Owning a horse is a massive responsibility, but you ask anyone who has ever kept one and you'll soon discover what a truly rewarding experience taking care of a horse really is. If you are seriously considering getting your first horse, or have recently gotten one, then you're probably already aware of just how much you'll have to do to keep your horse healthy and happy, and this beginner's guide on how to take care of a horse will provide you with the additional information you'll need to get started off on the right foot.
Stabling Your Horse
Your horse's accommodation will have a massive impact on its health and well-being, and it's up to you to ensure that its living conditions are the best that they can possibly be. Two of the most essential things that your horse will always need is a supply of fresh, clean water and a haynet or rack full of hay that it can graze on whenever it fancies. Horses are naturally grazing animals, and if your horse is left without something to forage and graze on it can develop a number of health issues, such as Colic.
A horse's stable should be large enough for them to comfortably lie and roll around in without getting stuck, and they should be given a well-sized bed. Beds come in a number of different forms, and before you choose one you should first look into finding out if your horse is allergic to anything that horse beds are made out from. Some of the most common bedding materials include:
Taking care of a horse means that you'll have to manage its bed on a daily basis, but how much work this is will depend entirely on how messy your horse is and which of the following three bed management options you choose to observe:
Taking Care Of Your Horse's Health
The next thing you should be learning how to take care of when it comes to a horse is its health and state of well-being. Like any animal, a horse should be kept up to date on its vaccinations, particularly flu and tetanus, and a vet should always be consulted if anything seems wrong with your horse. Worming your horse is another thing that you should do regularly, and you'll want to consult a vet regarding what wormer you're best off using, as there are many different varieties available.
Worming ought to be done seasonally, but if you're planning on moving your horse to a different yard or it will be temporarily housed elsewhere for whatever reason, then you'll want to worm your horse before hand. Instructions on how to worm your horse and what dose you ought to give will depend on the wormer itself, but it is usually dictated by your horse's weight.
Lastly, anybody who keeps horses should have their own horse first aid kit, which at the very least ought to include:
Knowing how to take care of a horse properly means that you'll need to groom your horse as regularly as possible in order to keep its coat in good condition. Grooming your horse will also help to build a bond between the two of you, which will pay off in more ways than you can possibly imagine. Some stables will have a selection of horse grooming tools that you can use, but most owners prefer to put their own tool kit together so that they always have access to it and can be sure of the quality of the tool.
If you decide to get your own grooming tools, you can find all the horse grooming supplies you could possibly need in our 'Horse Grooming' category. Your grooming kit will need to include the following:
Feeding Your Horse
What you feed your horse and the amount you give it will depend on the type of horse you have and how much grazing it gets the chance to do. Some important factors should inform the quantity of food you give your horse, such as how much work and exercise it gets on a regular basis and what its weight currently is. When you're first learning how to take care of a horse it can be difficult to strike the right balance through feeding alone, which is why many owners will rely on equine nutrition and horse feed supplements to ensure that their horses are always getting what their bodies need.
Regulating your horse's weight by strictly monitoring how much it eats is essential, and failing to do so can result in a number of diseases. 'Laminitus' is just one of the illnesses that overweight horses are prone to, and if they've had it once then they will become even more prone to it. A very serious and painful condition, symptoms of Laminitus include lameness, tender hooves and leaning, and if it is not caught and treated then it will develop to the point that the coffin bone will protrude from the sole of its foot and the horse will need to be put down.
Monitoring a horse's weight is not the only thing you'll need to do, as it is equally important to ensure that it's getting the best possible nutrition. Horses on a high grain diet with very little forage, for example, will be at risk of developing 'Colic'; the symptoms of which include extreme abdominal pain. A horse that is suffering from these symptoms will show it by sweating, abstaining from food and drink, rolling on the floor, kicking their stomach or pacing back and forth, so if you notice your horse doing any of these things be sure to call your vet as horse colic can be fatal. Other causes of colic include mouldy feed, inadequate access to water, stress, poor dental hygiene, radical diet changes, parasite infection and allowing your horse to eat sand.