Monday, December 29, 2008

Happy Horsekeeping: Seasons of the Horse by Jackie Budd

Anyone who has ever been responsible for the care of a horse throughout a whole year knows that few experiences will ever bring us closer to the natural world around us. Nature impinges upon us constantly.... Although we may not appreciate it while hauling hay on a freezing January morning, this contact with nature is one of the great privileges of being a horse owner.

For Jackie Budd, author of Seasons of the Horse: A Practical Guide to Year-Round Equine Care, taking on the major portion of your horse's care means that you cannot, as many in the twenty-first century may do, remain unaware of the way nature--the turning of the seasons, the requirements of physiology and psychology, and earth's cycle of growth and rest--controls our animals and therefore ourselves. In her view, horse care is for horses, and certainly not for sissies.

An advocate of putting the horse's nature first, Budd's unapologetic thesis is that "...'nature's horse' is the real horse and the best horse for us.... Despite centuries of domestication, our equine friend remains nature's horse, body and soul...." Budd states firmly that most of the problems with domesticated horses--laminitis, colic, and allergies, to name a few--are virtually unknown among feral horses to this day.

This point of view does not make horse keeping an easy task for the conscientious owner. Budd insists upon careful feeding which duplicates the timing and content of natural fodder and upon a high ratio of turn-out time for horses. Horses, she continually reminds us, need a near constant supply of high-fiber food, freedom of movement, and the opportunity to socialize with other horses daily. In our world, she warns, such a lifestyle is sometimes labor intensive for the owner and expensive, particularly for those who must depend upon others to stable and keep the horse daily.

Using a seasonal framework as the outline of her book, Budd offers four thorough introductory chapters covering "Lifestyle Options," "Principles of Feeding," "Routine Health Care," and "Year-Round Health Conditions," sections which deal with most of the knowledge needed by beginners and more experienced owners. The remainder of the text is divided into four sections devoted to solid discussions of care during the four seasons. The author covers feeding, pasture management, controlling the horse's weight through the year, grooming, shoeing (or not), riding and conditioning, health risks during the annual cycle, and providing for proper feeding, time outside, and socialization through the various challenges of each season.

In a lavishly illustrated 272 pages, Budd provides a plenitude of information written in a clear and lively style. In addition, ample checklists, text boxes filled with practical tips and warnings, diagrams, and detailed instructional inserts for everything from mane and tail-braiding to hoof-cleaning break up the text on each page, making for easy reading and location of information. An extensive index offers quick access to the wealth of advice contained in this useful book for the serious amateur horse keeper.

A great book for the first-time horse owner or for the nonfiction section of libraries, Seasons of the Horse: A Practical Guide to Year-Round Equine Care, provides vital information in a highly-readable, easily usable format.

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