If you’re ready to, or already have, brought a horse into your family, it’s time to do your homework on the best care tips to ensure your horse is both physically and mentally healthy. To help, we’ve collected the most vital horse care information.
Your horse must have proper daily care if you plan on housing it rather than boarding it at a horse stable. This means you must already have plenty of room for your new friend—and proper shelter to protect it from the elements and keep it safe. And being ready to provide the daily grooming, feeding, and exercise needed to keep it healthy will be part of any horse care plan.
It’s also important to choose the right horse based on your experience and how much time you can dedicate to it. Whether buying or adopting a horse, understanding its personality and knowing its history are key factors. Adopting may mean a lower initial cost, but be aware that many horses up for adoption have been abused and may require more attention and time to earn their trust again. With that said, once you have chosen the ideal horse for you, the real work starts.
Horse Care Supplies
Before you even bring your horse home, you must have all of the necessary supplies to be able to start helping your new friend feel right at home immediately. Aside from the basic needs such as pasture space and proper housing, you will also need several other necessities. Most of these you can find secondhand or repurposed—just make sure they’re properly cleaned first.
- Feed pans and containers that can be closed to protect from rodents entering
- Large buckets and a water trough
- Depending on your area, heated buckets or a water heater
- Manure fork
- Stable broom
- Storage area for supplies and feed
These are just the essentials needed for quality horse care. You will also need blankets, plenty of food ready, and grooming equipment. It’s highly recommended that you at least get the basics prepared before you bring the horse home. There will likely be some testing and experimenting based on yours and your horse’s needs before you decide on the best equipment and tools. The next step to successfully bringing your horse home is knowing the importance of proper nutrition.
For a horse to be healthy, it needs to eat properly, and it will be your job to make sure it gets everything it needs. The digestive system of a horse is particular and made to digest vast quantities of grass. Horses should have access not only to hay but fresh grass as well. The feed provided to the horse must be dry and free of mold or dust. The horse should also have access to water at all times. If you live in an area where temperatures drop below freezing, make sure the water is in a heated bucket to prevent freezing.
Horse Nutrition Requirements
Your horse must always have access to fresh, clean hay or grass to prevent ulcers, which tend to show up if the horse’s stomach is empty. While the healthy amount of food a horse should consume depends significantly on its activity and health, a general rule of thumb is it should have anywhere between 2% and 4% of its body weight. Keep an eye on the horse’s feeding habits and weight. Consult your vet regarding your horse’s ideal body weight and how much it should eat daily.
Taking care of a horse requires a lot of energy, heavy lifting, and attention to make sure your horse is in good health. Although many think feeding their horses grains may be right, it could lead to muscle disorders, joint problems, and more. The most important thing to remember when it comes to your horse’s nutrition is to always make dietary changes gradually to prevent colic and other health problems. This even includes allowing the horse to eat excessive quantities of grass when it’s fresh for the first time since it died out the previous fall.
Horse Health Care
Once your horse is home, it’s important to be well educated when it comes to proper health care—know what signs you need to keep an eye out for to ensure a long and healthy life for your new friend. The best way to achieve this is by setting up a proper health plan and following it strictly. Rather than tackling health problems as they arise, the best approach is preventive care. The first step is finding a trusted, quality local veterinarian who can visit your stable soon after you’ve brought the horse home. They will give you further guidance as to continuous preventive health care.
One of the most important aspects of caring for horses is controlling and preventing worms and internal parasites. The most commonly found parasites in horses are roundworms, botfly larvae, tapeworms, and small and large strongyles. Parasites often go unnoticed and can be silent killers if not caught in time. Although younger horses generally suffer more from parasites, which have adverse effects on them, it’s essential to always keep them in check. The potential health issues from parasites are tissue damage to the blood vessels, intestinal wall, and lungs from migrating larvae. Adult worms can cause intestinal obstruction and irritation.
Horse Dental Care
When setting up the health care program for your horse, you must include regular dental health care checkups. With proper dental care, your horse will keep its teeth longer, perform better, feed more comfortably, and utilize feed more effectively.
There are several common dental problems horses have:
- Sharp enamel joints that lead to lacerations in the tongue and cheeks
- Retained baby teeth
- Improper alignment of the lower and upper teeth or gums
- Fractured teeth
- Missing or loose teeth
- Infection in the teeth or gums
These dental problems are often overlooked and tend to be noticed after it’s too late to fix them, so regular preventive care and checkups are crucial.
Horse Hoof Care
Hoof and foot care are absolutely crucial. With proper preventive care, you can avoid potential lameness and ensure your horse performs at its best. For proper hoof care, you need to protect your horse from harming its hooves on sharp objects in the facilities where you house it, make sure it has a proper well-balanced diet, and regularly inspect its hooves and perform farrier care.
To make proper hoof care easier, the feet of the horse must be handled regularly since birth. This way, the horse will be comfortable with the regular checkups and care needed for proper maintenance.
Proper basic horse care for beginners means that the hooves are trimmed every six to twelve weeks by a professional. With adequate trimming, the hooves will be maintained at a proper length and prevent excessive growth to ensure good balance. After observing your new horse for a while, you’ll be able to determine what interval will be necessary, depending on the rate at which its hooves grow.
If the hooves aren’t correctly maintained, the horse could have a number of problems, including bacterial infections, thrush, lameness, and hoof cracks.
Horse Wound Care
Wounds are never a good sign and can always be stressful for both the horse and the owner. The first thing you must do if you notice a wound is to make sure to stop the bleeding. The best way to do this is by applying pressure or a bandage, and then immediately call your vet regardless of how innocent it may look.
Whatever you do, do not apply any spray, powder, or other dressing made to cauterize tissue for blood control. Also, do not clean the wound vigorously—do your best to get any large debris out and call your vet.
Horse Health Problems
There are common health problems you need to keep your eyes peeled for and be ready to call your vet. Preventive care is always better, but it’s quite possible to be faced with any of the following:
- Skin conditions such as ringworm, rain scald, mud fever, cracked heels, and sweet itch
- Respiratory conditions such as the common cold and cough
If at any point you notice your horse acting differently—if it’s restless or has unexplained physical or behavioral changes—make sure you contact your veterinarian for a consultation. Learn about the prevention of the most common health problems.
Horse Care and Horse Grooming
Grooming is a big part of the daily care needs of a horse. There are many benefits of grooming aside from health improvement and disease prevention. By grooming your horse, you bond with it and get to know its personality and physique. Through grooming, you’ll be able to notice any health changes or issue such as allergies, bug bites, muscle tension, and even dehydration.
Other indispensable benefits of horse grooming are cleaning the horse of loose hair, catching changes in its temperature, removing dirt and burrs, preventing sweat, and being able to look over the hooves for leftover stones. Daily light grooming is essential for bonding, and it makes it easier to catch any physical or personality changes.
Horse Tail Care
There’s some argument regarding tail care. Some recommend you brush it out, others say only ever use a comb, while there are individuals who declare never to brush the tail. Just like with regular grooming, it’s necessary to at least regularly look over the tail and the tailbone for problems such as flaking, sores, or tics. We recommend you give your horse’s tail at least a little bit of attention every once in a while, for bonding, stimulating the roots, and observing any points of concern. Just make sure you brush it out very carefully.
Horse Mane Care
Different horse breeds have a different length of mane and potential for growth, styling, and more. The most important thing is for your horse’s mane to be healthy, above all else. The best way to ensure the mane is healthy is with proper nutrition. This, combined with regular washing and conditioning, can guarantee the horse’s mane is as long and beautiful as it can be. As with the tail, daily brushing isn’t recommended, but rather the use of fingers to work out any knots and take out shavings and debris. A good rule of thumb is to brush or comb the mane and tail after bathing, and only when necessary.
Daily Horse Care
There are certain things you must do regularly to ensure your horse’s physical and emotional health. Aside from providing your horse with clean water, food, and warm shelter, it’s also imperative to look over your horse for cuts, scrapes, puncture wounds, and bruises. Also, do a quick check for signs of illness such as wheezing, coughing, runny nose, or tears in the eyes. Before closing up for the night, look over and clean the horse’s hooves. Don’t forget that you must clean your horse’s stall every day to prevent thrush and lung problems.
Care for Special Horse Types
Different horses require different types of care. From miniature horses to newborns and senior horses, each has specific requirements and things to consider.
Miniature Horse Care
Caring for a miniature horse is both very similar and very different from caring for a full-sized horse. They often have different health problems than regular horses: they’re typically more prone to obesity, and they can suffer from hyperlipaemia, dwarfism, and more. Even if you’re already familiar with the care of a regular-sized horse, it’s crucial to get acquainted with the special care needs of miniature horses. They may require less space, but the same amount of care and attention is needed to ensure a long and healthy life.
Senior Horse Care
Many people opt to adopt or care for an older horse. Having one as a companion is just as rewarding as having a younger horse, but it does require more attention to health issues. Their flexibility and strength are diminishing, making them more prone to infections. The horse will need regular vet checkups and careful attention to weight due to the horse’s reduced movement, loss of body muscle mass, and joint problems. Special attention will be needed on nutrition, deworming, and general immunity issues.
Baby Horse Care
Whether your new horse is a baby foal or your horse is expecting, remember special attention will be needed to start its life off right. The mother will do most of the work, but if the baby foal is orphaned, you’ll have to take her place. With proper vet guidance, a lot of work, and careful attention to nutrition, this is more than possible. Often one of the most significant issues once you’ve passed the health hurdle is behavior, as the horse hasn’t learned the necessary human-horse boundaries. There are ways to avoid this, with love and proper attention.
Winter Horse Care
There are several things to consider when it comes to taking care of horses throughout the winter months. If the horse is used to the cold, it may enjoy more time outside in the winter. Regardless, it must have a warm and dry place to relax. Horses require more water during the cold winter months because in the summer, grass offers a lot of hydration. As your horse will require more energy to warm itself, it will also be necessary to adjust its feed in the winter. Most importantly, observe your horse very carefully for any physical or behavioral changes that could signal something may be wrong.
Average Basic Horse Care Costs
Sometimes people get fooled by the initial low cost of a horse, not realizing that it’s just the tip of the iceberg. Horses require proper housing and space, a lot of feed, vet and farrier fees, and usually expensive equipment. As per a recent horse ownership survey, the average yearly horse cost is $3,876. This means that, on average, every month, you have anywhere between $200 and $325 in expenses per horse. Although the majority of these expenses go toward feed, they can drastically increase if there’s an emergency that requires a veterinarian.
Mini Horse Care and Cost
If you are eager to have a horse but don’t have the needed space or finances for a full-sized one, a miniature horse is a great option. They’re fun and adorable animals with lots of personality and are much less expensive to care for. Although it greatly depends on where and how you will house your miniature horse, the average costs for these horse care services are anywhere between $500 and $600 a year, not counting any potential medical expenses that may come up. With a much lower initial cost and lower monthly expenses, this type of horse is an excellent option for anyone who wishes for a horse but cannot afford one.
Frequently Asked Questions
1. What does it take to care for a horse?
A lot goes into the care of a horse. It requires a lot of attention not only to maintain its overall physical health but it’s emotional health as well. Horses require a lot of space and their own warm area. All of this needs to be cleaned regularly, the horse needs to be exercised daily, and there are some other daily routines you must get used to if you plan on owning a horse.
2. Do horses need daily care?
Absolutely, daily care is absolutely necessary if you want to own a horse. From feeding and providing clean water for your horse to cleaning and visual checkups and exercises, the horse will require a lot of your attention.
3. What does a horse need to survive?
As with any other animal, horses have basic needs such as water and food. They also require a warm and dry shelter as well as companionship. For a healthy horse, regular quality veterinary care, farrier care, supplements, and proper training will also be needed.
4. How much does it cost to take care of a horse?
Having a horse can be expensive. The average expenses of owning a horse are $3,876 a year and can go up dramatically for unplanned medical expenses as needed. Of course, this number also greatly depends on whether you have space and adequate shelter for your horse or if you plan on boarding it.
5. How much land do you need to keep a horse?
This depends significantly if the property will be used solely for exercise or for nutritional needs as well. If the horse will be grazing the land, a good rule of thumb would be 1.5 to 2 acres of land per horse. Otherwise, a smaller area may also be suitable. Regardless, it’s crucial to confirm with your state and county statutes regarding the minimum land requirements.
6. What can horses not eat?
Whenever you feed your horse anything aside from the standard grass or hay, it’s vital that this is done in moderation. That said, the foods that should be avoided are the following:
- Onions and garlic
- Any dairy products
- Cauliflower, cabbage, and broccoli
- Stone fruits
- Lawn chips and compost
As a rule of thumb, if you aren’t sure, don’t feed it to your horse.
7. Is it OK to leave horses out in the rain?
Every horse is different, but generally, it shouldn’t be a problem if a horse is out in the rain if it prefers being there. Some health issues could arise, so it’s essential to assess every situation individually according to your horse’s health. Consider how susceptible it is to fungus and if it has a history of skin and hoof conditions. Of course, assess the weather severity as well to determine best if it’s suitable for the horse.
Having a horse is wonderful, but it requires a lot of time, care, and financial support. If you’re ready to put in the time for horse care and have the available space and funds, having a horse is very rewarding.