Owning and caring for a horse is great fun and extremely rewarding. However, it’s also a big responsibility and takes a lot of commitment.
Horses can live well into their thirties and take a lot of care, work and money. Every horse is different and there is no one size fits all way to care for them, but it’s important to understand your horse’s needs so they can live a happy and healthy life in your care.
There are many different breeds of horses that can vary in shape and size and caring for them could depend on this. As an owner, you will be best placed when caring for your horse and be able to recognise signs that they are not well. Looking out for signs and treating any health issues early will help to maintain your horse’s quality of life.
There are many positive things you can do when caring for your horse, which include:
Feed your horse a good quality diet
Horses need roughage (hay or pasture) to stay healthy. High quality food will lead to a healthy horse. Try to resist the temptation to buy cheap hay, which might not have the best nutrients needed. Your horse will need a balanced diet full of vitamins and minerals that are essential to keep them healthy.
File your horse’s teeth
Horse’s teeth can wear down unevenly over time, due to them eating the same type of food. It’s important to get their teeth checked by a vet, where they can file them down and examine their mouth at the same time.
Let your horse live outside
It might not always be possible to let your horse live outside, but doing so can be important for your horse’s health and wellbeing. Turnout can help to provide exercise, which also helps to prevent weight gain. Weight gain in horses can then impact on other health issues such as joints. You horse can also get bored and frustrated being confined to a stable all the time.
Exercise them daily
Your horse should be exercised daily to help prevent weight gain and keep them healthy. If you are not able to do it every day make sure your horse has access to a field to walk in, or ask someone to go to exercise them for you. Exercise is also beneficial as it encourages natural hoof growth.
It’s important to regularly check your horse for signs of illness. This should be done on a daily basis and you should ask someone to do it for you if you are away or unable to.
It’s important to regularly check your horse’s hooves. Be sure to pick them out regularly to check for any rocks or objects that might bruise them. Your horse can develop problems with their hooves if they are not cared for properly. It’s important to not only check them when you’re preparing to ride, but every day. You should also get a farrier to trim their hooves.
Schedule regular vet visits
When caring for your horse, it’s important that your horse has a vet visit at least once a year, to keep a check on their health and keep up-to-date with vaccinations. Not getting your horse checked could lead to health problems developing in the future.
Your horse should be brushed daily. The more you brush, the more you help to distribute the natural oils that coat your horse’s hair evenly. Invest in good quality brushes and make sure you keep them clean. If you have more than one horse, try to use a separate set of brushes for each horse to reduce fungal infections.
Provide sufficient shelter
Be sure that your horse always has sufficient shelter. It needs to provide protection from the rain and wind, as well as being comfortable and safe. Also provide them with enough bedding to keep them warm in the winter and make them comfortable at night.
Provide fresh clean water
Horses need a daily supply of clean and fresh water. Depending on breed and size, a horse can drink between 5 -10 gallons of water a day. Be sure to also keep the water bucket clean to help reduce bacteria build up. In warmer weather, horses might need extra drinking water and to be cooled down with water.
If you know that certain situations can cause your horse to become stressed, try to reduce this by preparing for the event or situation in advance. Consider using a natural calming supplement to help reduce stress and anxiety in your horse.
Horses often develop stiff joints as they age, but younger and growing animals can also have joint stiffness. Performance horses in particular can put a lot of strain on their legs as they run, jump, spin or pull carriages. The areas most commonly affected by joint stiffness in horses are the knee joint, front fetlocks, hocks and coffin joints which can be uncomfortable for your horse when the joint is flexed. It’s important to maintain healthy joint function in horses to enable them to enjoy their life to the full and for their joints to function properly.
There are a range of natural supplements on the market that can help to support your horse’s health from joint care, to hoof health and natural calming supplements. If you are worried about changes in your horse’s health or behaviour, it is best to consult your vet, who will be able to advise the best solution for horse health.