Its no secret that being the owner of a pet is a massive responsibility. That goes double for owning a horse. On the plus side, owning a horse can be a truly rewarding experience. If you are considering getting your own horse, you need to understand everything you must do to properly care for it and ensure it has a good life.
Take a look at our beginner's guide to caring for your horse to ensure you are able to provide it and take care of it to the best of your ability.
Where should your horse live?
Starting with the very basics, your horse needs somewhere to live. Your horse's accommodation can have a massive impact on its health and quality of life, so you need to ensure they are the best they can be. There are two main things a good stable should have. A clean supply of water and a good source of food, this could be a hay net or rack that it can graze from whenever it wants to. If your horse is left hungry, without anything to graze on, it could cause a number of health issues, such as colic.
Your horse's stable should also be the correct size. Ensure there is enough room for the horse to lay comfortably and roll around if it wants. When prepping the horse's bed, there are a couple of materials you can use; the main ones are:
Straw - the most common form of horse bedding. It's easy to manage, cheap and comfortable for the horse. Straw is typically the best option unless your horse suffers from allergies.
Shavings - similar to straw, a very common form of horse bedding. Shavings are easy to manage, clean and remove from the stable. Picking between straw and shavings is usually down to preference unless your horse has an allergy to one or the other.
You can also use newspaper shredding. This is more costly than straw or shavings and can be challenging to get in large amounts. It is, however, better for a horse that may suffer from allergies to one of the other forms of bedding. One thing to watch out for, though, is if the paper gets we, it could leave an ink mark on your horse if it is lightly coloured.
No matter what form of bedding you use for your horse, you will still need to clean them out daily; how much work this is will depend on how messy your horse is. There are three different cleaning approaches you can take for your horse's stable area. These are:
The daily muck out - This is a full and proper clean every day, removing waste debris and fully replacing the bedding.
Deep litter method - Remove the solid waste products and cover the wet bedding with a fresh layer. Once the pile begins to get too big, remove all the waste and ruined bedding and relay a fresh layer for your horse.
Daily Skip out - Remove all the solid waste and wet bedding, sweep out any excess damaged bedding and leave anything that still looks ok, adding bedding where necessary.
Your horse will likely spend a lot of time in their stable; it's a good idea to try to keep them entertained. You can do so by adding flavoured licks and stable toys.
Caring for your horse's health
Just like any other animal and even people, you need to keep your horse's vaccinations up to date. Flu and tetanus shots are among the most important. If you see any signs that point to your horse being unwell, you should contact a vet immediately. You should also ensure that your worm your horse regularly. There are many different varieties of worming treatment, so it's best to consult your vet or another specialist to find out which one best suits your horse. In most cases, you should worm your horse seasonally, but if you plan to house your horse somewhere different or move them to another yard, you should worm them beforehand.
If you own a horse, you should also be prepared for anything; this means keeping a health a safety kit close by in case of emergencies. A basic health and safety kit should include a variety of things such as:
You should also keep some horse health and wellness supplements available, just in case you might need them.
Grooming your horse
Maintaining your horse's coat is an essential part of taking care of your four-legged friend. You should groom your horse as regularly as possible to remove excess dirt and grime and prevent infection of bacteria build-up.
Grooming doesn't only help to take care of your horses. It helps to build and strengthen the relationship between you and your horse. This can help with both your and your horse's confidence in activities like riding and caring for your horse.
Most stables will have a grooming kit that you can use, but most horse owners prefer to source their own. If using the stables grooming kit, you should thoroughly clean it before and after use to prevent the spread of an infection that could be present. When putting together your own grooming kit, it should consist of:
A body brush - These brushes are great for removing excess dirt and debris that may have built up in your horse's coat. You should try to avoid using this type of brush in the winter, and it can remove some of the helpful natural oils your horse produces.
A curry comb - This comb, typically made of rubber, is used to remove excess, shedding hair from your horse's coat. It should be used in a circular motion for the best effect.
A dandy brush - This is a harder, typically plastic brush that is more rugged. A dandy brush is most often used to remove bigger patches of mud from your horse's coat.
A plastic curry comb - Similar to a dandy brush, the main use of a plastic curry comb is to remove mud from your horse's coat. This type of brush can be quite harsh on the skin of your horse, so it should not be used on a horse that has recently been clipped or a horse that is shedding. They are best used in winter when your horse has a thicker coat of hair. You should also avoid using this style of brush on your horse's tail or mane as it can cause damage.
Tail and mane brush - This style of brush is much more delicate than its other counterparts. It is designed to be used on your horse's mane and tail without causing damage. It should be used in conjunction with a mane and tail comb.
Sponges - You will use lots of sponges if you are cleaning your horse as regularly as you should. We suggest using two at a time. This way, you will have one that is moderately clean, only to be used on your horse's face, and the other to be used everywhere else.
Face brush - Face brushes are much smaller and softer than other brushes so that they do not cause harm to your horse. You should avoid using your horse's face brush on other parts of its body as it can damage the brush and potentially gather excess dirt or bacteria from other areas of your horse's body.
Hoof pick - Cleaning your horse's hoofs is perhaps one of the most important things you can do in the grooming process. They should be cleaned after every ride. If left uncleaned, your horse could quickly sustain an injury. When cleaning your horse's hooves, be careful of the frog in the middle of the foot and ensure you remove any stones or debris that may have become lodged in the bottom of there foot.
It's recommended that you have a farrier visit your horse once every eight weeks. A farrier will take care of your horse's hooves by keeping them nicely trimmed and replacing your horse's shoes when it is needed.
What to feed your horse
Feeding correctly is another vital part of taking care of your horse. The quantity of food your horse eats can be dependent on a couple of factors, these include:
Your horse's current weight
Your horse's activity levels
Your horse's age
When you first begin caring for your horse, it can be tricky to get the right balance of all the nutrients your horse requires. Many people will use supplements to support their horse's diet and ensure they're getting everything they need to be happy and healthy.
In regulating your horse's feed and ensuring they're getting all the nutrients they need, you are also helping to prevent a number of diseases, one of which being Laminitis. Laminitis is an excruciating disease that overweight horses are much more prone to. Plus, after the first occurrence of Laminitus, your horse is much more likely to contract the disease again. The symptoms of Laminitis include tender or painful hooves, leaning and lameness; if not recognised and swiftly treated, it could be fatal for the horse by causing the coffin bone to protrude from the sole of the foot.
Colic is another potential disease that could affect your horse without proper food regulation; simply feeding your horse grain isn't enough, they need to have forage, among other things. The symptoms of colic include:
Kicking the stomach
Extreme restlessness (could be rolling on the floor or pacing back and forth)
If you notice your behaving oddly, you should have them examined by a vet as soon as possible; the earlier these illnesses are caught, the more likely they are to be treatable.
There are some other causes of colic, for example:
Your horse eating sand
Poor access to clean water
Poor dental hygiene
Hopefully, this blog has helped you to understand just some of the things that are required to properly take care of your horse. To learn more about caring for a horse, take a look at some of our other blogs or help support our charity by leaving a donation.