How to Take Care of a Horse
Like any companion animal, horses require care. Horses, however, need a lot more care than dogs, cats or goldfish. If you’ve always wanted a horse, it’s important to understand both the financial and time commitment required for horse ownership.
A good reference is What to Consider About Horse Ownership, which provides details on how much horses cost, what they need and other tips on raising horses. For example, you’ll need at least 1.5 of land per horse for turnout, and it must be properly fenced both to contain your horses and keep them from harm. In some parts of the country, you’ll need to keep predators such as coyotes, wolves and mountain lions out of the paddock.
Daily Stable Management and Horse Care Routine
Purchasing the right horse is only the first step toward proper horse ownership. Horses require routine care for their health and well-being. A typical daily stable management and horse care routine may look like this:
- Feed horses hay and/or grain morning and night.
- Clean and refill water buckets morning and night.
- Muck out stalls morning and night. Mucking means picking out the manure and urine spots.
- Replace fresh bedding.
- Check and pick out hooves daily.
- Remove blankets in the morning and replace in the evening during winter months.
- Spray horse with fly spray or insect repellant morning and evening during summer months.
- Turn your horse out daily for exercise so he can walk around, stretch his legs, roll and get some fresh grass and sunshine.
- Exercise your horse at least several times a week by riding him in the ring, on a trail or lunging him, which is exercising him on a long rein.
Horse Care Is a Labor of Love
Horses in their natural state are grazing animals. They nibble on grass throughout the day, receiving a steady stream of fodder and water. Because they don’t regulate how much food they eat, and will gorge on feed if they have access to a lot of it, you have to provide food in measured intervals twice daily. You also have to make sure that horses always have a supply of fresh, clean water.
If your horse is kept inside a stall, he must have clean footing underneath. You can’t let manure or waste build up. This can provide a breeding ground for flies, as well as ruin you horse’s hooves and health. Daily stall cleaning is a must to ensure your horse’s health and happiness.
All of this may seem like a lot of work. It is – but it’s a labor of love to someone who has always dreamed about owning horses or ponies. How to care for a horse means learning not just how to groom your horse, but also how to care for all of his basic needs.
Horse care also means caring for the stable and tack, which includes the saddle, bridle, halter, lead rope and blankets. Leather should be conditioned and cleaned regularly to keep it soft, supple and comfortable for your horse. Blankets and saddle pads should be laundered so mud and sweat don’t build up on them, causing your horse skin discomfort.
Other stable chores include sweeping dust and manure from the aisles, and removing cobwebs from the ceiling and light fixtures. Stable cobwebs collect dust from hay and shavings and can become fire hazards.
How to Raise a Horse with Hands-On Learning
The best way to learn how to care for a horse is to apprentice with an experienced horse person. This may mean just hanging around the stable where you take lessons and asking a lot of questions, or it may mean leasing a horse for a while so the owner can teach you how to groom and care for a horse.
Once you have these basics down, you’ll be ready for responsible horse ownership.