Beginner's Guide to Basic Horse Care

September 10, 2020

Beginner's Guide to Basic Horse Care

Are you excited to bring home a horse and make a new equine friend part of your family? This is an exciting time for any horse lover, especially if you've been waiting your whole life to call a horse your own. However, there are many things you need to know before becoming a caretaker. 

If you've spent a lot of time around these animals, you know that they are unlike any other. Horses require special attention and have unique needs that every owner must meet. Horses have their own feeding preferences, rest routines, and health concerns that you should know about.

Here, we're going to tell you everything you need to know about owning your first horse in this beginner's horse care guide. If you're a seasoned horse owner and you're here for refreshing insight, welcome! Here's what everyone should know about basic horse care 101.

Feeding and Nutrition

A horse has a much different feeding schedule than a human, dog, or cat. Horses do not eat at breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Rather than eating 1-3 big meals daily, they digest small and consistent portions throughout the entire day. 

Horses munching on grass

Food

Horses need plenty of grass and hay to munch on, which you should inspect for mold or dust before mealtime. However, you may also feed them roughage in the form of pasture or chaff. 

If you're wondering how much to feed your horse daily, the rule of thumb is 2-4lbs per 200lbs of weight. For reference, the average 1,000lbs horse will eat 15-20lbs of hay each day.

We recommend offering roughage in the following quantities:

  • For Ponies: Feed 6–14lbs each day
  • For Galloway's: Feed 14–20lbs each day
  • For Horses: Feed 20lbs–26lbs each day
  • For Heavy Horses: Feed 26+ lbs each day

However, your horse might need a unique diet and supplementary roughage. This might be the case for the following reasons:

  • The horse is losing body mass: Your horse might become sick and lose weight. This could be the result of being overworked or even gastric ulcers.
  • The horse has limited pasture: Perhaps your farm or backyard has limited grass for casual munching. You might need to give your horse additional roughage to make up the lack of pasture.

Horse drinking water

Water

Horses also need clean water to enjoy throughout the day. You don't need to worry about your horse drinking a specific amount; they'll come and go to their bowl as they please. Just make sure it isn't dirty, it's unfrozen, and available 24/7.

Salt Lick

Salt Lick

Have you ever noticed a horse licking a white or pink ball near their feeding station? Horses love to lick salt, and it's good for them. 

Salt licks give horses their needed source of sodium chloride. You can purchase salt lick as either normal or Himalayan pink salt. 

You could also choose a red mineralized salt block, which offers similar effects.

Dos & Don'ts Of Feeding Your Horse:

-Don't Feed Them Grass Clippings: You might feel confused: "Didn't you just say that eating grass is good for horses?" Yes, but leave grass munching up to horses. Feeding them grass clippings by hand makes it easy for these animals to overeat. Remember that horses are used to digesting their food in small portions; if you hand feed them a lot of grass regularly, you'll be giving them more grass than they already consume throughout the day. 

-Establish a Regular Schedule: Horses don't need to eat at set times of the day, but their mealtimes should be consistent. Horses are more in-tune with their internal clock than humans-they love routine and they'll expect food at set times. If you're constantly changing their mealtime, it could trigger an episode, especially if the horse is prone to colic. Regular feeding makes horse care easier for yourself as well; you have a schedule you can count on. 

-Don't Feed Before or After Exercise: It's ideal to wait at least an hour before or after a horse exercises to feed them. That's because horses don't function well on a full stomach; their digestive systems need time to rest. Wait for your horse's breathing to go back down to normal before feeding. They should be fully relaxed and without any signs of panting or sweating.

Shelter

Just like us, your horse needs a durable roof over their head, a cozy environment to rest, and plenty of legroom if they're going to feel at home.

Most people use a stable to house their horses. However, many horse owners provide shelter with a walk-in shed. Both of these environments protect the animals from harsh sunlight, thunderstorms, and freezing conditions.

You should have your shelter in place long before the horse arrives at the property. A temporary or make-shift shelter is not adequate. Your horse will be ready to nestle in right away, so make it easy for them to get comfortable with a shelter that's ready to live in. 

Horse Paddock

Paddock

This is one of the most important aspects of owning a horse: the paddock is the fence that surrounds their free terrain and makes it possible to roam. Without a paddock, your horse will be confined to their shelter. However, these animals need plenty of exercise and free land to run on! You'll need an adequate paddock that gives them the opportunity to spend time outdoors in a protected area.

Just as you care for your horse, you'll also need to care for the paddock and make sure it's safe. 

Materials

The classic paddock is a wood fence. However, there are many materials available. Many owners use the traditional wood look, but this requires more maintenance than pipe fencing or smooth wire. Your horse may also eat the wood, which is bad for their diet and destructive to the fence. 

Never use barbed wire, as this material is highly dangerous to your horse and nearby animals. 

You'll also need to consider the material that your horse walks on. We recommend keeping a dry surface, such as 2" of sand, as well as adequate drainage to prevent hoof disease and unwanted parasites from invading the paddock. 

Size

The paddock should be at least 600 square feet (0.56 a) per horse, but no bigger than one acre. You want the animal to have plenty of room to roam, but not so much that you can't keep a constant eye on their movement. 

Location

It's important that your paddock is placed on land with less than a 5% slope. This way, your horse has plenty of flat land to run on without climbing over tiring terrain.

If you do not lay down a dry surface, then the land you choose must dry easily and have adequate drainage. Nobody wants to stop in mud all day, not even horses. 

Health Concerns

Horses need a lot more grooming than just brushing; it's up to you to make sure their entire body is in shape. Here are a few examples.

Horse Teet

Teeth Cleaning

No need to brush, but you will need to hire an equine dentist annually to inspect your horse's teeth. Ponies and horses under five years old need a checkup every 3-6 months.

Worming

Worming is not a favorite practice of most homeowners, but it's necessary to prevent these animals from developing harmful worms in the stomach and intestines. There are many types of worms that sneak into a horse's stomach, which is why it's likely that you will worm every 6-8 weeks. You'll need to learn more about each worm and how to get rid of it.

Diseases

Unfortunately, it's possible that your horse may become unhealthy at some point in their life. As an owner, it's important to recognize the responsibility of learning about common diseases and potential symptoms, so that your horse is not suffering more than necessary under your care.

Here are some common diseases in horses:

-Laminitis: This is a foot condition that causes insufferable pain due to inflammation. In some cases, it's possible that the horse must be put down. However, you can prevent laminitis by controlling their diet by not overfeeding and sticking to grains.

-Colic: This issue results in a disruptive digestive tract and leads to intense pain for your horse. You avoid colic by learning about its symptoms and focusing on prevention.

Horse and owner bonding

Conclusion

As you can see, a horse is just like any living thing; it needs food, water, and shelter to survive happily. However, horses are very different from other animals because of their unique bodies and preferences. 

The best way to care for your horse is to create a spacious and comfortable environment for them to roam. You'll also need to pay attention to their overall disposition; if they begin losing weight or refusing to eat, these are signs that they might have a medical condition that needs addressing.

You have many years ahead of you as a proud and fulfilled horse owner, just like you dreamed. Just remember that taking care of a horse is a full-time commitment. You should always adhere to your animal's needs by remembering this horse care guide!

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