Keeping Horses

Caring for your horse

Below are some of the most important issues when caring for your horse. Click on a link to go to that particular topic.

Horse Diet Horse Grooming Horse Shoeing Horse Health

One of the most important things about caring for your horse is dental care. You have to know whether a horses teeth are deciduous or permanent. Horses lose their deciduous teeth (baby teeth) like humans do. After that permanent teeth will grow. The permanent teeth have a smooth tapering shape.

For a horse to have a healthy and strong body you have to avoid the poisonous plants such as ragwort, deadly nightshade, certain kinds of acorns, yew, and bracken. The horses should eat hay and drink water. Other foods that are edible for the horses are roots and fruits, such as carrots and apples. The horses should eat 14 to 28 pounds of food, depending on their height. If you take good care of your horse, then they can grow up to be magnificent creatures.

Horse Diet

Horses love to eat short, juicy grass. Horses also eat hay (which is dried grass) especially in the winter or when they are stabled. Extra high energy food such as barley, oats, maize, chaff, bran or processed pony nuts are good for working horses. Horses have small stomachs for their size and need to eat little and often – if in a field, horses will graze for most of the day. A horse needs hay for roughage. There are many hay substitutes on the market, they should always be feed in addition to hay. Hay should never be dusty or damp.

Salt is extremely important to the diet of the horse and can be purchased in blocks. Feeding hay alone is never enough for the working horse, he must also have grain. The more work done, the more grain he needs and vice versa for less work. The amount of necessary grain varies for each horse according to his size, weight and amount of exercise he receives. In cold weather, cracked corn is excellent to help keep the horse warmer. Never over grain (or over work the horse without proper cooling) as this can cause the horse to founder.

Always make sure the grain is in good condition before feeding (not moldy, etc.). Vitamin and mineral supplements are a good additive to the horses diet. Fresh water should be kept in front of a horse at all times except when he is too hot from a work out, then only small sips should be allowed.

In their natural state, horses do not use energy unnecessarily. Horses move slowly from one feeding ground to the next grazing as they go along. If their areas are large enough, they can exist solely on grasses and herbs. When the weather is cold and feed less plentiful, they naturally lose weight likewise when the weather is warmer they naturally put on weight. Normally a mature horse or mare needs nothing more than good quality hay.

Reason for horse healthy eating :

  1. Horses need to be fed a good healthy diet to maintain their fitness level and health so that they can fight diseases and encourage resistance to illnesses and also, if they do get poorly, a good healthy diet helps them to a speedy recovery.

  2. A healthy diet also contributes towards their physical appearance. Together with plenty of exercise and grooming, a horses coat will stay nice and shiny and the horse will look a picture of health.

  3. The diet needs to be a balanced diet, not only for physical fitness, but for mental balance as well. A diet too rich or too high in protein can cause stress and problems with the horses behaviour.

  4. A horse must be allowed digestion time. Allow at least an hour after it has eaten before any exercise, this will prevent any digestion and circulation problems.

  5. Water must always be available with food as it helps the horse digest food properly.

Grooming Your Horse

Grooming is an important part of looking after a horse. Not only does it maintain the horses coat in good condition but it acts as a means of massaging the horse, helping circulation and also gives the opportunity to thoroughly check the horse over for any scratches, wounds and any minor skin conditions. The best time to groom a horse is after light exercise when the skin pores have opened, and grooming anytime should be an enjoyable experience for the horse.

Dedicating a complete set of grooming equipment to each horse will help in preventing the spread of skin disorders among barn mates.

Horses kept out at pasture should not be overly groomed since you remove the waterproofing layer of grease from the coat. It is sufficient to brush off the worst of the mud before going for a ride. Grooming is best carried out from front to rear, starting high up on the horses head behind the ears. A body brush can be used for cleaning the head but great care must be taken not to knock any bones that protrude outwards.

After every few strokes, clean the brush on a curry comb, which is usually held in the other hand. A stiff dandy brush can be used for cleaning muddy legs, but this kind of brush is far too stiff and harsh to be used on the horses body.

Never brush the horses tail without first picking out the tangles by hand – brushing with a stiff brush breaks the hairs and pulls them out. When the tangles are removed use a hairbrush and brush the tail gently starting with the bottom one-third and working upward.

Horse Shoeing

Shoeing was unnecessary for horses in the Middle East because of the dry conditions, which encouraged the formation of exceptionally strong, hard horns. In the wet conditions of Europe, however, hooves became soft and easily broken, leaving horses foot sore and lame. The road systems created by the Romans and the damp atmosphere also contributed to excessive wear of the hooves.

The object of shoeing the hoof has not changed. The shoe protects the horses hoof from being worn away more quickly than it could be replaced by natural growth, and it also improves the gripping property of the hoof. The hoof grows between 1/4 of an inch and 3/4 of an inch per month, therefore, the shoes need to be removed every four to six weeks so that the excess growth can be removed. A new set of shoes should be fitted if the old ones are worn.

Before the new shoe can be fitted, the hoof has to be prepared. This entails removing any surplus growth from the hoof until the surface is level. Hooves that turn in or out can be corrected by removing the overgrowth that usually causes these common faults.

The shoe is fixed to the hoof either by hot or cold shoeing. Hot shoeing involves heating the shoe until it is red hot. It is then placed on the hoof for a few seconds, burning a brown rim where it touches – this does not hurt the horse. A well-made shoe follows the rim of the hoof wall and is neither too wide, too long nor too short. Hot shoeing allows the farrier to make adjustments to the shape of the shoe more easily and it should ensure a perfect fit.

Cold shoeing is when the completed shoe is nailed to the prepared hoof without first being heated. Once the fit has been perfected, the shoe is nailed to the hoof wall. Only a few nails are used to avoid weakening the hoof. Generally, six nails per shoe is considered ideal, but as many as eight may be used, if necessary.

Your Horses Health

Most people believe that taking good care of a horse and keeping it happy means providing it with the best money can buy, such as a box stall complete with fresh shavings or straw. This is a popular misconception, research has shown that caring for a horse in such a manner can cause stress, a bad temperament, and even health problems. Horses are much happier being outside grazing with their fellow horses. In its natural habitat, 70 percent of a horses time is spent grazing.

Grazing gives the horse a positive purpose. Being with other horses is also crucial to a horses well being. Horses have a high social structure; to deprive them of contact with other horses by keeping them in a stall creates an unhappy horse. This has a tremendous impact on the personality of the horse. In addition, keeping a horse in a stall creates problems such as wood chewing, cribbing, and stall weaving, all a result of the boredom that the horse experiences.