How To Properly Care for Your Horse
Like taking care of any animal companion, horses require a lot of attention and care. Although, your horse is likely going to need a lot more attention than the family dog would. Before you bring a horse home, it’s crucial to understand how to properly care for your horse. Here are all the things you’ll want to keep in mind and prepare for ahead of time.
The Importance of Routines and Time Management
Caring for a horse takes a lot of time, patience, and financial responsibility. Before committing to this responsibility, it’s best to sit down and plan the amount of time and money you’ll be able to dedicate on a daily, weekly, and monthly basis to taking care of your horse. Don’t jump into owning a horse if you are unsure of the time and financial commitment it will take to keep them happy and healthy.
Creating a routine is also an essential aspect of caring for your horse. You likely have a daily routine you follow for yourself, so why not include one for your horse too? Set a plan for feeding, grooming, stable and pasture maintenance, and health check-ups on a regular basis to keep you and your horse on a healthy and consistent schedule.
Feeding and Hydration
Quality horse care requires extra attention on feeding and hydration. For the most part, your horse relies on you for ample food and fresh water. Grass and hay are the most important sources of nutrients for horses, but not all of it is good for them. Older hay can get dusty and moldy, which will damage your horse’s lungs. Some pasture plants are also toxic to horses, so you’ll want to rid your pasture of these before your horse finds them and always check the condition of the hay you’re providing.
You’ll also need to provide plenty of clean water to keep your horse hydrated at all times, especially in colder weather. Depending on your horses, size, activity, and breed, they will need roughly 10 to 15 gallons of water daily. Likewise, a horse that weighs 1,000 pounds will need 15 to 20 pounds of hay a day to maintain a healthy weight.
Shelter and Stable Care
Taking care of your horse also means taking care of their home. If you don’t have a stable for your horse, you should provide some form of shelter for them to utilize in poor weather conditions and at night. Or you might want to consider boarding your horse if you don’t have the space available on your property.
If you have a stable available on your property or the room to build one, you’ll need to keep stable care practices in mind as an extended form of horse care. A poorly maintained stable can be dangerous and unhealthy for your horse. Always make sure there are no sharp objects that could injure your horse, in addition to windows and doors to provide ample ventilation. Also, be sure to sweep and dust aisles, as well as muck out stalls to remove any soiled hay and urine spots.
Signs of a Healthy Horse
While feeding and stable care play a significant role in your horse’s health, there are other signs you should be aware of to determine if your horse is in good health. Just like us, horses are susceptible to infections, sickness, and injury. The key to keeping your horse in good overall health is identifying signs and symptoms before they become a larger problem.
You should be familiar with your horse’s regular pulse, respiration rate, and temperature as basic benchmarks for checking on their health. To do so, monitor your horse’s respiration rate, pulse, and temperature multiple times a day for several days. By doing so, you’ll be able to establish an average rate for each. When your horse starts to act out of the ordinary, you can reference their vital signs to indicate that calling in a vet may be necessary.
Other factors to consider when monitoring your horse’s overall health include their coat, appetite, and cognition. Your horse should have a slick, shiny coat, a good appetite, and should be alert throughout the day. If one or more of these seems off, there could be an underlying health complication.
Improper grooming or a lack of consistent grooming can create problems for your horse. Grooming is a tedious process, but it’ll keep your horse happy and healthy. Start with their hooves, and be sure to always pick out dirt and mud. This can also be a great time to check the overall condition of their hooves, legs, and feet. Next, you’ll want to use a comb to loosen the dirt on their coat in a circular motion. Afterward, comb any tangles, and end the process with a finishing brush that will shine their coat.
After handling the coat, move on to the eyes, ears, and muzzle. Using a soft, damp cloth, wipe down the horse’s muzzle and near their eyes. While doing so, be sure to check the eyes for redness, swelling, or irritation, as these could be signs of an infection. Check your horse’s ears for clogs or dirt build-up as well.
Equipment and Supplies
Providing good care for your horse entails a lot of equipment. Equipment such as horse boots and leg wraps, saddles, saddle pads, and blankets will all protect your horse during rides or in the stables. You should always have these pieces of equipment on hand and keep them in good condition as well. Wash blankets and rugs regularly to avoid skin irritation and always use leather soap on your saddle to prevent cracking and weakness. The better care you take of equipment, the more comfortable your horse will be when it is in use.
There are many steps and considerations to take into account when learning how to properly care for your horse. From feeding and shelter to grooming and equipment, you’ll need to put a lot of time and effort into your horse’s well-being.