Horse Health Care

If you have decided to purchase or lease a horse, then the first and most important part of horse care is making sure it is in optimal health. There are many pieces to the healthcare puzzle and this article with deal briefly with the most important aspects.

Food

A healthy horse will remain healthy if fed properly. It is very important that they are fed quality hay or pasture on a regular schedule. The schedule not only helps their mental health, but it is very important for their gastric health. If a horse is not fed regularly, they can develop gastric ulcers, which will be uncomfortable for them and possibly costly to you. Also, a quality feed ensures that they are getting the proper nutrients to thrive and perform at their peak.

The amount of food per horse is not an exact science. Each horse is different and the amount of physical exercise varies from horse to horse as well. These factors must be considered when monitoring your horse’s weight.

Horses that feed together also can result in problems because not all horses eat at the same rate. The herd dynamics play a role in this process too because the dominant horses are going to be eating a lot more than the other horses to the point that separation at feeding time becomes necessary.

Water

Clean water supplies are just as important as food. Horses must have access to as much water as they can drink in order to remain healthy. This is especially important in dry and arid climates.

Shelter or Pen

Another important part of horse care is to make sure its living environment is safe and free of any debris or holes in the fencing, walls, etc. Also be sure there are no sharp edges anywhere that can cut the animal or a loose wire where they can become entangled. Horses are remarkably creative when it comes to injuring themselves. If there is a question in your mind as to whether or not something in their shelter or pen could be a hazard, it probably will become one.

If you don’t have a shelter, horses can be blanketed during winter. Unless you are showing your horse, let their hair grow out a bit before beginning blanketing. This added hair helps keep the horse warmer with the blanket.

Veterinary

There is routine maintenance that must be performed in order to keep your horse healthy. One of these things is regular deworming. Deworming products come in a paste, a liquid or a daily supplement to their feed. The deworming treatment keeps their intestinal tract free of any parasites that might cause sickness or undue discomfort. Rotate the active ingredients in the deworming products each time you administer it and treat about every six weeks. It is actually difficult to over treat for parasites.

Also included in veterinary care are regular vaccinations for diseases as well as a yearly blood test for equines that travel outside of their regular environment especially from country to country.

Many owners overlook the importance of maintaining good dental health for their horse. “Floating” or filing their teeth at least every two years is a good practice. The saying, “long in the tooth” refers to horse teeth. Their teeth grow as they age and can actually become so uneven that they can’t eat properly or sufficiently. Over time, the teeth must be filed down to assure a proper bite. While most veterinarians can treat dental problems in horses, there are horse dentists who have specific training and can be very alert to various dental problems which a veterinarian may overlook.

Hoof Care

Another very important part of horse ownership and is often neglected is hoof care. As the saying goes, “No hoof, no horse.”  It is vitally important to have the horse on a regular trimming or shoeing schedule. Not only does this keep the horse comfortable but it is vitally important to balance gaits. Regular trimming also helps to avoid thrush,  locate and treat hoof punctures which may have gone unnoticed and avoid hoof cracks.

Exercise

Horses, like humans, need to be exercised. It helps to keep them healthy and is a necessary part of training for the performance horse. A horse’s exercise regiment will depend on the horse’s role in life. If it lives in a pasture all day, it may need very little extra exercise. If is is polo pony playing two, seven minute chukkers, it will need to undergo a great amount of conditioning to prepare.

Even though horses are large and powerful in appearance, remember that they need to start an exercise regimen slowly and work up to more strenuous exercise just as humans do. Many owners monitor their horse’s heart rate after exercise so that they become familiar with their horse’s level of fitness and structure the workouts accordingly.

Grooming

Another part of horse care is the upkeep of its outer appearance, otherwise known as grooming. Not only is this good for the horse, but it can be therapeutic for the horse owner. Grooming builds a relationship between horse and owner. This bonding is necessary to develop mutual trust and respect.

Grooming can range from a quick brush, to an all out affair. Depending on your objectives, you can spend from 5 minutes up to two hours or longer grooming your horse.

The Basics

Basic grooming tools include:

• body bursh– soft bristled brush always used in conjunction with a metal curry comb

• dandy brush– hard bristled brush that removes caked mud and sweat from the coat.

• water brush– damp brush to use at the end of grooming to take dust off the coat

• rubber curry comb– removes dried mud and sweat

• rubber grooming mitt– also removes dried mud and sweat

• cactus cloth- removes dried mud and sweat

• metal curry- used to clean body brush, never on the horse

• hoof pick– used to clean out hooves

• mane brush/comb– used to comb out mane and tail

• sponge-used for cleaning eyes, mouth and nose

• sweat scraper– removes excess sweat and water from the coat after a bath

• shampoo– to clean mane and tail

• conditioner– to condition mane and tail

•  scissors or clippers– to clip body, trim bridle path, etc

A grooming routine might include:

  • Clean the horse’s hooves
  • Using a rubber curry, rubber mitt or cactus cloth, remove all dried sweat and mud, making sure to reach under the belly, down the legs, etc.
  • Untangle the mane using a comb or brush
  • Use the body brush and the metal curry to clean it. Work in short strokes down the body, cleaning the brush after every few strokes.
  • Brush around head region
  • Finish the body by using the water brush to remove any dust particles.
  • Brush out tail.
  • Paint some hoof oil on the hooves to finish the session. This keeps the hooves from drying out.