Creating a Happy & Healthy Life for Your Horse
At Van Roekel & Associates our vets know how much joy can be found in owning and caring for your own horse. The bond between a horse and their rider is undoubtedly special, but along with the joy comes responsibility.
Your horse relies on you to provide everything they need to stay pain-free, healthy, and safe. Below are just a few of the main things involved in basic horse care.
Housing & Socializing
Horses thrive when they have the space to roam and interact with other horses, but 24/7 turnout isn't for all horses. It is common for horses to be stalled at night, and allowed to roam and socialize during the day. If your horse is stalled it is essential to provide your equine friend with plenty of exercise, socialization and enrichment opportunities including daily turnout. If your horse lives outdoors be sure to provide them with access to safe shelter at all times.
Extreme Weather Precautions
Generally speaking, horses handle cold weather much better than hot humid weather.
If the weather is hot and humid ensure that your horse has access to plenty of shade and fresh clean water, and be sure to limit exercise.
On cold days be sure that your horse has adequate shelter to protect them from the cold, check that their water supply has not frozen, and protect your equine friend with a heavy or waterproof blanket. Your vet will be able to advise you on the right kinds of blankets to protect your horse in weather common to your area.
Good sleep is essential for all animals, people and horses alike. While horses are able to sleep lightly while standing, deep REM sleep requires your horse to lie flat. Keep your horse's stall clean and fresh so that they have a great bed to sleep in.
Exercise is essential when it comes to keeping your horse healthy, but much like people, the amount of exercise that your horse gets should be increased gradually. While horses are capable of walking for miles and miles with short amounts of trotting thrown in, they rarely cantor or gallop. If you are working on building up your horse’s strength and conditioning, be sure to follow a sensible plan and do it gradually.
Diet & Nutrition
Taking care of horses well means providing a high-quality diet that meets all of your equine friend's nutritional needs. Each horse is a little different and it's always best to speak to your vet when it comes to feeding your horse just the right combination of hay and feed. That said, a basic guideline is that your horse should eat about 2-2.5% of their body weight in hay and high-quality feed each day.
While grains can be a useful supplement, the bulk of your equine friend's diet should be roughage. Consult your vet to learn more about supplementing your horse's diet with grains.
Maintaining a healthy weight will help your horse to avoid injuries and illness, so be sure to keep an eye on your horse and call your vet if you notice any changes in your horse's weight.
The vaccinations that your horse needs will be based on a number of factors including the age of your horse, where you live and whether your horse will be traveling. Your vet will be able to recommend the vaccinations that best suit the needs of your horse.
Some of the conditions that horse vaccines protect against include:
- West Nile Virus
- Equine Herpes Virus Rhinopneumonitis
- Equine Distemper 'Strangles'
Worms can have a huge negative impact on the health of your equine companion, leading to weight loss, poor coat condition and even colic.
To prevent your horse from becoming sick due to worms have your vet regularly perform a fecal egg count test. This test allows your vet to know exactly which dewormers should be given to your horse throughout the year.
Other ways to help protect your horse against the negative impacts of parasites include not putting too many horses on too little land, rotating pastures if you are able to, and removing manure regularly.
To help keep your horse comfortable and performing well your horse's hooves should be trimmed by a farrier every 6-8 weeks.
Some horses will require shoes depending on the environment, their body type, and their activity level. Your farrier will be able to advise you on how best to keep your horse's hooves balanced and strong.
Did you know that a horse's teeth grow continuously? Uneven wear can result in teeth that form sharp points that make chewing difficult and painful. To help your horse avoid painful dental issues your horse should have their teeth checked and filed ('floated') once or twice a year. Annual dental checkups for your horse allow your vet to check for a range of dental problems including decayed or broken teeth.
Signs that your horse may have a dental health condition include:
- Food falling from mouth while chewing
- Bad breath
- Undigested happy in stools
- Signs of discomfort around bit or noseband, refusal to take bit.
- Weight loss.
'Coggins' is the common name for an enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay (ELISA) which is a blood test used to screen horses, donkeys and mules for the highly contagious and potentially fatal disease Equine Infectious Anemia (EIA).
There is no vaccine to protect against EIA which is why regular Coggins testing is important.
Note: The advice provided in this post is intended for informational purposes and does not constitute medical advice regarding pets or other animals. For an accurate diagnosis of your animal's condition, please make an appointment with your vet.