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  • Writer's pictureLouise Stobbs

"Luxury" livery yards

I came across a discussion earlier about “luxury” livery yards and how, more often than not, they actually come up short when it comes to meeting the horse’s basic needs. It tends to mean luxury for the human rather than the horse.

I always notice on adverts for livery that there will usually be a long list of riding facilities, arenas, jumps, wash bays, stables, walkers etc then maybe one vague line about turnout. The dreaded phrase of “all year turnout (weather dependent)”, where you have to decipher if they mean they’ll stay in when there’s 6 feet of snow or if they’re kept in as soon as there’s a drizzle of rain. ☔️

I appreciate that managing land in the winter can be extremely difficult but if you are going to offer livery you need to be able to offer some form of turnout, even if that is surfaced turnout pens or communal hard-standing. Going on the walker or being worked is not a substitute for turnout. Horses living in a tiny space, alone, for 20 + hours a day all winter is a welfare issue, whether it is generally accepted within the industry or not.

Stables also need to be bigger, why on earth it is acceptable to keep horses in stables they can barely turn around in baffles me, and these are usually the yards with extremely restricted turnout so they’re spending significant periods of time in there. Its difficult to provide any enrichment in a such a small space and is definitely no good for their physical, mental or emotional health.

Then you move onto the issues with turnout, many yards do not cater for grass sensitive horses, lots of old dairy pasture, rested and fertilised to make it as unsuitable as possible for horses. Laminitis is common because the management is so inappropriate, its not bad luck. Its no good having 24/7 turnout available if you can’t use any of it without your horse becoming dangerously unwell. We’re just straight back to the quality of life problem, living isolated in a stable or in a tiny bald paddock with very little enrichment because you’ve been given no other options.

Many yards refuse to let you feed any hay in the field even when the grass is very grazed down, horses need access to long stem fibre to keep their gut healthy and keep themselves warm as the weather turns, being left 24/7 on purely short grass shoots isn’t an adequate or natural diet and causes all sorts of health issues. Horses are designed to forage and eat lots of different grasses, plants, hedgerow, leaves, herbs etc. 🌳🌿🍃🌾

I’ve just filled a post talking about that usual one tiny line in the livery advert and I’ve barely touched the surface. I think change is happening and I’m not writing this to shame or alienate anyone. Its not realistic at this moment in time for everyone to have access to track livery or an equi-central system, but we can do better if we all demand better. Moving towards different kinds of turnout, maybe hard standing areas outside stables where they can mooch and forage together or a barn-type setup for winter, anything giving a bit more free-choice than the traditional stable to square individual paddock back to stable.

Obviously the dream is to have all of the above plus excellent riding facilities but until we all win the lottery it is worth compromising your own wants and comforts for the quality of life of your horse. Some of the most content horses I meet are on little small-holdings with no facilities beyond a shelter and some hard-standing, but their friends, freedom and appropriate forage needs are being met and that is all they care about.

What is your horse doing for the hours you’re not there? You should not be the only enrichment in his day, we owe it to them to allow them to have their own fulfilling life to the best of our ability. 🐴

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