Another week, another big dramafest on horsey social media. We’re on a roll lately.
This time it was Dani Waldman née Goldstein (either revered or loathed for her trademark feathery hairstyle, which caused a lot of drama in and of itself for various reasons that I’m so tired of hearing about) when she casually mentioned in a comment that her horses never get turned out. The backlash was quick and furious, leading her to make a longer “statement”:
Hi guys! Wow…I certainly and inadvertently sparked a controversial topic today…first off, I love my horses, often more than I love myself! Secondly, no one is going to win this battle as we simply cannot ask the horses their opinion. Thirdly, cyber-hate only encourages us to stop listening to each other—and that doesn’t do anyone any good…(and telling me to be ashamed of myself is downright heartbreaking). Lastly, this is clearly a very debated topic…whether the risk of physical injury outweighs the risk of mental health for our wonderful animals. My decision to limit their uncontrolled movement is a strategic choice, made in consultation with my entire team of vets, farriers, chiropractors, nutritionists, and my own 20+ years of personal experience in the field. I will say, unequivocally, that an injured horse’s mental health suffers far more than one that isn’t turned out, and since our sport is inherently dangerous, limiting any unnecessary movement that could result in injury is paramount in my program. I will soon post a day in the life of my horses at home so you can see an in depth look at the great detail and attention that goes into caring for my horses, including the 3-5 times per day that they are outside of their box hand grazing or moving around for hours at a time!
I have to be honest, I think what surprised me most about this whole thing was that anyone was actually surprised by this at all. Regardless of how you feel about it, it really isn’t that uncommon for a lot of top dressage, hunter, and showjumping horses to get no turnout (or maybe an hour a day in a very small paddock). Especially in Europe. Maybe a lot of people didn’t know that?
Now, is that my ideal? No. I like for my horses to have lots of turnout. Granted, I have that luxury. We have big pastures and plenty of space. Other people aren’t so lucky. I know a lot of horses on the west coast that don’t get much if any turnout, and certainly not in a very large space. The same is true in many places in Europe or other areas where land is at a premium. I totally understand that not everyone keeps horses the same way I do, or has access to the same things, or thinks the same way, or has the same experiences. There are lots of different methods, lots of different types of horses, and people seem to make it work.
I think in everyone’s ideal world horses would live outside 24/7 in a herd that they love and all would be sunshine and rainbows and happiness. This works for a lot of horses in a lot of places, but it doesn’t work for all of them or every climate or every place. I think we can all agree with that much at least. There is no such thing as “never” or “always” with horses. Generally as long as someone’s horse is happy and healthy, I really don’t have the desire to make it my business how their horse is cared for on a daily basis. There are many roads to Rome and not everyone’s looks the same as mine.
I did have a little bit of an issue with her reasoning though, I will say that. I think it’s hypocritical to ask horses to perform at the upper levels of sport, which certainly contains significant risk of injury, but then not turn them out because they might get injured. It seems a bit… selfish? You’re willing to risk the injury to use them for sport but not willing to risk the injury by allowing them to have any turnout? Especially to then say that stall rest from an injury is harder on them mentally – I mean, if that’s your theory then don’t jump them over huge fences and risk injury either. That reasoning falls very flat for me. It’s definitely great that they get time on the walker/treadmill, handgrazing, hacking, etc, that certainly helps so they do get to move around and aren’t just stuck in their stalls all the time. It’s not ideal maybe but a lot of horses live their lives that way, and her horses seem generally well-loved and well cared for otherwise. Granted it’s also a little sad to see her property tour with perfectly nice little paddocks that literally never have horses go out in them, just because she wants their every step to be controlled. She’s certainly not alone in her horsekeeping practices though, that’s for certain.
What are your thoughts? Were you surprised to hear that her horses never get turned out? How did you feel about her reasoning behind it?