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Please be aware. this is not a criticism of the way you handle your horses here in North America.
Rather I am trying to explain the thinking behind the way we treat our horses in Europe.


How heavy is too heavy?

The only constant, is the permanent change

Plan as much as you want, things will turn out differently in the end...

People believe everything, especially what they want to believe.

People will do absolutely anything to avoid fear and pain...
Life is 90% attitude, 10% circumstances

The experts agreed it was not possible.
Then someone who didn't know this came along and did it.
It always seems impossible... until someone does it.

No is not an option....   
doesn't work, doesn't exist...
There is no turning back...


Feeding your horse on trail

Our understanding of performance is shaped by our own experience. If you look at today's long-distance hiking routes, daily distances of 10-15 miles are recommended. In a report about the first ascent of the Matterhorn, Reinhard Messner mentioned that in 1870 the normal hiking distance was 40 mls per day. And not with Nike's ultralight, but with heavy iron-clad boots and 60 lbs of rope.
Our robust horses have not changed.  They are still able to walk 20 miles at night while grazing. And then do another 30 miles a day, so close to 50 miles.  But the average rider gets tired after 15 miles of riding. 

When it comes to feeding, we look at what the horse needs to maintain its bodily functions, (1-2 % of its health weight) then we look at what he needs working extensively.  But it's not what we see ourselves as working hard, but what it means for our horse to work hard. And these are two different things.  In other words, working hard for the horse is not 15 miles of trail riding on the plain, but starts at 20-30 miles depending on the terrain.  That's why there is no need to feed your horse double the rations he gets for body maintenance, except if it did 20 miles or more in strenuous terrain.
When we talk about performance horse feed, we are not talking about fragrances and oat-free. These are products sold by the industry to increase profits. However, they are usually completely unnecessary, if not counterproductive, or in the worst case, harmful.
The best performance feed we can give our horses is still oats or barley. It contains the best combination of amino acids and proteins that can be utilized by the horse's body.
When your 800 lbs horse has covered 30 miles a day, they would have to eat 12 lbs of hay to replentish the calories it has expended.  This corresponds to 150% of normal requirements.  For 12 lbs of hay the horse needs approx.  480 minutes. That's 8 hours to eat it. To give the horse more time to rest, we give, for example, 2 lbs of oats and thus save the horse 4 lbs of hay and thus 1 1/3 hours of time. For 4 lbs of oats that would be around 2 1/2 hours.
The disadvantage of this is that oats and barley are quickly converted into sugar, so their energy is dissipated in a shorter time. While the energy supplier hay provides long-lasting energy. Similar to a chocolate bar versus a portion of Carbs.


Make sure your horse gets to graze every 2-4 hours, for 20-30 minutes, so its stomach has something to work on, all the time.
The only thing we regularly give our horses on long trail rides, especially when they have been sweating a lot,  is salt or mineral feed.  We dissolve it in the water and pour it over
the hay.  I get salt in every restaurant, it doesn't have to come from the Himalayas.

An important note at the end:
14 days before the tour, my horses get a lot of different added feeds in small quantities.  For example, ground corn, oats and barley and, if available, a mixed feed from a bag so that the intestinal bacteria are there to be able to digest the performance feed that I get on the go.

Kühe bei Minus 24 Grad C
Minus 24° 15.1.24
Sie kommen rein zum Saufen.

Your Trail horse can have some spare fat (moderate to moderately fleshy: score 5-6) before starting a long trail ride. Let's define that. A little reserve fat means you can't see his ribs, but you can still feel them. There is no excess fat on your horse's neck or body. Starting in this state ensures the best possible outcome for the horse on the long journey. And when we talk about a long journey, we are not talking about a weekend ride, but about distances of up to 600 mls or more in one go over a period of 4 weeks or longer (see Training the trail horse, physical training).

Most of the horses I see in Colorado and Europe, are overfed (fat) and underworked (not fit). If your horse is properly trained and the muscles of the abdomen and lower abdomen are able to arch its back for an extended period, it will be able to support the rider's weight without suffering damage. This also means that his hind hooves usually touch the ground before his front hooves. If your horse is fit and older than 5 years. Within the above condition, it can carry around 20% of its own weight on its back.

That includes you, your saddle and equipment. My experience shows that usually after 6-8 hours of riding, the rider becomes tired and then stops riding properly, tiring the horse.

If your horse weighs 800 - 1000 lbs, you can pack 160 - 200 lbs on it. 20%.  However, each additional lb requires more attention and longer training, if you want your horse to stay healthy for a long time. That's why in Europe, we walk on foot for 10 minutes per hour, mostly downhill, often changing gaits (walk, trot, and canter) and ensuring we stop and take regular breaks before our horse becomes excessively tired.



If your horse is overweight (fat: Score 7 to 8), it means that he cannot carry 20% of the weight, but even less, because it has to carry its own excessive weight.

Blanketing... or not...

Pferd bei minus 24 Grad C
Minus 11°F 15.1.24

Covering horses can disrupt the horse's entire thermal the animal tries to warm the uncovered parts of the body...such as the head and neck, stomach and legs. 

The covered parts of the body overheat because the horse is not able to heat or cool only individual parts of the body.  When horses are covered,
The door is opened to diseases...

The protection against cold is so effective for horses that even an Arabian thoroughbred or any healthy horse can stay warm at outside temperatures well below 32F. The horse is one of the animals that can best adapt to a wide range of temperatures thanks to its extremely good natural thermal insulation.

What do people do when they get cold? They put on a sweater - So the horse gets one too! People forget that nature has already given the horse a winter coat!

But my horse is shivering!

In contrast to us, who are hypothermic when we start to shiver, horses can warm muscle groups through micro vibration inindividualy.

Unfortunately, we have lost this ability. 

Your horse is not hypothermic but heats its muscles independently without you having you give it a blanket.

Of course, there are exceptions. But these horses are generally not used on trail rides because they are either old or not healthy or clipped. If my horse is completely sweaty in cold temperatures, he gets a light blanket to help him get rid of the moisture.

If I'm on the trail and it's been storming all day at 32 degrees and my horse doesn't have any proper wind protection, then I blanket him with my military poncho. It would be better though, if I would be able to put him into shelter and put a mountain of hay in front of him.

My Criollo, bred in Argentina (winter temperature 50 F), is standing in the pasture in Colorado at -31°F in a snowstorm with 10 cm of snow on his back, even though I have an open shed that he doesn't want to go into.

Comfort temperature horse and cow     40 - 15 F

Comfortable temperature for humans   77 - 64 F

Question, why are cows not covered, but the horses are?

Old School Horsemanship

If horse is too fat……                                                      ride it more

If horse is too skinny …………..                                     feed it more

If horse looks good……….                                       feed it the same

If the saddle doesn’t fit…..                                   try a different one

If the saddle fits ………..                                                           use it

If horse is sick…….                                                          call the vet

If horse is well…… leave it alone and don’t go looking for trouble

If horse is too cold ……..                                         give it more hay

If horse is too warm ……..                                             cool it down

If the horse is sweating and warm…..                                     clip it

If horse isn’t sweating and doing little work…..            don’t clip it

Horse needs to be shod……                                       shoe the horse

Horse doesn’t need to be shod…..        leave it until it does need it

Horses ears are forward....                you have treats or it likes you

Horses ears are back…….                                   It doesn’t like you,

Horses teeth are bared....          it’s hangry and is going to eat you.

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