BERLIN/Ahausen (DPA) – When the senator steps onto the feed platform, a slider opens in the front area. Access to the hay is free, and the horse begins to eat. The big bay horse also gets its share of concentrated feeds such as oats or horse muesli, and the slider opens here as well.
Using the chip in the horse’s mane, the technology learns how much feed the Senator is getting and how much today. When the tents have finished eating, he walks leisurely through the grounds of the exercise stable at the Heidehof Wolfsgrund in the Rotenburg (Wümme) region of Lower Saxony. In addition to halls with thatch to lie on, there are areas with sandy and stone floors and an entrance to pastures. There are about 25 ponies and horses grazing there, while others jog or run towards feeding stations.
Movement and communication with other horses is important
“It’s a horse farm, not a riding stable,” says Volker Petzold, who runs the farm in the Ahausen-Eversen community with his team. The horse should feel comfortable. Then people will feel satisfied too. The farm owns a total of 24 hectares, where about 50 private horses are housed and cared for for a fee. In addition to the movement area, pastures and exercise areas, there is a riding hall, a riding arena, a skating circuit and 20 field boxes – horse boxes with a small fenced outdoor area. The horses that stand there go out every day to the pastures. From the perspective of the 59-year-old farm owner, movement, light, variety and contact with other horses are very important in horse breeding.
About 1.3 million horses live in Germany – according to the federal association for equestrian sports and horse breeding, the German Equestrian Federation (FN). Their attitude has changed dramatically over the past twenty years. “In the past, you could tell horse stables and equestrian facilities because there were horse trailers outside. Today you can tell for real that there are horses outside,” said Christian Muller, national expert in horse breeding, equine breeding and sports, from Westerau in Schleswig-Holstein. According to her, freedom of movement is one of the most important factors of animal-friendly horse breeding.
Direction towards open stables and practice
The number of horses kept in the so-called motion stable is unknown. There are no surveys on this, says the 63-year-old, an FN Animal Welfare Officer. If the movement is stable, the areas of movement, eating and rest are separated from each other, and the horses have to move a lot. Even in an open stable, horses are kept in a group – with this type of breeding, animals also have constant access to an outdoor area.
However, according to experts, an open or mobile booth is not automatically better than boxing. Because often too many horses are housed in a very small area. Then they can get in and out, but they won’t have room to trot and toss. Therefore, box-keeping, where the horses go out in the open every day, can be more suitable for the species than keeping them in a small open stable. According to the expert, the stables where horses are not allowed to exercise in the winter is a discontinued model. “There will certainly be isolated cases where the horses don’t come out – but that’s outdated now.”
Animal welfare in focus more and more
According to the Ministry of Agriculture of the horse country of Lower Saxony, open stables and exercise are playing an increasingly important role. Even if there’s no stats — there’s clearly a trend toward more space, air, outlets and exercise options, a spokeswoman says. “The concept of new buildings and conversions is increasingly taking into account the growing awareness of animal welfare and focusing more and more on animal welfare.” Farm owner Paetzold, who is in contact with horse owners and businesses, also sees development. “It’s too slow for me, but it’s going in the right direction,” said the 59-year-old. Horse farms like him are still a minority. But: there will be more.
The Federal Ministry of Agriculture in Berlin refers to the Animal Welfare Act. Accordingly, animals must be accommodated in a way that is proportional to their behavior. The “Guidelines for the Evaluation of Equine Breeding from an Animal Welfare Perspective,” published by the ministry in 2009, among others, states: “Pasture and/or young horses, particularly mothers, foals and young horses, should be provided with exercise as much as possible. “.
According to experts, taking good care of horses has a huge impact. Expert Muller says horses love light, air, exercise and social contact. “If you find it in your situation – no matter what kind of situation – you are satisfied, balanced and comfortable.”
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