Horse Care Basics
Owning a horse can be a joy — and a lot of work
NHDTTD/Noel Aderer photo
A horse is a horse, of course, but a happy and healthy horse requires tender love and care in the form of food, water, shelter, space to roam and more. Majestic, powerful and sleek animals, a horse is an uplifting experience for an owner but it is a constant responsibility.
Basic horse care covers a lot of ground, but many horse lovers begin their lifelong journey with grooming.
Grooming tools have specific functions, says Burnt Meadow Stables owner Sherry Donabedian. First is a curry comb that loosens the extra hair and dirt, bringing it to the surface. Donabedian then uses a body brush to smooth out the hair and flick off the dirt and shavings. That way a horse’s coat becomes silky and shiny. Brushing out the mane and tail keeps tangles and knots out too.
“You should always groom your horse before riding,” advises Donabedian. “And if you don’t ride and just have a pasture pal, brushing them once a week would be nice.”
And what horse doesn’t like to be stroked?
“Being scratched and pet everywhere is very enjoyable to a horse,” she says.
Different seasons require different levels of care. For example, in spring horses may be groomed more often as they shed their winter coat before warm weather arrives. Then a shedding blade is used with the extra grooming.
Horse owners also have to consider the intended use of their horse as well as land size, housing, pasture, paddock, fencing, feed, health care with everyone from foot to dental care and even manure management. They have to decide where to keep their four-legged friends, whether it be in their back yard or at a stable with trusted hands.
Also, horse owners should have a first aid kit for their horses. It may include items like a cotton roll, gauze pads, scissors, hoof pick, tweezers, flashlight, antiseptic soap, disinfectant and pliers.
That’s just good horse sense.
An average 1,000-pound horse will eat about 20 pounds of medium-quality hay and drink approximately 10 gallons of water per day.
The shedding tool (FURminator, Equine deShedding Tool, $59.99) does just that, helping your horse make that transition from a New Hampshire winter to eventual summer.
The natural bristles of the body brush provide the luster for horses (Equi-Essentials Body Brush, $8.25).
The curry comb is one of the simplest grooming tools used to remove mud, packed dirt and more from a horse’s hair. Plastic or rubber, they are inexpensive but get used a lot (Rubber Curry Comb, $2.95).
Sherry Donabedian, owner of Burnt Meadow Stables in Freedom
Expert Advice With Sherry Donabedian
Sherry Donabedian is the owner of the 50-acre Burnt Meadow Stables in Freedom. In the horse and rider business since 1991, she boards and trains horses, and provides lessons to riders, from beginners to show jumpers.
What should someone look for in boarding their horse?
You should be able to visit the facility at anytime to check it out for yourself. Always look at the condition of the horses that are currently boarded there. Look for any safety issues or hazards that would be in the way of the horses or riders while also looking at the type of turnout, the condition of the stalls and paddocks. Competitive riders should take a good look at the footing of the arenas and how they are maintained. Look at the stables’ overall routine, which will play a key part in your horse’s happiness.
What if someone wants to keep their horse at home in a backyard stable?
It’s fine to keep your horse at home as long as you have enough experience and time to provide proper care.
What advice do you have for keeping hooves healthy?
Taking care of your horses’ feet is one of the most important things an owner can do for them. “No feet, no horse.” Even if you don’t have time to groom, you should at least pick their feet periodically to make sure there are no rocks or packed mud built up in their hooves. Cleaning your horses’ hooves often will help prevent thrush and keep them smelling better. A key part of keeping your horse’s feet healthy is timely visits from a knowledgable blacksmith who will trim and re-shoe your horse if needed. Diet also contributes to the wellness of their feet.
Horses eat hay, grain and pasture. Are there different types of hay?
Yes, there are different types and qualities in hay, which can vary with the price and depending on if the hay is “first” or “second cut.” There are very thin qualities of hay and also much courser varieties. Some horses have preferences.
How important is fresh water in a horse’s diet?
Water is so important with any living animal; keep it fresh and clean. If horses don’t drink enough water, they can get impacted easily and need serious help from an equine vet. They should always have water in front of them at all times.
Does a horse need horse companionship?
This depends on the horse. Generally, horses are a herd animal and like to be around others. Some personalities are perfectly fine alone and are happy with just human companionship. Some horses can get really attached to each other.
Is there something like a horse first-aid kit that horse owners should have?
Yes, there are basic things every horse owner should have. As time goes by, you end accumulating more supplies. Sometimes certain issues need specific medicines.