February 5, 2014
Horse Care Guidelines
Be responsible and reap the rewards
Sharing your life with a horse can be a rewarding experience, but it includes the responsibility of caring for your equine companion for life.
Your horse depends on your love, care, and commitment. You'll show your love through grooming, petting, riding, and the occasional treat.
You must also show your commitment by providing for her needs 365 days a year, in good weather and bad. With good care, your horse can live 35 years or more.
Here are some general horse care considerations:
1. Routine horse care is a significant and ongoing expense
The purchase price a horse is often much less than the cost of maintaining a horse for a year. Make sure you are realistic about your ability to afford quality care before you acquire an equine companion.
2. Horses need a regular supply of food and water
In most cases, they need to have hay or pasture throughout the day, with additional grain feedings twice a day. An average-size horse will eat about 20 lbs. of food a day and drink at least eight gallons of water. Because their stomachs are relatively small and their digestive systems surprisingly delicate, horses need to nibble or graze throughout the day, rather than have one or two meals a day.
3. Horses need hoof maintenance
Plan to hire a farrier (blacksmith) every six to eight weeks for routine hoof trimming or shoeing.
4. Horses need veterinary care
At least once a year, your horse will need to be vaccinated against tetanus and other diseases. The veterinarian will also provide routine dental care. Keep in mind that medical emergencies, which are always an unfortunate possibility, can cost several thousand dollars to treat.
5. Be aware of parasites
Since horses are constantly exposed to intestinal worms from the ground they graze on, they must be on an anti-parasite regimen as prescribed by your equine practitioner. Carrying a heavy burden of worms can cause serious illness or death in equines, so regular and timely treatment is crucial to your horse's health.
6. Don't forget about shelter
Horses need constant access to a dry, safe, comfortable shelter to protect them from rain, wind, and snow. In warm and sunny weather, the shelter you supply will provide your companion with much needed shade and relief from biting insects. At a minimum, you should have a well-constructed, three-sided shed into which your horse can retreat at all times. You will need to remove manure from the stall or shelter every day.
7. Horses need exercise
To supplement the exercise your horse will get when you ride him, he should have a paddock or pasture in which to relax and stroll. No horse should spend all day confined in a stall, except on a veterinarian's recommendation. The pasture should be bordered by safe, sturdy fencing that will keep the horse safe and secure. Barbed wire is not an acceptable fencing material—it has been the cause of many serious injuries.
More tips and information can be found in our book The Humane Society of the United States' Complete Guide to Horse Care.