Horses are far from your average pet. In fact, they are beautiful, majestic creatures. Owning a horse can be very exciting but at the same time, owning a horse also comes with a great deal of responsibility.
It’s important that you know all there is to know about how to care for a horse, observing what good horse health looks like, and when you need to call a veterinarian.
Before you bring in your very first equine companion home, it’s important to take note of the basics that every horse needs and this applies to both horses and ponies. If you plan on getting your very first horse, it’s important that you have:
Now, you may be wondering, “how do you take care of a horse?” Just like the average pet, a horse requires proper care, but much unlike the average pet, raising horses also requires a tremendous amount of care and knowledge for it to thrive and maintain its optimal health.
Horse maintenance requires a lot of work, but riding a horse is one of the beautiful joys of owning one, along with the strong bond that comes with a horse companion.
A horse is naturally suited for extracting the necessary nutrition they need from grass and pasture. Horses have a slow digestive system that works to thoroughly extract energy and nutrients from the plants it consumes. On average, a horse can eat up to 15 to 20 pounds per day.
A general rule of thumb is the equine food pyramid, which suggests a horse’s diet consists more on forage and pasture, fewer grains, and a few supplements at the top.
Horses naturally eat grass in the wild, but unfortunately, very few horse owners have top and quality pastures. Under normal circumstances, weather, drought, cold and freezing climates, poor quality soil, poor management, overgrazing, and snow can greatly affect grass quality for a horse’s nutrition.
While a horse can still remain healthy with purely grazing, it’s important to note that even with the utmost care, exceptional growing season, and the best quality soil, horses will still require additional supplements for parts of the year - especially during fall, winter, and early spring.
No two horses are the same, and you will have to consider your horse’s needs, metabolism, and condition when it comes to horse nutrition and deciding when to add other means of sufficient nutrition to your horse’s diet.
A feed supplement is used to provide additional nutrition to a horse’s natural forage diet. Many horse owners have begun to implement feeding herbal supplements to improve both health and performance.
Some performance, sport and show horses require extra supplements due to their strenuous activities. Strenuous activities can cause an increase in stress levels and also deplete one’s overall health.
Some common conditions that horses may encounter include:
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On top of natural forage and pasture diet, your horse should also get some hay added to his or her diet. Hay is an easily obtainable feed and jam-packed with nutrients that your horse needs daily, and makes an excellent alternative to forage in times of poor pasture quality or inclement weather conditions. Hay is also a great way to prevent boredom in horses when they are stabled. There are many types of hay available, such as Alfafa, Clover, Timothy, Orchard, Bermuda, Brome, Bluegrass, Oat Hay, and Barley Hay being some of the most common.
If your horse gets most of its feed from grazing, it’s crucial that you are aware of the plants that are toxic to horses - accidental ingestion may lead to serious medical issues, and in worst cases, death. You should be wary of the following plants if you own a horse:
The average horse will consume about 5 to 10 gallons of fresh water each day, but this is subject to the horse’s needs and cravings, just like us humans. Horses deprived of water may only survive up to 3 to 6 days, whilst horses deprived of feed but supplied with fresh drinking water may survive up to 20 to 25 days.
It’s important to note that in the heat of summer, a horse must always have fresh drinking water readily available to ward of the scorching heat and weather, whereas you may notice during winter that horses may have difficulty drinking water especially when the water is too cold or semi-frozen. A good tip for horse owners during winter is to provide warm drinking water to help them with consuming more water during cold weathers.
Keep your horse’s drinking water safe.
A good question to ask yourself is if you would drink from the same water source as your horse. If the answer is no, it might be time to take a look at your horse’s water source. Some horses obtain their water intake from natural water sources such as lakes and ponds, but they can also come with a great collection of harmful bacteria and chemicals.
It’s ideal to provide man-made water sources for your horse rather than natural sources, but that doesn’t mean that these water sources are 100% free from issues and contaminants. You should provide consistent maintenance with the water source you decide to use - be it a bucket or trough. These sources should be cleaned daily, and thoroughly scrubbed with stiff brushes and apple cider vinegar to remove any algae. Should the water appear green, murky, or dirty, immediately throw out the water and clean the source before providing fresh water again for your horse.
Right off the bat, proper horse grooming is an essential part of maintenance to keep your horse healthy and happy - but there are a lot of benefits that actually come with grooming your horse, such as:
When it comes to bathing horses, you should note that they should only be bathed when necessary. There’s a few factors to consider when it comes to bathing a horse, and one of the most common situations is when to use shampoo and when to simply rinse your horse with water. Horses have beautiful coats filled with naturally occurring oils, which help boost your horse’s natural shine.
In some cases, you can also spot-clean your horse, especially with stains. Some horses are oiler than others, and some are out and about on trails, or need to get ready for a show or race.
Mane and Tail Health
It’s perfectly okay to rinse your horse’s body with plain water, and shampoo the mane and tail to keep the hair strong and healthy - but be sure not to overdo it too frequently.
Horse hoof care should routinely include cleaning, corrections of any minor imperfections of the hoof and shoes, trimming, and checking for early treatment of any hoof injuries, infections, or diseases. Poor hoof care can result in weak, split, cracked, chipped, or uneven hooves which can result in worse conditions.
A few tips to consider when checking your horse’s hooves:
Also, when picking your horse’s feet, it’s important to look out for any signs or indications of:
As we mentioned earlier in horse grooming, performing daily horse grooming can help you distinguish your horse’s normal conditions with routine checking. If you notice any of the above signs of abscess, be sure to contact your veterinarian or farrier before further problems arise - especially if you notice a significant increase in heat or digital pulse in both front feet, as well as uncomfortable shifting from foot to foot.
Proper hoof care can help you distinguish the early stages of thrush to provide proper treatment. Consult your veterinarian or farrier if you notice any early onset symptoms of thrush.
Parasites in horses, especially worms, are very common and can be the underlying cause of many health issues such as:
Some common parasites found in horses are:
Large Strongyles. These are uncommon, but one of the most dangerous parasites in horses. These parasites can be obtained from grazing pasture that has been infected with worm larvae. If a horse ingests the infected pasture, the larvae initially travel throughout the horse’s gastrointestinal system which eventually compromises both gut function and overall health.
Small Strongyles. Unlike large strongyles, small strongyles are more common in equines but can cause significant intestinal damage as the small strongyle larvae may become encysted in the small intestines during winter and cold weather conditions, and profusely exit the horse’s gastrointestinal tract when winter passes. Small strongyles can be obtained from contaminated pasture.
Ascarids. Ascarids are found in the horse’s small intestine and may be dangerous as these parasites penetrate the gut wall to migrate to other major organs such as the liver and lungs. A common symptom of ascarids is respiratory symptoms such as nasal discharge or coughing.
Bot Flies. These parasites are obtained from horse grooming with other horses, due to bot flies laying eggs on the coats of horses. When ingested, these eggs attach to the gut and may result in ulcers.
Habronema. These parasites are transmitted from an intermediate host - most often a fly - and can result in stomach wall inflammation and skin sores. Particularly during the summer, the eggs appear as yellow or white crust-covered wounds on a horse’s coat.
Pinworms. This is the most common cause for bum-rubbing or an itchy behind due to the parasite living in the horse’s rectum.
Tapeworms. Tapeworms are transmitted by mites, which may be found in pasture or hay, and cause anemia or colic.
Just like the saying goes, “an apple a day keeps the doctor away!” Now that won’t necessarily apply to horses, but the same meaning goes that prevention is the absolute key to solving parasites.
It’s important to consider the dangers of parasites, and although we can’t always ensure the perfect grazing pasture or environmental circumstances, it’s always easier (especially on the bills!) to take preventive measures in keeping parasites at bay with frequent deworming.
Horse equipment is a vital part of horse care, despite it being equipment. Some folks keep horses as yard ornaments or simply pets, but nothing is more beautiful than enjoying a ride with your horse, and that means keeping the proper horse equipment to keep both you and your Innovetpet horse healthy and happy - both with riding and for basic horse care. Here’s a list of some basic horse equipment you should take note of:
Some basic tools you’ll need for maintaining your barn and pasture include:
Driving a horse means attaching a horse cart to your horse, and is a great way to simply relax and take a stroll with your horse.
There are two main types of riding equipment, namely English or Western. It’s best to consider what type of riding you want to do, and even better if you can try both types before making a purchase.
Some basic horse feeding equipment include:
There’s nothing wrong with being ready in an emergency situation, and you should always have emergency information and tools ready in case of the unforeseen:
Horses need exercise too. Daily exercise makes up an essential part of good health. Pastured horses can easily benefit from a minimum 15-20 minute workout while stabled horses will benefit from a minimum of a 30-minute workout, and benefit most from an hour or more each day. Daily workouts can benefit your horse in a variety of ways, such as:
Horses are absolutely amazing, that’s a fact! But they also require an amazing amount of responsibility if you’re looking towards keeping a happy and healthy bond between you and your horse.
Essentially, it’s important that you research on the basics of horse care if you’re looking towards owning your very first horse companion. Good horse care means being able to provide the best environment and living conditions for your horse - and considering the steps, you need to take to provide every ounce of proper horse care.
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