My first Horse

 

 

When you are horse shopping following some basic techniques will help you find a suitable partner. A horse that will be fun, safe and a great addition to your family. If you are buying a horse for your children, their safety will be your first concern. Many first-time owners get caught up in the excitement of buying a horse and make an impulse purchase. Here are a few things that are commonly overlooked.

What type of horse to look for? Narrowing your search saves time and money. The ideal horse will be fun, safe and a constant source of pleasure.

Where to look for a suitable horse. Knowing where to find a suitable horse will save you time by maximizing your search.

How to evaluate prospects. Save time by eliminating horses that are unsuitable.

Final selection. When you find the ideal horse, take the right precautions to ensure that you are buying a healthy suitable animal.

Once you have found your ideal horse, his well being will be your prime concern. If he is boarded, how will you know he is receiving the correct care? If he is at home, can you provide the necessary care to keep him happy and healthy? Common concerns include:

Finding a suitable boarding stable. Knowing your horse is well cared for provides peace of mind and is a great place for you to learn more about horse care and management. A good stable will provide for all your horse’s needs.

Planning to look after your horse yourself? What will you feed him? Selecting the right feed for your horse will provide him with good nutrition. Feeding the correct quantities will save waste and save you money.

Selecting Veterinarians, Farriers and other equine professionals. A good support team will ensure that your horse is fit, sound, and healthy.

Your Horse’s Health. Know the signs of good health. Learn the basic health care routines to keep your horse healthy.

Grooming. A horse that is well groomed is a thing of beauty. Save time by doing it right the first time.

So you have your first horse! She is big and beautiful and you are so happy to have her! But how do you keep her healthy? There is a lot more to horse ownership than people realize. You cannot just go buy (or be given) a horse, stick it in your field to mow your grass and occasionally hop on and go for a ride.

Why not? Well first off, if you just jump on that horse without establishing some kind of relationship you will probably get tossed somewhere into the ionosphere and unless you also aspire to be an astronaut that is not a good thing! Also because horses are a complex animal with unique needs and when those needs are not met, a horse’s health can decline very quickly.

In the wild horses fend for themselves, eating food that meets their nutritional requirements, finding water, moving enough to keep their hooves the right shape and size for their body and their muscles toned and healthy; which helps reduce the risk of injury. When we domesticate and fence in a horse, we become responsible for providing all of the elements that they would naturally find for themselves in the wild. These elements include proper food, water, hoof care, grooming, waste management, exercise, shelter and general health care.

Feeding your horse properly is probably the most important and complicated aspect of horse ownership. Horses must eat approximately 2% of their body weight of feed per day. This number is only approximate and will vary depending on your horse’s age, breed, general health and activity level.

Most of your horse’s diet should consist of forage. What is forage? In the wild, horses graze on a variety of grasses, trees, shrubs and plants found in their environment. Domesticated horses are given hay and other forage products. Domesticated horses are also given commercially distributed feeds such as Poulin Grain, Purina Mills Horse, Nutrena and Triple Crown. Many horse owners also purchase bulk grains and create their own mixtures.

No matter what you feed avoid rapid changes to your horses diet. Rapid changes can cause imbalances in your horses system, some of which can lead to death. Introduction to grass, new grain and hay should be done slowly and by small degrees to avoid serious health issues.

Essential to a horse’s good health is easily accessible, unlimited access to clean, fresh water. The water should be clear of algae, fungus, debris, dirt, feces, dead insects and animals (yes, it seems obvious, but I knew one horse owner who just could not stand to remove the dead chipmunk from her horses water trough!). Containers for holding water should be rust free, devoid of sharp edges and hold enough water to not run out between fillings.

Cleaning the hooves on a daily basis (or at least picking them up and looking at them) is absolutely essential! Not only does keeping your horses hooves clean prevent issues such as thrush and white line disease, it also provides a daily dose of training. Horses do not like relinquishing control of their feet as these are their primary means of defense through flight and a good kick if necessary! Picking up their feet daily reminds them that it is OK to release control of their primary protection to you.

To shoe, or not to shoe? That is the question… And one I will not get into here. Just know that shoeing or leaving your horse barefoot are both options. Ask around and find out who the other horse people in your area recommend and stay away from. Trimming and shoeing are arts and you have good and bad farriers/trimmers. High prices do not always indicate the best, just as low prices do not mean the trimmer is sub-standard. All of my horses are barefoot.

SCOOP THE POOP! Even if your horse is outside it is important to manage his manure. Manure is a breeding ground (literally) for parasites which will enter your horse’s system, steal essential nutrients and damage internal organs. Manure is also superb for breeding flies; so if your goal is to replicate the fly population seen in the Amityville Horror movie then by all means, leave that poop where it is! However, if you really do not like having to part flies like a curtain to visit your horse, then manure management is vital. Manure management will also make grooming easier.

Why groom? Believe it or not grooming is good for both the physical and mental health of your horse. Grooming provides essential physical contact with your horse. Horses are social animals living in herds for security. Within the herd, horses often ‘groom’ each other by biting the neck, withers and other areas of the body. This provides comfort and stimulates the release of oils from the skin to the coat. Grooming mimics this bonding between horses while removing the loose dirt and other substances that might be present in the domesticated horse’s coat.

Speaking of horses being social, keep in mind that horses are hard-wired to live in herds and while some horses do OK alone, many horses do not.

Horses also need exercise. Remember, wild horses can travel twenty miles a day! Horses were designed for this and when they are kept in small areas and stalled their minds and bodies are not getting enough stimulation. Exercise keeps a horses muscles strong and their minds occupied. Many ‘problem’ behaviors such as cribbing, pacing, weaving and even some bad behavior when being handled can be solved or reduced simply by giving the horse more exercise. Of course all horses respond differently because they are as individual as you and I.

In the wild horses will stand in a grove of trees or in a tightly knit huddle, with the outside horses acting as a wind-break, during inclement weather. The proximity of other warm bodies helps keep the horses warm even in a drenching, cold rain. When a horse is alone there is no one else to cuddle up to for warmth, therefore we need to provide shelter. While barns are nice, in most cases a three sided ‘run-in’ shed is ample shelter for most weather. The rear Wall of the shelter should be situated to deflect the prevailing winds for your location.

Blanketing is an additional option. Blankets should be of the proper weight and fit for the horse and weather conditions. Waterproof blankets and sheets are good for cold spring and fall rain showers. Fit is important for the safety and warmth of the horse. Blankets should be snug without rubbing or cutting into the skin. Straps and buckles should not hang low enough or be loose enough to allow a hoof (or on geldings and stallions, other… ahem, body parts. I have seen it happen) to slip through and become caught.

Apart from all of the above there are shots, worming, floating (horse dentist visits) yearly health exams and any other issues which may arise; and trust me, with horses, other issues always arise. I could put my horse in a rubber room and he would find some way to get into mischief!

Issues often arise from improper shelter, fencing, environment and diet. Making sure your horse’s area is free of sharp objects, junk and litter, has proper, safe fencing, minimal mud (sometimes easier said than done), good footing (if his paddock is a sheet of ice, don’t put him out!) and has a proper diet, will go a long way towards keeping your horse safe and healthy; and that is what your horse needs!