*this is a collaborative post*
Image by Wendy Corniquet
Owning a horse is not for everyone. There’s the investment of time, money and resources as well as the simple practicalities, like the space required and the knowledge and experience to adequately care for such a large, intelligent, emotionally sophisticated creature. However, ask anyone who owns a horse they and you’re almost certain to hear that they could barely imagine life without them. The love, affection, companionship and stimulation that our equine friends provide is priceless. If you’re considering a horse for your family but don’t know where to start, here are a few pointers to help get you on track:
The hoof is an amazing, yet delicate structure that can support over 5000lbs of pressure when healthy. However, to stay in this condition, they need regular care. You will need to engage a farrier to ensure that your horse’s hooves are properly shod and maintained. Alternatively, horse hoof boots have been growing in popularity in recent years as they provide outstanding protection from cracking, absorb concussion, which protects bones and joints, and can be removed any time to allow the horse to interact naturally with the environment when not being ridden. Additionally, regular picking, cleaning and a healthy diet are crucial to keeping hooves healthy.
If space is an issue, then you will need to find appropriate boarding stables. While this can be an extra cost, a reputable stable will provide great care for your family member, saving you the hassle and hard work. If you do take the plunge and stable on your property, you will need to ensure that you do plenty of research to provide adequate protection from the elements, sufficient clean bedding and remove droppings regularly to keep the shelter safe, clean and healthy.
Just like humans, a healthy diet is the key to keeping horses in great condition. Horses are designed to eat hay and grass and should have plenty of either or both available to graze on throughout the day, along with an adequate supply of fresh, clean water. It’s worth making sure that you source good quality hay that is free of dust, mold and other nasties. Think carefully before introducing large quantities of grain into the diet. Grain is high in calories from carbohydrates which can cause health issues.
From the Horse’s Mouth
Looking after your friend’s teeth is a crucial part of his or her care, as teeth grow continuously and can form painful points if not adequately managed. A couple of visits from the vet per year should be sufficient to keep those pearly whites under control and maintain healthy gums. Tooth and gum problems can cause numerous equine health issues, so this is one area in which you don’t want to grow lax.
Groomed for Greatness
Daily grooming is essential to maintaining a healthy coat. Clean fur and tangle-free manes and tails will keep your companion happy and comfortable. Some good quality horse combs and the occasional bath should do the trick.
Let’s Get Physical
Horses are naturally active and need plenty of exercise to stay fit and healthy. Providing sufficient space for them to walk, frolic and graze is a great starting point. Riding your horse or “lunging”, which involves working your horse in a circle and running through the various gaits for a nice, strenuous workout, are excellent ways to keep them in great shape.
While this is a good overview, there are plenty more things you need to know about looking after your horse. Do plenty of research and speak to people with experience and you will be on your way to years of rich, rewarding ownership.