Looking after a horse requires a lot of hard work and dedication, but even if you follow all the recommended tips and guidance to keeping your horse in great shape, you should never replace regular visits to the vet.
Feeding your horse
Horses should mainly be left to graze on grass and good quality hay at their own will. Grass is high in fibre and water, so when it’s free from dust and mould it is very healthy for them. Plenty of water also needs to be available for your horse to keep hydrated, although they may not wish to actually drink more than once or twice a day.
If your horse doesn’t have enough to eat, an empty stomach can lead to ulcers, whilst underfeeding can lead to behavioural issues and lethargy. Most horses should eat around 2-4% of their body weight in a mix of hay and other feeds each day. Keeping your horse well feed requires carefully inspection of how, what and when they eat.
You should be cautious about using grains in your horse’s diet. Even fairly active horses don’t need the extra energy that grains provide. Foals which are fed grains can develop joint and bone problems whilst adult horses can develop muscle conditions if fed excess carbohydrates.
Equine supplements may be beneficial to your horse in certain circumstances, to boost or calm your horse’s behaviour or to help your horse lose weight – but should be considered as part of a healthy nutrition plan.
Deworming and Vaccinations
All horses need frequently deworming as well as certain vaccinations to include those for: equine influenza, equine herpes, rabies and equine encephalomyelitis.
Worms can cause poor coat, weight loss and colic (which can be fatal). Professional deworming should always be conducted, unless you have had a vet show you exactly how to do it yourself.
Hoof and Teeth Care
You should trim your horse’s hooves every 6-8 weeks if they do not get enough natural wear. Most horses don’t need shoes when they are allowed to achieve natural strengthening. Many hoof problems are linked to having horse shoes fitted.
Horses’ teeth also grow continuously so even wear is essential to their comfort and chewing ability. They should be checked at least twice a year and if required ‘floated’ by a professional equine dentist or vet. Signs of dental disease include: food falling out of their mouth, bad breath, undigested hay in faeces and discomfort from the noseband or bit.
Exercise and rest
Horses were born to get plenty of exercise! They can walk for miles and miles, if left alone in the wild they will sometimes trot but galloping is not done unless they really have to. For that reason, daily exercise is a must but you need to be sure to overwork your horse.
When it comes to resting, horses can comfortably get light sleep whilst standing up. However deep sleep can only be achieved when lying down. The amount of sleep your horse needs will vary but you should keep an eye on your horse’s natural sleeping patterns and make a vet aware of any changes.