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The ‘Well Kept’ DIY horse.

Covid 19 results:

Lingfield Equine Distance Learning courses is experiencing a rush of interest from people around the world.  For this reason we offer some explanation of how the many horses are kept here in the UK which explains why these courses are so popular.

The ‘Well Kept’ DIY Horse:

For decades owners with horses on ‘Do It Yourself’ yards have been  inadvertently feeding too much (hard feed, roughage and grass) all year round.  To compound this problem, many over rug their horses in Winter (rug too warmly), or they rug too early or too late into Spring when it is not really very cold. The term ‘rug’ to describe a man made outer protective covering, is not used the world over – in the US  for instance it might be described as a blanket.

UK horse owners also have a tendency to apply neck covers to their horses and further layers of rugs in the stable overnight.

In polite terms, they keep their horses ‘too well’ which has resulted in  a national equine health crisis.  An issue not seen in other European countries and other countries further afield.

Lingfield Level 1 & 2 courses aim to provide help and advice for the individual social / leisure horse owner.  Many such owners after a few years of ownership, have progressed to running their own DIY yard.  The small profit these owners earn from such ventures, helps them cover the cost of keeping their own horse.

A ‘yard’ is a widely used term used in UK to describe a block of stables and the immediately surrounding area.  The DIY (do it yourself) yard is therefore, a block/s of stables – usually adjacent to land for grazing the horses.  Quite often the yard and land is rented from a land/property owner who has no involvement in the business.  A livery on the other hand is the term used for the actual horse itself as well as the way it is kept.  A ‘livery horse’ being kept/stabled at a ‘livery yard’ which is a DIY yard – rather than where the horse is managed by the owner /of the yard, is therefore looked after by the owner.

In the UK there are no restrictions or requirements by law to owning and running a block of stables or livery yard apart from a minimum age and the UK health and welfare requirements for equines and their housing etc. which are indeed legal requirements.  Horses in UK are not classed as agricultural animals.  Land where they are kept are not therefore classed as or called farms – they are equestrian centres.

The DIY yard system offers individual stables (and grazing time in shared fields).  Each stable is hired out on a monthly basis by the yard owner/manager to individual horse owners.  If the yard is based on a farm by this we mean an agricultural animal food farm, hay and straw may be available on the premises.  The yard may be managed by the farmer or rented out to a private person who sub rents the stables.  In such circumstances, some yards have fixed arrangements with the farmer to provide hay/haylage/bedding.

Generally however, at DIY yards, each owner buys in their own feed and bedding from wherever they prefer and is provided with storage facilities for this at the yard. The DIY owners care for all their horse’s needs 24/7 without assistance.   At others the yard owner/manager may provide some or part of the care of the horse for a further charge.  Some DIY owners therefore find our Equine Feeding & Nutrition course useful for broadening their knowledge or for updating.

The good and the bad:

For the owners, there are pros and cons to the various arrangements available at Livery Yards.  Similarly, for the manager/owner there are pros and cons to the way you offer your facilities and services to the owners.

The Livery Yard Manager:

Lingfield offers a course specifically covering the business aspects for Livery Yard Managers.   Ideal for those aiming to set up their own yard.

Limited knowledge:

The clients (the owners of the livery horse) very often have limited knowledge of horse care, in such circumstances the yard owner or manager is sometimes called upon to assist and advise.  Sadly for the horses, the yard owner may have limited knowledge themselves.  However, to a new horse owner that may not be apparent initially.  Injuries and ailments can be an issue in yards where there is limited knowledge.  The Lingfield Equine First Aid & Ailments course  provides excellent professional advice.

Upskill with a Lingfield Intermediate Diploma programme:

The aim of our courses therefore, is to provide both the horse owners and the yard owner with information on how to keep a horse should it be stabled for nearly 24 hours a day.  Some courses cover equine first aid or rider confidence, schooling or equine behaviour – all of which come under ‘management of the horse’.  For all round in depth detail we offer riders and owners the opportunity to upskill and broaden their knowledge with the Intermediate Diploma in Equine Management

Why do some owners keep their horses stabled for so long?

Most, (we hope) prefer not to keep their horses stabled for long hours.  The leisure horse owning population  in the UK has grown enormously. The human population is also growing and along with that the cost of properties and land.   For many stable/yard owners, the land they own is quite limited in size, either because they cannot afford to purchase more, or there is just not enough land available for horses in their location (basically it is too small, or too small for the amount of horses being kept on it).

This shortage of land means in Winter especially (when our rainfall is high and the ground gets soft and soggy), the land gets churned up by the horses feet if they are turned out all day. The grass roots are killed and that means less grass next Summer  – so yard owners have no alternative but to restrict the turnout time.

Why are so many horses in UK kept at DIY yards?  Although this is common in UK it is not the case in other countries.  In UK however, it is the cheapest way to keep a horse and some prefer total control – which can be good – although it is sometimes detrimental to the horse’s welfare.  Owning a horse is not cheap but few realise this prior to ownership.

These DIY owners often work full or part time, and /or have a family and do the horse themselves – sometimes with the occasional help of the yard owner or a friend.  Winter can be difficult for these owners because the days are short.  It gets light so late in the morning and dark so early (4pm or earlier in Scotland) which limits the working owners riding / exercise time and we have to remember that their horse may well be stabled most of the day owing to restricted land ownership.

Leisure horses in UK do of course compete, but it might be just once or twice a month mostly through the Summer at lower standards (what we call ‘local’) competitions.  This would not be classed in any way as a ‘competition horse’.  This local competing regime does not require much more energy than when riding out regularly – but new owners are not always aware of this & tend to overfeed energy foodstuff.  Seed hay & energy feed would be fed to the horse  attending regular,  high standard competitions on a very regular basis with the aim of qualifying for top competitions.

In other countries – especially warmer climates the feeding of equines may be slightly different. UK has a huge equine industry now – with an enormous amount of international equine feed companies producing a huge variety of different feeds.  In some countries the choice is limited and local feeds might be used rather than imported products.

WHAT TYPE OF ROUGHAGE:   In UK our roughage/fibre feed is mainly hay and packaged new hay (haylage) unlike Tef and Lucern which are fed in hotter climes.  The grasses in UK meadow hay are of mixed good and poorer varieties.  Hay is the main bulk feed for horses in UK.  It does not provide a great deal of energy, unlike seed hay and the other feeds we give in a bucket.  This hay is the roughage, fibre and bulk required in large quantities by the horse on a daily basis. We rarely if ever feed ‘seed’ hay to the leisure horse. Seed hay is often a single variety hay e.g. Timothy). It is cut early before seeding so is full of energy – this is fed to ‘competition horses’. The average leisure horse can work on meadow hay/haylage alone.

Behaviour issues: 

Can often be traced to feeding – and turnout problems.    Regretably many horses suffer with incorrect feeding which results in quite serious behaviour issues and owners who find their confidence failing.   Turnout is often a contributory factor.  Lingfield Equine Psychology & Behaviour course can help people understand their horse and get to grips with how to approach problems.

©Lingfield Correspondence 2018

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