At IFEAL we dare to ask questions that rock the traditional ways of keeping and working with horses. Rather than ask ‘what can the horse do for us’, we learn more about ourselves when we ask ‘what we can do that is in service to the natural spirit of the horse’. The horse in its natural state has survived for close to 55 million years without human support. By studying the lifestyle and environment of the few remaining free roaming horses and applying it in the domestic setting we stand to profoundly influence the future of the horse-human relationship.
The IFEAL horses live as a free roaming herd on a tracked paddock systems based on the Paddock Paradise Model by Jamie Jackson (2006). IFEAL recognises horses as sentient beings and respect’s their right to live according to their innate needs, based on the ‘blue print’ of the wild horse, where horses live as social groups roaming many miles per day. The Paddock Paradise Model promotes psychological wellbeing and physical health that is a focal point of discussion and debate in the horse world today. Veterinary studies show that a horse’s digestion and cardiac systems only function properly when they are moving constantly.
Herds have complex social structures and like us, horses need their community in order to learn and mature as a well-balanced horse. In the wild the horse is born into this structure and his place within it is confirmed with every movement of the herd. When observing our horses on the tracked pastures or woodland walkways they move often in single file as they would in the wild. The leaders in front choose where to go (usually the mares), when to go and which way to go according to the needs of the herd in the moment. The last horse at the back is usually a mature gelding acting as the stallion of the herd, moving the stragglers on whilst keeping a calm, mindful awareness ready for potential danger signals. The horses in the middle play dominance games, fine tuning their leadership skills for later stages of life. All the horses have a role and purpose, be it leading the herd to water, food or shelter or initiating play for learning.
The model also promotes behaviours that allow horses to develop their confidence by naturally activating emotional agility and thus nurturing mentally balanced horses. A looped track system encourages horses to be physically active as it channels the horses to continuously move on. Injury and aggression rates are dramatically reduced, as horses can safely move away from each other instead of being caught in a corner of a field as evidenced in IFEAL Herd Tracked Paddock Study by Daisie Winwright (2015).
IFEAL upholds high standards of horse welfare and well-being as defined by SAFE Professionals code of care for equines.
Natural Hoof Care
The horse is an ancient creature. Since their domestication around six thousand years ago the horse has had to adapt to many man made conveniences, including stables and as a direct result: horse shoes.
The wild horse travels on average about 20 miles a day. This movement naturally trims the hooves and stimulates more growth. The hooves absorb the concussion and weight of the horse through a subtle flexing motion which aides circulation to the lower limbs and is important for digestion and heart functioning. This gentle flexing conditions the hooves and binds the cells. This is a perfect self-maintaining design that has been successful for 55 million years.
Horse shoes came about with the practice of stabling horses. Combine this with unnatural foods and the hooves can literally fall apart. By returning domesticated horses to a more natural lifestyle, where they can move freely over varied terrain and eat natural foods, the hooves simultaneously improve.
Holistic Veterinary Care
The IFEAL horses have access to the best veterinary practices in the area. Continual research and development in western veterinary science is outstanding in its quest to extensively explore and utilise the best treatment and care for animal welfare. This extends to the use of complementary treatments such as homeopathy, acupuncture, osteopathy, cranial and shiatsu therapy when relevant.
IFEAL endorses natural alternatives (where possible) to horse feeds, medicines and horse care products. We avoid excessive use of chemicals deemed to be harmful to horses, the earth and ultimately to us. IFEAL horses are free to instinctively choose from a wide range of grasses, woodland forage and medicinal herbs that are planted within their environment. This form of self-selection is a natural, non-invasive treatment to maintain general health and well-being.
Biodynamic Land Management
Biodynamic land management is a self-sustaining organic practice using homeopathic potency and herbal preparations relevant to the needs of the land and the animals living on it. Ideally, it produces many of the resources needed to feed the animals and fertilise the land ecologically. These principles are the foundation of the IFEAL land management ethos.