After millions of years of evolution the wild and the domestic horse are essentially the same creature with the same gene pool, physiology, needs and instincts. It's just that one has been affected by humans and the other hasn't. This effect has mainly been a change in temperment and conformation. However these changes have only taken place during the last few thousand years which is really only a moment in time for this ancient creature. Domesticated horses still require much of the same living conditions as their wild cousins, the concern is that many don't get it. Here are some examples of nature vs nurture.
Example: Restricted movement in a stable = lack of muscle movement, reduced circulation and cold muscles. So the horse Box walks to create some circulation.
The natural solution: Turn the horse out! Let him keep himself warm, horses NEED to move!
Horses are supposed to move constantly. The action of their muscles pushes blood around their bodies keeping them warm.
|Constant Movement ||Restricted movement & stabling|
|Injuries heal on the move ||Box rest|
|Grazers ||Fed in meals|
|Low grade fibre based seasonal diet||Nutrient rich supplements, synthetic vitamins, out of season grains etc.|
|Eats in a head down position to align the teeth and open the throat.||Fed in a "head elevated" position as with most feeding and watering devices, hay nets and racks etc.|
Heat /chill sensitive full seasonal coat uniques to that horses needs
|Own coat removed and replaced with set temperature insulated rugs.|
|Exposure to winter elements ||Protected from the winter elements|
|Unshod lameness uncommon||Shod lameness common|
|Constant natural hoof wear ||Trimming dictated by shoeing routine.|
|Natural healing.||Medication prescribed by a Vet.|
|Free choice medicinal herbs|
Reduced / controlled access to herbs
|Lifestyle doesn't promote worm infestation.||Lifestyle promotes worm infestation|
|Herbal worming, companion grazing||Chemical worming|
Healthy immune system
|Life long vaccination programme.|
|Anti oxidents ||Antibiotics|
|Sociable family animal||Solitary single parent|
|Bond for life ||Seldom have lifelong companions.|
Since their domestication some six thousand or so years ago, horses have had to make do with what humans have decided is an acceptable way of managing them. During which time the horse has adapted, as they are constantly in survival mode. Prior to domestication evolution, climate change and preditors etc had been the only dictactors of these changes.
During the relatively short time that horses have been domesticated they have started to change, but to an environment that is entirely unnatural to them. These changes are most apparent when looking at thoroughbred horses.
It is human instinct to nurture and protect what we hold precious, be that a relationship, our children or our animals. This is all good and noble, and is the making of a good person, except, when it comes to animals. By over protecting them we remove the stimuli that have for their entire existence provided the environment that has made them the creature that they have become. In essence we have removed the fish from the river.
As a result the creature will lose an amount of the skills / fitness / vigour due to the absence of stimuli that ensure the upkeep of these traits. This is now true of the horse.
In the short term there seems to be no real damage. But longer term their genetics may be affected. The fact that most horses have their immune systems constantly bombarded with antibiotics and vaccinations seems to have become part of the norm in fact it is quite often considered compulsory, not to mention chemical wormers, stabling, shoeing, rugging and clipping etc. None of these things were needed prior to domestication which makes one wonder if they are so religiously needed now.
We have come so far from what is natural to the horse, and, have been repeating these management patterns for generations that the idea that horses evolved without people seems almost unthinkable.
By selectivly breeding for shape, speed and expensive blood lines, opposed to toughness, soundness and longevity the horse has started to suffer as a species. They may look pretty to the eye and happy enough in their stable but a lot of these horses simply would not make it in the conditions of the wild, and it would be cruel to expect them to without a considerable "toughening up process". However many of these same animals could be improved and toughened up given the chance to adapt to a more natural set of lifestyle stimuli.