Horses are often misunderstood because their size and strength can be intimidating. Frightened folks may stay away from these powerful animals, and completely unfamiliar with these gracious beings, may come to the unsubstantiated assumption that horses wanted little care. Just let them roam freely on green pastures, provide a barrel of clear water, and they will be fine. How wrong they are!
Where to keep a horse is an important decision every horse owner has to face. Some horse keepers have plenty of space and time to care for their horse at home, while others lack property, lead busy careers, and prefer to keep their stallion at a boarding stable with amenities, such as indoor and outdoor arenas, heated tack room, hot/cold wash stall, private paddocks and all-inclusive luxury care. Full board may include blanketing, fly masks, daily turnouts, administering supplements, vaccines, parasite control and routine veterinary check-ups.
Horses need adequate shelter and the outdoor property, including corrals and pastures, needs to be fenced off properly with sturdy, yet safe materials that will not hurt playful or mischievous animals. This means that flimsy or harmful wire fences, particularly barbed wire, are out. The fact that horses are nervous animals, whose initial reaction to unusual sounds and sights is to run away, makes tethering also a very unsafe method to keeping a horse confined.
Horses need more than a home; they also need fresh, clean water, an adequate amount of salt and minerals, and food. The most natural food for horses comes from good quality grazing land. However, horses are selective grazers and their nutritional requirements are high. Optimizing the large amount of food horses need, hay is one of the basic food substitutes for domestic horses. Hard-working horses, pregnant and nursing mares, or growing youngsters will also need concentrates, such as grains, sweet feed, and manufactured nourishment to supplement the hay. The basic rule for feeding horses is to give little, but often.
A horse should always be groomed before being ridden. This will avoid chafing and rubbing of dirt and other hurtful materials and allows horse handlers to check for injuries. Regularly groomed horses have healthier and more attractive coats and will bond easier with their caregiver.
Just like humans brush teeth, and clip their nails, horses also need additional care and outside of combs, brushes, and scrapers, the hoof pick is probably one of the most important tools in a horse’s grooming kit. The hooves of a horse need to be cleaned and any stones, mud and dirt need to be removed with a pick. At the same time, worn shoes need to be checked to see if they are still in good condition. Horses and ponies will require routine hoof care by a professional farrier, or equine hoof care specialist. The frequency of these visits will be determined by the work the animal performs, the weather and other living conditions.
Young and active horses need lots of physical activity. Regular exercise builds stamina, endurance, and resistance to disease, and will also improve the horse’s heart. A good run will work the animal’s muscles, and increase tendon and ligament strength.
Of course, there are plenty more activities that can be performed to maintain or increase your horse’s physical and mental condition. It is, like with any other type of relationship; the more work you put in, the deeper and more exciting your friendship with your horse will grow, and the more he or she will trust you.