Horse care

Veterinary care, proper feeding, exercise and grooming keep horses healthy and happy.

Horses are strong animals that have been relied upon for centuries to fill various roles. Once a primary mode of transportation for humans, horses also have helped farmers tend to their crops and entertained millions on the racetracks.

Since they are social animals, horses need attention and consistent care. Keeping a horse is quite a commitment, but it’s a commitment that can prove very rewarding. Caring for a horse’s needs will help keep the animal happy and healthy. Horses require basic daily care that should be tailored to the season.

Shelter

A horse habitat is an area where the animal can escape the elements when not grazing. Barns, stalls or even just shade coverings, depending on the area and climate, can make great shelters for horses. The shelter should not be smaller than 12 square feet. If a shelter is small, the horse will need to get more daily exercise to stretch out.

Fencing and gates should be secure. Some horses are smart enough to get out of paddocks or their stalls simply by opening the gate. Chains and locks can help prevent escape artists.

Food

Horses are grazing animals and are accustomed to eating all day. If pastures are green and horses are getting enough grass, they may not need supplementation with hay. However, if the weather gets cold and grass is in short supply, horses will need access to plenty of hay. Many horse owners feed their horses twice a day and supplement their food with salt or mineral licks. Limit the amount of oats and sweet treats, especially for animals that aren’t as active. A veterinarian also can advise horse owners about the best types of feed for particular horses based on the animals’ age, activity level, gender, and breed.

Feet and Teeth

It is important to maintain the health of a horse’s feet and teeth. An inability to grind food properly can prevent a horse from getting proper nutrition, which is essential to their health. This is especially true when the weather gets cold and the horse needs extra energy in colder weather. An equine dentist can examine a horse’s teeth and make sure there are no issues preventing the horse from eating well.

Similarly, a horse spends most of its time on its feet. A farrier should be called in regularly to inspect hooves and adjust shoes if they are worn. Rocks, debris, snow, ice, and other items on the ground can become lodged in the animal’s feet and cause irritation. Also, clipped hooves will chip less and provide more grip. Farriers can suggest other tips to keep feet in good health.

Grooming

Daily grooming will help keep a horse comfortable. Brushing the horse’s coat provides a good opportunity to spend time with the animal and further foster a good relationship. A horse will learn to trust its owner more and more when owners make frequent contact. Grooming also enables horse owners to inspect their animals for any cuts, ticks or maladies that should be brought to the attention of a vet.

Remember to hose down horses after a ride and during hot weather. Sweat can attract flies, leading to bites and sores. The Minnesota Horse Council notes that horses that spend substantial time outside may be susceptible to sunburn. Apply a sunscreen to the horse’s nose, especially for light-colored horses. Sunburns can lead to blistering and infections, so make protecting horses from the sun a priority. 

— Metro Creative Services

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