Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Many of my friends and readers raise horses. I thought that you would appreciate what Burchard Von Oettingen had to say about raising and caring for horses.

Oettingen was a world-renowned expert on Thorougbreds and breeding and Director of the Royal Stud of Trakehnen Germany. Here’s what Oettingen had to say in his chapter Establishment Of Studs taken from his book Horse Breeding in Theory And Practice published in 1909 by Sampson Low, Marston & Co.:

Medicago sativa, or common Lucerne [Alfalfa]…is the most nourishing and healthiest food for horses, and most suitable to produce strong and hard bones.

The thriving of Lucerne is one of the surest indications that the soil is good for horse breeding. …Where Lucerne thrives well, it can be taken for granted that there will be found good pasture and meadow land, or that they can be laid out. Good meadows and grazing are amongst the most important conditions for the thriving of horse breeding. Although horses have a great power of resistance against heat and cold, wind and weather, yet there is no doubt that they prosper better in dry and high-lying districts than in damp and low-lying ones, because the food which grows on the former is more nutritive. Moreover, on high-lying plains the lungs of the horses develop better on account of the thinner air, which causes the horse to breathe more often and deep. …

The best site for a breeding establishment is undulating ground, on a light soil, over limestone, then over chalk, gravel, sand and loam, well drained: and the worst situation is a rich, wet pasture on stiff clay, which is only fit for cattle and cart horses. …

When choosing a ground suitable for a stud for horses, one must further take into consideration that the hay of higher lying meadows (especially mountainous and Alp meadows) is superior as far as taste and nutritive value are concerned. …

Of all domestic animals, the horse is the most sensitive to bad drinking water. Unclean, surface or stagnant water is the most injurious. Even the vapours arising from stagnant waters are very unhealthy for horses, especially young foals, since they cause an increase of troublesome flies. Continually running water containing lime, which is colourless and without smell, is best for horses. …

Even the best soil requires, in order to derive any benefit from its advantages for breeding good, capable and sound horses, two very important factors, i.e., paddocks and permanent pastures. …But the method of rearing in the stable without paddocks and permanent pastures, which is still so widespread in Germany for all kinds of breeds, threatens to ruin many breedings. … Paddocks and permanent pastures serve, therefore, as a contrast to the method of rearing in the stable, to keep the breeding material as long as possible outside the stable and in conformity with nature, to nourish same. The following advantages thus arise: -

1. The influence of Light. The recently well recognized beneficial influences of light consist principally in destroying many very dangerous microbes, especially tuberculosis bacilli, and in increasing the energy of life by multiplying the red corpusculli and the haemoglobis. …

2. The influence of good air. The air rich in oxygen in the open is a primary condition of every healthy development. The continuous remaining out in the open increases the need of oxygen, and in order to satisfy their needs, horses must, by deep breathing, make a greater use of the lungs. Accordingly, the lungs will be extended and strengthened, and also the energy of life increased.

3. The influence of wind and weather. The constant skin massage by wind and weather strengthens the whole nervous system. As a matter of fact, wind and weather preserves the whole animal organism in a continuous and beneficial training through frequent and sudden changes, and forces it to get accustomed to outside circumstances for the sake of self-preservation. In conjunction with the beneficial influence of light and air, wind and weather, owing to a normal and strengthening development of the nervous system, favour the health in such a good and energetic way altogether impossible in the horses are brought up in the stable.

4. The influence of exercise. A voluntary, continuous and mostly slow excerise on the meadows is necessary when seeking their food. By this means the sinews, muscles and bones are under the influence of a favourable slow, continuous and effective training quite impossible outside of the meadows. The longer grazing is possible. …and especially night grazing, the more distinctly is to be observed a favourable development of the formation of the body, especially of the shape of the limbs, as well as that so important to correct walk. …

5. Food grazing. The advantages of grazing on the meadow, as against green food in the stable, lie, firstly, in the fact that the horses never get as much in their mouth in the meadow as in the stable, and that, therefore, sudden overloading of the stomach is avoided; secondly, many and just the best and youngest grasses lose their taste between the time of being mowed and eaten; thirdly, the useful combination of amids are, for the most part, in the younger plants, and these are the most difficult to mow, but the horses whilst on the meadow get them easily.
For the good preservation of pastures it is very important that they should be grazed alternately, as far as possible, by horses, cows or oxen (but not by sheep). Grazing by horses only, continued through many years, seems to produce some peculiarities on the respective pastures which are doubtlessly injurious, but up to the present not yet investigated scientifically.

The great breeder and trainer Federico Tesio studied Oettingen and he relied on much of his writing when he established his Thoroughbred farm Dormello on the banks of Lake Miaggiore in Northern Italy.

Dormello had the appearance of an Italian Villa and it was actually divided into several mini farms complete with their own paddocks and pastures nestled among the hills overlooking the lake. Tesio specifically established Dormello with several farms so that in the event of a disease outbreak he would be able to contain the disease before the whole was infected.

Tesio knew the importance of making his farm as natural and nurturing as possible for his horses and he went to great lengths to make his Dormello the best placed possible to breed and raise thoroughbreds.

It must have worked because from Dormello came 21 Derby Italiano winners and the great Donatello, Nearco and Ribot.

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