe get creative and see how interesting and amazing you can make your horses environment, have fun with it.
All animals in our care have fundamental needs for their species. As their custodians, we have an obligation to provide for these needs. By ensuring we provide an environment suitable for each species we not only improve their health and happiness, but also the amount of work we need to do for their care is reduced, a win for everyone."
About the Author –
Suzy Maloney B. Eq. Sc.
has a degree in Equine Science, has been instructing riding students for 15 years and runs her own business Happy Horses Bitless. Suzy discovered bitless bridles 10 years ago and has now made the promotion of their use her passion. She teaches students exclusively in bitless bridles, gives bitless clinics, writes articles, gives talks on bitless riding and sells bitless bridles through her web page.
Suzy believes we can communicate with horses using gentleness, intuition and an open mind. Her lessons are a combination of classical riding, natural horsemanship and the understanding of equine behaviour.
Suzy Maloney B.Eq.Sc. Happy Horses Bitless
Phone: 0401 249 263 Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
www.happyhorsesbitless.com Facebook: Happy Horses Bitless Bridles
Parallax Products can be used for environmental enrichment too!
The following image is from the Instagram account https://www.instagram.com/my_horses_at_home/ and shows how our new Parallax Products can also be used for Environmental Enrichment.
There is also a great Facebook site called Enrichment for Horses that has some fantastic ideas on it too.