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Dear Bob:

Hi! We live in Nashville, TN. We just purchased 75 acres and a pre-civil war log home/cottage. We will be using it as a retreat. The person we purchased this from has had 2 horses in the pasture for 10 years. He tells us they have never been in a barn and basically live off the land. They have never been sick. We would really love to have horses, but do not know one thing about them. Someone told me that they require nothing other than pasture and water. We will ultimately build a barn. Can you share some advice on which direction we should go with this?

Thank you. Hope I am making sense! Also, the horses I refer to above are not on the property anymore.

- D. R.


Yeh, it's true that horses can survive with just forage and water... they've done it for centuries. But that doesn't say much for their quality of life. I suppose you could say the same of street people. Personally, I like to see a horse have a better life than that.

You don't need a fancy barn. A three-sided shelter with the opening toward the southeast is all the shelter most horses need. The last time I checked, Nashville still had a season called winter. That means that forage could be hard to come by, and I'm sure our four-legged friends would appreciate some grass hay, and maybe even a bait of grain from time to time to give them the extra calories that cold weather requires.

Most of all, however, horses need human care and companionship. Horses are about the most accident- and disease-prone critters under the sun. I've known some people who "were never sick a day in their lives" -- until they died in their forties. There's something to be said for annual shots and regular worming to keep a horse in good shape for a maximum number of years.

Bottom line: If you are planning on turning your horses loose on your "retreat" and only visiting them occasionally, I'd recommend that you find a friendly, experienced, horseperson in the area who you can hire to check on the animals every day or two. And if you plan on riding those critters, it will be even more important to have someone handling them on a regular basis so they don't go too wild on you.

Happy Riding!

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