Northwest NEWS

April 15, 2002


Owners who keep a horse on small acreage must make a commitment

Regarding the recent letters about horsekeeping on small acreage, I would like to respond by saying horses can be kept healthy and happy on small acreage. While the ideal environment for a horse is to run on large acreage, in this day of extreme property prices in this area, not everyone can afford it. Does this mean I shouldn't own a horse? No.
   You make up for the lack of grass grazing with hay. As long as a horse is receiving an average of two percent of its body weight in hay per day, its needs are being met.
   Manure management is critical on small acreage and most owners are aware of this and act accordingly. My horse is basically kept in a sacrifice area (a dry lot) and I pick up manure several times a week. I compost and spread it on a separate grass pasture to keep the grass growing, as the soil in my area is very poor. Most gardeners think of composted horse manure as black gold for a very good reason.
   Horses will chew wood out of boredom or hunger, but it is also a natural habit for horses. There are many horseowners who will tell you about one of their horses who is kept on 20+ acres but their favorite food is the only tree in the pasture. Small property owners usually provide a variety of toys for their horses to play with to help with boredom.
   Exercise is an important part of a horse's life. Unfortunately not everyone has a trailer to haul their horse out to areas that are safe to ride. With all of the development there has been in our area, many local trails have been lost forcing more and more riders on the road to get to what trails are left.
   When was the last time you slowed down and moved over when you saw a rider on the road instead of worrying about the five seconds you would lose for passing with caution? I for one can testify how dangerous it is to ride on the roads. A responsible horseowner realizes the commitment it takes to keep a horse on small acreage - how much more work it is, but when it is all of the property you can afford, we do what is necessary to keep our horse healthy and happy.
   There are always exceptions to the rule and if you do see a horse that looks starved, knee deep in muck with hooves that are extremely long, do the responsible thing and report them. But if that horse is nicely rounded and its feet are maintained, you can probably count on it being a beloved animal. Unfortunately mud is an inevitable fact in our climate.
   By the way, horses don't chew cuds - they do not have the ability to regurgitate their food like a cow.
   Denise Ensign, Duvall
   No, I will not get off my soapbox, as the writer puts it, and I hope others will not when it comes to the treatment of animals. And no, I don't own a horse. But I grew up on a farm with many kinds of animals including horses, so I'd like to think that maybe I have a little knowledge about how they should and should not be treated.
   The writer goes on to say that not everyone can afford to live on five acres on which to keep their horses. That is not the point. If you are going to own a horse, make sure it has ample room for running, year-round grazing and a shelter to protect it from the elements. Any horse owner should know that it doesn't have to be wet out for a small area to be turned into dirt or mud quickly.
   Most horse owners do take good care of their animals but they also need to address all the issues I mentioned, even when they board the horse out. Obviously, the writer likes the idea of having a horse rather than the reality of giving it what it needs - a healthy and happy atmosphere in which to live. I would hope that if someone cannot afford to feed a cat or dog they would not have one.
   The writer is implying that she cannot afford enough room for her horse or horses, but she's going to have one anyway. No one should own a horse or any other animal for their own personal gain. It doesn't take a "horse owner" to realize that.
   The writer needs to reassess her reasons for owning a horse. We would have no need for animal shelters if all people would do that before investing in a pet.
   Kathleen Nesse, Woodinville