How to Care For a Horse
Updated: Sep 17, 2019
Guidelines we like to follow in order to make sure each horse is correctly cared for!
First and foremost, feeding your horse! Horses were built to eat 24-7 which is not always achievable in a domestic situation. Ideally, a horse should be in a large space with free-choice hay, (most often presented as a round bale that the horse has full access to). However, this is not always possible in today's world. In these cases, they should be fed at least twice a day.
Some horses are accustomed to coastal-Bermuda, which is a grass hay, while others are fed alfalfa, which is a legume. Alfalfa has a higher protein content and generally has a higher nutrient count. Grass hays, (coastal) is still a good source of forage for your horse but may need more supplementation for your horse to get everything that their body requires.
How do you feed it? If the horse is not on free-choice hay, we usually start them on 2 flakes of hay morning and night and gauge it from there. Feed at ground level. If they do not maintain their weight, regimen may need to be adapted.
Grain can be added to a horse’s diet, as well. Depending on the horse, they may not need the extra minerals and fat content that grain can provide. Others only need it when they are being exercised consistently.
For weight gain, we have personally had best results with Nutrena Senior feed. We find that it adds weight quickly and causes a noticeable mane and tail growth.
If grain is given, we usually do 1-2 scoops morning and night for the horses being exercised consistently as well as those that need to pack on the weight.
If your horse is only exercised minimally, feeding rations must need to be adjusted.
Water must be constantly available as a horse can and should drink up to 5-10 gallons of fresh water a day.
It may also be advised that you provide electrolytes or salt to maintain hydration.
Supplements Depending on your horse’s needs, there are many supplements that can be incorporated into a horse’s diet; ranging from the aforementioned electrolytes, joint supplements, (horses can get sore and creaky just like us), gut health supplements, hoof and mane/tail growth, calming supplements, and many more
As you get to know your horse, you will learn their specific needs.
Skincare Grooming a horse is a huge help to your horse as it clears away ‘debris’, increasing circulation of blood, while removing dead/loose hair. Brushing your horse
with a body brush before and after riding is a good rule of thumb. A curry comb may be employed in the spring months to help remove the abundance of loose hairs as they begin to shed.
Bathing a horse is also a way to help your horse’s skin but should only be done in warmer weather. Our rule of thumb is not to bathe your horse outside if you cannot wear a T-shirt outside comfortably!
Picking out a horses hooves is also a good rule of thumb to ensure that there is nothing trapped in the hoof.
Worming Horses can encounter internal parasites by grazing over their own feces. Therefore, it is imperative that you keep their grazing areas clean and free of manure. It depends on the horse, situation, and preference, but make sure to worm at least two times a year; at the onset of fall and spring. We worm around October and then again in April. We like to alternate brands of wormer.
If your horse does not shed off appropriately in the spring and maintains a dull coat while exhibiting a “ribby” appearance, the horse is likely dealing with a worm issue and needs to be wormed right away. Worms can cause numerous issues if left unattended.
Some horsemen worm their horses on a much more frequent schedule. The goal is just not to create a “super-worm”. Similar to how something can grow immune to antibiotics, the same is true for wormers.
When worming, there is a gauge on each tube with a range of weights in pounds. *To weigh your horse, there is a measuring tape that you can purchase that will estimate weight and height of horse.
Make sure your horse’s mouth is free of forage/grain when you insert tube into their mouth or they may get an insufficient dose as food and wormer will slosh back out of their mouth.
"No feet, no horse!" This phrase is so accurate. Horses carry a 60% of their weight in the front end alone. Therefore, their hooves play an important role.
When working with the horses hooves,
you can pick everything around the sole of the horse’s foot with a hoof-pick. The image shows a “V” which represents the frog which you will not be removing anytime soon ...so don't try!
A horse should also be evaluated and at minimum, trimmed, by a professional horseshoer, (also known as a farrier) every 6-8 weeks.
Although it can be variable, a trim can cost approximately $35-$45.
If your horse has sensitive feet or lameness issues, he or she may require shoes or possibly corrective shoeing which will increase the price.
Transportation The horse naturally tends to be a disaster magnet. Therefore, it is ideal to have some means of transportation for your horse in place at all times. We always recommend having your own horse trailer just in case of emergencies. The safest bet if you are not sure your vehicle can pull a heavier trailer is to find a two-horse straight load (bumper-pull) horse trailer. Keep in mind that some horses do not like a straight load style trailer. If your horse is that horse, you may need to lean towards a slant-load or stock trailer style. If you cannot purchase a trailer, make sure you have a contingency plan lined out with someone else that can either haul for you or allow you to borrow their rig.
Yearly “Maintenance” Like us, your horse has annual visits that should be done to ensure that they are in the best health possible. Some things your horse may need are listed below.
Coggins test: This test is screening for a disease called EIA, (Equine Infectious Anemia) which is carried by ‘blood-sucking’ insects. To legally buy a horse, travel with a horse, or enter most events, your horse will need a negative Coggins test. The test is performed by a vet and costs around $25-$35 (not including farm call fee if they come to you).
Vaccinations: There is a panel of vaccinations recommended for a horse. A vet can usually administer them at the same time their coggins is performed.
Teeth floating: A horse’s mouth affects much of what the horse does. Therefore, it is imperative that a vet or equine dentist be included in your horse’s care to ensure that there are no hooks, uneven places, etc. of the teeth.
PSA, this procedure can cost upwards of $150 but is a necessary expense possibly once a year depending on the horse and what your equine dentistry expert recommends.
Knowing Your Horse After being around your horse, you will begin to know their ‘norm’. If you suddenly are seeing a side to your horse that you have never seen, take that has a red flag. They only have a few ways to tell you when something is wrong.
If they act anxious, wanting to lay down excessively, reaching around to bite their sides, pawing, or any other erratic behavior- Your horse might be experiencing colic, (an intestinal blockage). Check to make sure your horse has been passing manure. It is recommended to begin walking your horse and give your veterinarian a call. Laying down and rolling could be a fatal move for your horse at that point. We have also found that if you take your horse on a trailer ride, you may be able to get their system 'rebooted'.
If your horse suddenly starts being unruly under saddle, (bucking, kicking out, biting, pinning ears, etc.) you might consider allowing a chiropractor to evaluate your horse. A horse can have ribs, vertebrae, their poll, hocks, shoulders, and many other things out of whack which will obviously cause them irritation.
If your horse suddenly goes from being ‘bombproof’ to jumpy or possibly goes from laid back to aggressive, be on the lookout for ulcers, (figuratively speaking). Ulcers may be detected by a scoping procedure performed by a veterinarian. We have also noticed that the addition of Aloe Vera juice to their feed can alleviate symptoms, if that happens to be the issue.