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Horse Care 101: Resources and Tips For Horse Care Basics


April 14, 2022

Woman with white arabian horse

Horses are a wonderful addition to any family farm. Providing the right level of care through grooming, exercise, riding, socialization, and nutrition can keep your equine buddy in good spirits and health for years to come. Here are some handy horse care tips to help your horses thrive.

Disclaimer: Consult with a veterinarian for guidelines concerning your horse’s health and care.

Feeding and Nutrition

Horse eating hay in stable

What does a horse eat, and how much should you feed it? Horses tend to eat small and frequent meals, which allows them to digest their food throughout the day better. A good-quality forage (hay or pasture) will meet most of your adult horse’s nutritional needs. Grain or specialty feed can be supplemented to make up for nutrient deficiencies or reduce the amount of forage needed. Consult with a veterinarian to determine the proper feeding options for your horses.

Keeping your horse well fed throughout the day is critical. Empty stomachs raise the risk of ulcers and digestive problems. Why? Horses naturally produce stomach acids throughout the day when in comparison, humans only produce them when we eat. The saliva horses produce when they eat offsets the potential damage from these acids. 

When pasture is available for regular grazing, slow-feed, like hay nets give your horse a regular supply of food while reducing wastage and overeating. Slow feeders help reduce the risk of stomach ulcers, colic, obesity, and other health issues by only allowing them to eat small amounts throughout the day as nature designed them to 

Horses that are prone to ulcers and gastric issues can benefit from feed choices with gastric support supplements (low starch and sugar) to meet their caloric needs and support digestion. A veterinarian can provide the proper diagnosis and specific treatment for your horse.

Purina Outlast Gastric Support Horse Supplement, 40 lb.

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The amount of feed your horse needs depends on how activity level, age, and body condition. How much food does the average horse need? Most horses need about 2 to 2.5% of their body weight in roughage. If your horse spends most of its time in the stall, keep hay inside to mimic its natural grazing behavior.

When feeding developing horses a high-energy diet, be mindful as this has been associated with an increased risk of bone and joint issues. In some cases, adult horses with certain muscle disorders can worsen their symptoms with a high carb from grain.

Purina Omega Match - 40lb

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Purina Equine Senior 50 lb.

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Purina Strategy Professional Formula GX 50 lb.

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When changing your horse’s diet, gradually introduce the new feed to prevent colic, abdominal pain linked with intestinal disease, or laminitis, a painful inflammation in the hoof when the hoof bone and wall become separated. Both conditions can lead to severe consequences.

Horses also need salt in their diet, about 25 grams per day for the average 1,100-pound horse, or more for horses with more rigorous workloads. Horse owners can choose from various types of salt and mineral blocks, including plain white salt blocks, rock salt on a rope, and trace mineral salt blocks. Providing loose salt in their feed or hay can help horses who are not interested in salt blocks.

 

Watering

Horses need clean and fresh water at all times. They prefer their water to be lukewarm (68º F), especially during the winter months. If their water is too cold or frozen, your horses will not drink as much. The average horse can drink five to 10 gallons of water per day. A stock tank de-icer with the appropriate wind barrier can keep water from freezing during the colder months.

After just a couple of days without drinking water, horses may stop eating and show signs of colic and other health issues. Signs of dehydration include an elevated heart rate, fatigue, gum color changes, loss of appetite, and reduced skin elasticity.

Encourage your horse to drink water by ensuring their water troughs or buckets are frequently cleaned and refilled. After exercise, provide your horse with water in moderation to cool them down. 

Automatic horse waterers can give your animals a regular supply of clean water, keep the water from freezing, reduce the time and labor spent refilling the water, and reduce water wastage.

Behlen 2 x 2 x 4 ft. Stock Tank 103 Gallon

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Housing

Horses in stalls in stable

Horses are naturally social animals that prefer to roam and live with other horses in a herd. However, not every horse spends all their time on pasture, or owners may not have enough land to keep them outside. A 1,000-pound horse will need a 12-foot by 12-foot stall with the proper lighting and ventilation. 

However, these stall dimensions may be too big for smaller horses or too small for bigger horses such as warmbloods and drafts. Larger horses may need 14-foot by 14-foot stalls. Stalls should at least be 1.5 times a horse’s body length, squared. Ponies may need stall adjustments such as lower stall doors and feed racks.

Stalled horses should have proper socialization to keep them from getting bored. This can be done by stabling horses next to each other or getting a companion animal (goats, donkeys, sheep, etc.). Boredom toys such as jolly balls, feeders, and tug toys can provide an enriching environment for your friend and keep them busy for hours. 

Ideally, they should have a pasture turnout every day, and if they live outside, they should be able to have constant access to shelter when necessary. 

Horses were intended to roam and graze across grasslands. Spending too much time in a stall can make your horse bored, leading to cribbing, pacing, weaving, and other stall vices. Allowing your horse to go into a pasture or even a paddock a few hours per day can beat the boredom and keep your horse in optimal mental and physical shape.

Sleep

How do horses sleep? Horses can fall into a light sleep by “locking” their legs but need to lie flat to get a deep sleep. They tend to sleep for short periods of time several times during the day. Adult horses only need about three hours of sleep every 24 hours. Foals can spend half the day sleeping. It is important to check for any changes in their sleeping behavior. If you notice any unexplained changes in your horse’s sleeping behavior, consult with a veterinarian.

Ideally, horses should have enough space to lie down and get up comfortably. A deep layer of straw bedding or shavings can provide the right insulation, cushioning, and absorbency. At night, turn off the overhead stall lights, which can affect your horse’s sleep cycle.

Exercise

In the wild, horses can travel several miles per day, although they do not normally have to trot or gallop. Horses need to exercise every day to maintain optimal health. Horses kept in stables, paddocks, or pens must be turned out every day onto pasture, ideally with other horses. Turning them out to pasture keeps them moving and grazing. If pastures are not available, horse owners can take their animals out to a large, fenced area with other horses, so they can move around and interact.

Most horses can get great exercise through riding. To mix up your exercise routine, vary the routes for your rides and go over various landscapes as long as the terrain is safe for your horse. Groundwork can also be a part of an exercise routine and help strengthen your bond with your horse. All you need is a rope halter, a lunge whip, and a level area to perform the exercises. Other non-riding exercises include stretching, walking, and lunging.

Extreme Weather

How do you care for horses when the weather is bad? Horses can handle cold temperatures better than excess heat and humidity. When it is hot and humid, make sure they have plenty of fresh water, a mineral block, and plenty of shade to stay cool. 

Do not exercise them for too long when it is hot. In extremely cold weather, provide them with access to shelter to keep them away from the wet and windy conditions. If necessary, they may need a waterproof horse blanket for warmth. 

Exercise and heat can put your horse at risk for overheating. Ensure your horse cools down by walking the last 10 to 15 minutes of every ride and let them drink plenty of water after removing the tack. After their done drinking, you can hose them down with cool water or use a sponge with lots of water to cool down its body. Make sure to remove the excess water and hand-walk your horse in a cool and shaded space.

WeatherBeeta Lite Turnout Blanket - Navy Blue/Silver

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Weatherbeeta Comfitec Ultra Tough Detach-A-Neck Medium - Blue/Charcoal/White

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Weatherbeeta Comfitec Medium Lite Turnout Blanket - Maroon & Gray

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Grooming

Woman brushing brown horse

Grooming your horse regularly is a critical part of basic horse care. Not only do you improve their skin and coat health, but it also gives you a chance to bond with your horse and be in tune with their health and happiness.

What you need in a horse grooming kit:

  • Stiff brush
  • Soft brush

Tail Tamers Synthetic Small Wild Colors Brush

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  • Curry comb

Spiral Curry Grooming Comb

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  • Mane comb or brush
  • Hoof pick

Ultimate Hoof Pick Jr

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  • Stable rubber
  • Sponge

Armaly ProPlus Big Job Oval Sponge

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  • Equine shampoo
  • Equine detangler

Cowboy Magic Detangler 16 oz.

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Mane 'N Tail Detangler, 16 oz.

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  • Equine conditioner

Cowboy Magic Rosewater Conditioner 16 oz.

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Mane & Tail Groom Kit, 3 pc.

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  • Fly control (traps, bait, sprays, etc.)

Many horse owners groom their horses at least once per week, a few times per month, every day, or before every ride. How often you groom your horse depends on how the horse is stabled and your other responsibilities. Horses that live outside with other horses may be able to groom themselves by rolling on the ground, brushing up against trees, and grooming each other.

Hoof Care

How often should you have your horse’s hooves trimmed? Hoof care should be performed by a farrier every 6 to 8 weeks during the summer. In the winter, you should schedule to get their hooves trimmed every 6 to 12 weeks. Hooves should be balanced to reduce strain on bones, ligaments, and tendons.

One of the most important aspects of proper hoof care will be picking put your horse’s feet. Be sure to pick out your horse’s feet before each ride, after untacking them, when bringing them into the stall and before turnout the following morning.

When picking out their feet, look for signs of thrush, a bacterial condition that can be caused by standing in manure, mud, or other wet environments for a long period of time. Look for a bad smell and a black ooze around the frog. Over-the-counter medications can be recommended by farriers and veterinarians.

Your horse may also require shoes depending on how active they are, their environment, and body type.

EZ Green Hoof Trimmer Super Sharp

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Horseshoer's Secret Pelleted Hoof Supplement

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Teeth 

Regular dental care is essential to your horse’s health. Regular exams, such as floating, are helping to keep your horse eating right and getting the proper nutrition. Horse teeth do not stop growing. If they begin to wear unevenly, they can produce sharp points and edges that can make chewing difficult and painful. 

Check their teeth once or twice a year and have them floated (filed) by a veterinarian when necessary. Dental issues can cause quidding, which occurs when food falls out of their mouth. 

Your horse may have dental issues if you notice bad breath, undigested hay in stools, or if they feel pain from the bit or noseband. Take care of this to ensure that it does not lead to choking (esophageal blockage), weight loss, or colic.

Vaccination and Deworming

Vet taking care of horses

Every horse requires vaccinations and frequent deworming. The type of vaccinations they need depends on how old they are, how often they travel, and where they travel to. Consult with your veterinarian for the appropriate vaccinations.

Worms in horses can cause a host of issues, including weight loss, colic, and coat problems. If necessary, get your veterinarian to do a fecal egg count test to recommend a dewormer. Keeping your horses safe from parasites includes proper farm management, such as ensuring all of your horses have plenty of space and are not too crowded and getting rid of manure regularly. 

Durvet Ivermectin Paste, Apple, .21 oz.

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Quest Plus Horse Wormer Gel

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Duramectin Ivermectin Paste

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Poison Prevention

As a horse owner, how do you keep your horses protected from possible poisonous substances around your property? 

Follow these poison prevention tips:

  • Do some research on poisonous plants that could be in your home, pastures, and barn. 
  • Keep herbicides, insecticides, and fertilizers stored in areas inaccessible to your equine buddies.
  • Clean water troughs and buckets frequently to prevent contamination from decomposing hay, rodent droppings, algae, and other sources of contamination.
  • If using rodent control products, steer clear of rat poison pellets, which can be tasty to horses. Consider adding barn cats or using live traps.
  • Inspect your hay for mold to prevent mycotoxin contamination.

Shop for Basic Horse Care Supplies at Wilco Farm Stores

Horse ownership can be a huge responsibility. Having horse care essentials on hand can make your job much more straightforward. Keep your horse healthy and happy with horse care equipment and supplies from Wilco Farm Stores.

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