The ownership of a horse can be a not only a rewarding, but also an enjoyable experience for both you and your equine partner. Whether you are considering pleasure riding, one of the many competition disciplines or simply keeping a pet horse, there are many factors to consider. Here are some basic horse needs to consider when choosing to become a horse owner.
There are many important responsibilities to consider when it comes to owning a horse. Horse ownership should be considered as a long-term commitment, requiring significant time and financial investment to ensure your equine partner lives a comfortable life.
Some of the basic needs of a horse to be considered have been outlined below:
Water- A source of clean water must always be available; it must be checked daily and re-filled when necessary if an automatic style system is not being used. Hydration is essential to your horse’s overall health and your horse may drink around 25-45 litres of water per day.
If your horse is a poor drinker or heavy sweater you can add a daily electrolyte supplement such as Salkavite to your horses’ feed to help encourage your horse to drink.
Food– As a guide your horse will require 1–2 kg per 100kg of bodyweight of feed per day. It is essential to have an adequate amount of good quality feed in the form of roughage (pasture, hay or chaff) to keep you horses digestive system and body in good condition.
Supplementary feeding of hard feeds such as grains may be necessary where a horse is being worked regularly or if there is not enough nutritional value in your pasture/ roughage to meet your horses nutritional requirements. Your horse will also require a source of salt such as a Ranvet salt & mineral block as part of their essential diet.
Supplements– When it comes to providing support in a variety of areas, from hoof care and healthy joints, right through to proper digestion and a shiny coat. It may be necessary to consider feeding a source of supplementation if your horse is not receiving all its dietary needs from its provided feed. You may find it beneficial to feed a daily vitamin and mineral supplementation such as Ration Balancer to make up for any dietary deficiencies. It is important to remember that as per people, horses are also individuals and therefore not all horses need every type of supplement. Target specific supplementation for things such as joint and hoof care should be catered to the individual horse’s needs.
Companionship– Horses are herd animals and therefore need the company of others, whether in the same paddock or a neighboring paddock. Keeping a horse on its own so that it cannot see other horses may lead to behavioral problems.
Shelter- Horses are a rather hardy. They can cope well with both heat and cold by regulating their own body temperature. But your horse will still require a source of shelter from extremes of sun, wind and rain. Some shelter trees or a walk-in shed / stable make suitable shelter. Waterproof rugs can also be used to protect the horse from cold weather.
Feet- A farrier will need to tend to your horse’s hooves approximately every 6-8 weeks to prevent them becoming too long and uncomfortable for the horse. At such time your horse will also be reshod if shoes are necessary for your horse.
Teeth- Horse’s teeth need to be checked and tended to by a vet or dentist at least once a year for routine dental maintenance. For some individual horses this may need to be as often as every 3-6 months.
Worming- Your horse may need to be regularly wormed to prevent worms building up in the stomach and intestines. Many worming pastes advise to be used every 6-12 weeks. Your veterinarian can also carry out a fecal egg count for your horse to help you structure your worming program.
Vaccination- A veterinarian should vaccinate your horse for diseases such as tetanus and strangles. Your vet will advise what your horse should be vaccinated for and how often.
Training and Exercise- Horses must have enough space to walk and run around, unless they are exercised daily. Working with your horse one-on-one can be incredibly satisfying. If your horse can be ridden, attending pony club or having regular riding lessons will help enjoy your time with the horse more. If you have little or no experience riding a horse, you should seek professional training from a riding instructor or riding establishment. You will also need to purchase properly fitting riding equipment to ensure your safety and prevent injury to your horse.
Disposal- If a time comes where you can no longer care for the horse sufficiently, you must arrange for it to be cared for by someone else, sell them or rehome them. It is your responsibility to not let them suffer from neglect, which is a chargeable offence.