Health & Care

How to Care for Your Horse

Owning a horse is a daunting, but rewarding task that requires long-term commitment, financial capability, and time and effort. This article will put you through the basic requirements on how to care for your horse or pony. Some of the basic requirements include health care, grooming, appropriate feeding, equipment, and more. Let’s get started.

Horse Type

This category is narrowed down to the type of shelter made available to your horse, and this determines the horse care it would be given. It comprises the following:

Out-Living Horse

Although this is considered an easier option, this is a misconception, as an out-living horse should be visited up to two times daily. The purpose of this visit is for you to check up on them and maintain their grazing. For this horse type, you must limit their grazing in order to avoid laminitis in the summer and maintain their weight. Making use of a starvation paddock or implementing strip grazing can limit how much food your horse consumes. Furthermore, grass preservation is a necessity, especially during winter when horses are fond of poaching the ground.

Stabled Horse

This terminology captures ponies and horses that stay in stables. However, during winter, they may be out during the day and in at night, and vice vice-versa during summer, for fear of flies and heat. Below is a table explaining the standard stable size guide for your horse:

Ponies10×12 feet
Horses & Cobs12×12 feet
Bigger Horses12×14 feet
Foaling Stables12×16 feet

Horse Care 101 Tips

Feeding

Just like humans, horses need to feed appropriately as well. They should eat between 15 and 20 pounds of their weight.

Water

The effect of proper hydration is often underrated, with respect to horses. Ensure to hose out the trough daily for hygiene purposes, and never give it frozen water. It’s advisable to use either a self-filling trough or dam for water supply. However, you may start with buckets, but often they get tipped over and are unreliable. So, consider it as temporary. Do you know that your horse requires between 25 and 46 liters of water in hot weather? We will discuss how to detect dehydration in your horse, so stick around.

Forage/Fiber/Roughage

While some sources advise that horses eat 15-20 pounds (one to two percent) of their weight in hay daily, another suggests they eat approximately 2.5%. Note that how much food you give your horse is dependent on how active it has been and other factors. If your horse consumed much fresh grass while out to pasture, it won’t need much hay. Also, indigestion can occur if you feed it immediately before or after a strenuous activity due to diverted blood flow. Thus, it’s advisable to feed it an hour before or after any serious activity. Below is a food scale arranged in descending order, based on weight.

Horse SizeHay, chaff, or pasture needed
Heavy horse (650+kg, 16.5+ hands)13+kg daily
Horse (500-650kg, between 15 and 16.5 hands)10-13kg daily
Galloway (350-500kg, between 13.5 and 15 hands)7-10kg daily
Pony (200-350kg, around 13.5 hands)3-7kg daily

Supplements

Most times, horses need a basic mineral or vitamin supplement for proper nutrition. During summer, many horse owners use apple cider vinegar and garlic for overall health, as well as flies during summer. If you have an older horse, joint supplements come in handy as well, but your vet would be in a better position to give recommendations.

Grooming

Just as the male gender requires manscaping, horses need to be groomed. Proper grooming increases blood flow to its skin surface. For effective grooming, tie your horse outside its stall to prevent it from escaping. Begin by using a rubber curry brush in a circular motion only on its horse coat to loosen the dirt. Then, proceed to the dandy brush to clean off the dirt on the coat’s surface before smoothing down its hair with a body brush. Once you’ve used all three brushes, trim the body hair with an electric clipper before cleaning the horse’s hooves. Hooves should be cleaned every three to eight weeks. Since we’re discussing hooves, you may be wondering whether horse shoe is important. It isn’t; however, some experts think shoeing is more damaging than protective to the hooves. Bathing is the last stage of the grooming process. Hose the body with warm water, then damp its coat with shampoo and rinse it off. Apply conditioner, massage it into the coat, and thoroughly rinse it off.

Health Tips

You don’t need to be a vet before you can carry out some first aid treatments or health check on your horse.

T.P.R.

You should know the temperature, pulse, and respiration for a horse. Age and size may result in slight differences, but an adult horse has the following:

Temperature99.5 – 101.3 °F (37.5 – 38.5 °C)
Pulse28 – 44 bpm (beat per minute)
Respiration8 – 16 bpm (breath per minute)

Droppings

Generally, horses poop around eight times daily, and it’s advised that you check its form and color from time to time. If it has good form, breaks up on impact, has a uniform color, and is devoid of sizable undigested food bits, then it’s healthy.

Poison

There are poisonous plants all over, and some of them include black walnut, wilted red maple leaves, American yew, white snakeroot, rhododendron, oak leaves, and yellow star thistle.

Hydration Check

Pinch some skin on its lower neck or shoulder and let go. It should snap back within two seconds if it’s hydrated. But if it doesn’t, that’s a dehydration sign.

Colic

Overlooking this serious illness may end your horse’s life. No horse is exempted, and while some cases are mild, others require surgery. You should check for the following signs: abdomen kicks, lip curling, bloated gut, rolling, lack of appetite, irrational acts, and ground pawing. When you see any of the aforementioned signs, contact your vet instantly.

Equipment

You need some equipment for this kind of job. Some of them have been mentioned in the grooming segment, and other basic ones include a tack, helmet, body protector, riding boots, and rugs.

Bonding

Besides human to human bonding, human to animal bonding exists. Allow your horse to approach you, and then pet it by scratching its neck, massaging its ears, and patting its head. Observe which motion it likes most. After that, try to make it drop its neck by tugging on the lead rope under its head. If it doesn’t yield, then it needs more bonding time with you. Neck drop is a sign of submission and trust.

Learning never ends. This is just the beginning.

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