Many times we think horses would be content in a nice dry stall in a barn. But in reality, most of the time they do better outside.

I was at a Ray Hunt clinic in Montana, and during our lunch break he was talking about how the wild horse herds had a higher live foal birth rate than their fancy cousins in Kentucky. Cameras monitoring these elite pregnant mares in stalls did not close the health gap between the two vastly different arrangements.

My own experience keeping dairy cows outside in Minnesota confirmed to me the more sterile environment outside. Before I kept dairy cows outside myself, I visited others who were doing it. They talked about how Minnesota has five months of free concrete (frozen ground), and if you bed the cows down on top of that, you do not end up with the mucky mess as in a barn. They emphasized windbreak protection, but only let them in barns during blizzard conditions (some winters that is 20 percent of the time).

Mike Daniels

Mike Daniels

Winter can be the most sterile time of the year, because organisms and parasites that can cause problems either die off on the ground or in frozen manure. Barns can keep this from happening as well as put a damper on the toughening process that helps the individual develop resistance to health problems. Even humans do not get sick from being outside as much as being inside with many other humans (and germs). Cold wind and freezing rains are the most stressful for animals, so natural windbreak protection such as trees and hilly land are God’s way of protecting animals outside. We can provide protection with fences, big trailers or hay bales. I used a 24-foot enclosed stock trailer to put two newborn calves in during a freezing rain. I carried the calves in one at a time with each momma following me in, and I shut them in for the day. In Minnesota, I made windbreaks out of round bales stacked first one on end with top one on rounded side (I used electric poly lines to keep cows from eating them). When the straw pack behind the windbreak would get mushy in warmer weather, I would bed the dairy cows down on the north side of the bales where the ground was still frozen.  I did have an emergency sheltered area I could bring the cows to when we had blizzards, but I did not need it very often. A person can be creative and still reasonably efficient protecting against bitter weather. The Bible cautions us all about being slave to the lender, so let’s use our brain to keep us from having our hat in our hand in front of the banker as less often as possible.

Another problem with keeping animals inside is the boredom factor. Horses especially bore easy, and can develop habits such as cribbing (sucking air, and chewing on wood) or weaving back and forth with their body. They can get pretty depressed or irritated by not having the stimulus of the outdoors.

Stalls in barns suffice when animals are worked hard first with lots of stimulus. Otherwise the best use of a barn is to help preserve hay and have an emergency place to shelter weak animals.

It is funny how we can sometimes measure success by all the things we are dependent on. It makes sense that true success is measured by our dependence on the creator God. The God I am referring to is the one John the Baptist pointed to. Why am I impressed with this God? Because he is a God of action, a can-do God. He can stretch us and enable us to do impossible things. But we won’t do them hiding inside somewhere. My hat’s off to two of the best “get outside” (think outside the barn), pro-life personalities we have record of: John the Baptist, and George Washington. Most importantly, they took great pride in pointing us to the living, and active, down to earth God – Jesus Christ.

Mike Daniels is a horsemanship trainer and barefoot trimming specialist from Raymondville. Email: rlhorse58@yahoo.com.

Advertisements