How many horses should I have

Horse law: how long does a horse have to be moved a day?

Text: Andreas Ackenheil Photo: Getty Images / iStockphoto

Now in the cold, wet autumn and winter days, when it is really uncomfortably cold in the barn in the mornings, many a love for horse keeping is put to the test. But if you own a horse and want to care for it in a species-appropriate manner, you must be aware that even in these times a horse needs regular care, exercise and, above all, affection.

The boarding stable with box housing is the most common horse keeping in Germany. The horses stand next to each other in boxes and usually have a window to the outside or to the stable lane. In most pension stables, a paddock, pasture or lead machine service must be booked for an additional charge in order to move the horses. Window boxes and boxes with an adjoining paddock are usually more expensive than indoor boxes.

Horses live in the wild in the steppe and move around 15-16 hours at a pace. Faster gaits are rather rare. The rest of the time, they lie down or maintain social contacts. The horse's slow walking for several hours is a basic need.

In active stables, the horses stand in herd and the need to constantly search for food is imitated by running from the hay rack to the feeding place and to the watering place. Many active stables have tree trunks in the run to mimic natural obstacles so that the horses pay attention to their steps. In addition, the bark of the tree trunks provides employment.

Unfortunately, this is not possible in most stables. Especially in the winter months, the stables lack winter pastures, so that the horses usually only come to much smaller sand paddocks on which they do not move much. Most horses cannot really run around and play on it unless they come in groups to larger paddocks.

Riding alone does not cover the horse's exercise needs, but it does help. In addition to riding, the horse should get extra exercise every day. In many stables, walker and paddock services are offered. An extensive step ride should also be undertaken every now and then in order not only to move the horse in fast paces, but also to meet the need for long strides. The horse owner should ensure that the horse is stepped for at least two hours a day. In most stables, the horses run for three quarters of an hour in the horse walker and then come to the paddock for another 1–2 hours.

Legal regulations for keeping horses

According to Section 2 of the Animal Welfare Act, horses must be moved for several hours a day in addition to riding. The law states, among other things, that horses must be nourished and kept according to their type and needs and that their appropriate movement must not be restricted in such a way that pain, suffering or damage are inflicted on them. The Federal Ministry of Food and Agriculture (BMEL) has drawn up guidelines for assessing horse keeping from the point of view of animal welfare. According to these guidelines, it is said that daily work with the horse is not sufficient and the horse must also be able to move freely in order to adapt the posture to the natural needs as best as possible. Young horses and broodmares in particular should be allowed to go pasture as often as possible.

In daily training, it is important to walk extensively before work. It is advisable to take the stepping round in the area or around the courtyard to provide variety.

The daily exercise requirement also depends on the horse's state of health. If the horse is sick, it should be less stressed and, depending on the disease or injury, even spared.

Judgment on the extent of the required exercise and the necessary feed of a horse

In 2016, the Rottal-Inn District Office carried out an animal welfare check in a riding stable. The keeping of horses C and A, which were owned by Ms I, was checked. During the inspection, the horse pension operator stated that he fed the horses with concentrate and hay twice a day. In addition, horse C was ridden for an hour a day or allowed to run free in the hall, and horse A was worked for one hour a day. The rest of the day the horses would spend in their boxes. During the inspection visit in the early afternoon, however, the office found that there was no roughage in the horse stalls. Horse A also had no window in the box. The horses were not allowed to graze because the risk of injury was too high, according to the horse pension operator. In response, the representatives of the authorities gave the horse pension operator the requirement to exercise the horses in a free run for at least three hours a day (e.g. pasture). This should be documented. In addition, the periods in which the horses no feed should not exceed four hours. The court, which had to deal with the matter over the course of time, based itself on the guidelines of the Federal Ministry of Food and Agriculture (BMEL) when it came to the question of how much exercise and exercise a horse needed, and saw the requirements of the authority thus as legal. The horse pension operator argued, however, that A and C are sport horses that should not be allowed out on pasture due to the risk of injury, and that A should not get as much hay because of a previous colic.

The court decision

The court declared the horse-keeping requirements imposed by the authority on the horse pension operator to be lawful and did not recognize the increased risk of injury to sport horses as a counter-argument. The horse pension operator and horse owner must obey the arrangement of the horses to exercise for at least three hours in the pasture. This already results from § 2 TierSchG, according to which the species-appropriate movement of a horse must not be restricted. The court correctly recognized that the daily work of the horses does not correspond to the natural movement behavior of the animals and does not replace it. The long strides that a horse covers in the wild are necessary to relieve tension and cannot be replaced by daily training. These requirements also apply to sport horses. In addition to movement, grazing should also ensure fresh air, enable social contacts and relax. Exercise on the pasture cannot be replaced by free-running in the hall, as the pasture corresponds to the natural habitat. The lack of free exercise for A and C resulted in behavioral disorders in the horses, such as gnawing the box walls or "exploding" in the pasture. The statement by the pension operator and horse owner that the horses would not go out to pasture in winter due to the icy and boggy soil could not justify his behavior. The movement of the horses would make the ground soft again, and on the other hand, horses can definitely stand on mud if they stand on clean and dry surfaces for the rest of the time. In addition, it is possible for the horse pension operator to accommodate the horses in another stable, which has fixed run-out areas, if the risk of injury is too high for him. If moving the horses would have been associated with higher costs, this additional financial expense would not have outweighed the protection of the horses under animal welfare law.

Tip from lawyer for horse law:Despite the guidelines of the BMEL, the circumstances of the individual case must always be taken into account. If you have received a visit from your veterinary office or requirements for horse keeping, do not hesitate to seek legal advice at an early stage. A lawyer specializing in horse law in connection with animal law can help you to reach an amicable settlement not only in court, but also in advance. I am happy to be at your disposal with my team of consultants throughout Germany.

Our Expert:As a specialist in horse law, Andreas Ackenheil regularly publishes legal articles and comments on new legal decisions in numerous specialist journals and online portals and gives lectures and seminars. In addition, the lawyer published a large guide to animal law with an extensive chapter on horse law.

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