Horses are big animals, and therefore need a lot more than smaller companion pets. Before deciding to own a horse, careful consideration needs to be placed on where the horse will live and exercise, what the horse will eat, how the horse will be groomed and what other supplies will be needed.
There are many different reasons why people own horses, such as personal enjoyment or to give riding lessons, but the basic care of a horse is generally the same across the board.
Horses live in stalls that may be considered small for their size (around 12 feet by 12 feet is standard), but they really don’t need much room to sleep and eat. Given enough exercise during the day, a horse will be content in a stable that has a feed tub, a water trough and bedding. Proper bedding for a horse can be sawdust, wood pellets, shredded paper or rice hulls. Check with farms and other horse owners in your area to see what is most common. Always keep the stalls clean of urine and manure by mucking the stall daily and protect the horse from flies while in the stall. Horses also like to be in areas where they can see other horses and the comings and goings of people, so if possible, do not keep your horse in isolation.
All horses need daily exercise to keep a good temperament and good health. If possible, opt to put your horse in a stall that has an attached paddock so that they can roam in and out of the stall. Otherwise, you’ll need an exercise area for the horse to run around and graze, or trails close-by where the horse can be ridden. Make sure that you have all necessary riding equipment before deciding to ride your horse. Horses are happiest when they are allowed adequate playtime in a large, open area with other horses that they get along with.
Horses eat a combination of grass from a pasture, hay and concentrated feed to get the nutrients and nourishment they require. Most leisure horses will get most of what they need from grazing in a large open area and snacking on hay when inside their stall. Hay can be mixed depending on what is available in your area, but is usually a combination of alfalfa and grass hay or timothy hay and alfalfa hay. Hard-working horses, adolescents and pregnant horses also need concentrated feed in the form of extra grains and sugars to meet their caloric needs. Check with feed distributors for the specific type of feed needed for your horse’s stage of life.
Grooming will keep your horse clean and will allow you to bond with the horse and keep tabs on its health. You’ll want to tie your horse to a railing so that it stays in place, and then use a soft bristle brush to brush the horse’s face and neck. Switch to a medium bristle brush to brush the rest of the body, and a stiff bristle brush for the mane and tail. Use a hoof pick to clean the hoofs and then lightly spray the entire horse with fly repellent. While you are grooming your horse, run your hands down its legs to feel for any swelling and be on the lookout for anything abnormal, like cuts or abscesses in the hooves. Be sure to get the necessary vaccinations as recommended by your veterinarian to keep your horse healthy.