Fifty years ago in this part of Texas, horses were managed much like cattle, free to graze in large open pastures. I remember seeing herds of mares with their stallion in mesquite patches of hundreds of acres, with colts and fillies playing among them. The terrain was rough, the kind that makes colts grow up “sure footed”.They played in open fields, and vine tangled thickets of oak, elm and hackberry. There were steep-sided clay banked gullies and rocky hillsides with areas of deep blow-sand between. The colts spent the first years of their lives developing muscle, bone and agility. An additional benefit was that they learned the social life of the herd, and grew up psychologically adjusted.
Now we see some colts raised almost entirely inside barns and in stalls. Recently we saw a colt at a halter show with one hip “knocked down”, or asymmetrical. The judge pointed this out saying that it was commonly seen in colts raised in barns, who in their hurry to get out a door slam into the door post injuring the hip in such a way that it can’t heal right, resulting in this uneven appearance. In many other countries, especially Spain and Portugal, Mares are managed out in the open, and the foals grow up out in that open country. After weaning they still are kept on pasture until they’ve been through three spring “flushes” of grass, the “three eats”, before being brought into the stable for training at age three and a half. By then their backs and legs are nearly mature and strong. I remember when we were in Spain and Portugal how strong and correct the colts looked. I’m reminded of an article in a popular horse periodical in the sixties entitled “Let those colts grow up on pasture”.