Equine Care: No Horsing Around
When it comes to equine care, no horsing around is the right attitude to adopt. Horses are big animals with specific needs. Keeping them healthy and happy can equate to a lot of work, and if they're not taken care of properly, there may also be a huge tab at the veterinarian's office to deal with.
Horses, just like other pets, look to you for their care. If there is not adequate grazing land, no matter how much a horse forages, it will not find enough to sustain it. Additional sustenance can come by way of hay, alfalfa, grain and a mixture of different packaged grasses and grains. The key is to make sure you don't run out, and to give adequate amounts throughout the day. For best results, set up a feeding schedule of twice a day, and try to maintain a set schedule. But if your goal is to see a happy, healthy horse racing around your paddock, keep these three basics in mind: feed, water, shelter. And remember that summer and winter care should be approached in very different manners.
Natural Horse Care
Barefoot horses are happy horses. Horseshoes are the culprit responsible for a great deal of muscular and skeletal issues horses face on a daily basis. Shod horses experience reduced circulation and impaired hoof mechanisms. Since we now know that a great deal of tendon injury and hoof problems occur during the shoeing process, and/or because of the shoeing process, doesn't it make sense to stop shoeing? When hooves are barefoot, there is a reduced impact on the horse's body. Healthy hooves both the internal and external structures are intact and functioning offer proper circulation to the legs and hooves of the horse, which also allows the frogs (the parts of the hoof that touch the ground) to function as the circulating pumps they were intended to be. Blood also gets circulated back up the extremities, which offers increased stamina. With all of the pros in favor of going barefoot, it's still a personal choice. After all, each horse and owner are different. There may be reasons that require the continuation of shoes on your horse. Should you decide to go barefoot, however, information on how to transition your horse to barefoot is available here.
Keep in mind that every horse is different. On average a 1000 pound horse will eat approximately 50 pounds of food per day. But, because horses are grazers, their bodies are programmed to eat small amounts all day long. (Think about it when was your horse not eating?) Eating large amounts of food within a short amount of time, especially if that food is grain or grain-based, can be detrimental to a horse. When monitoring feed, it's important that you know how much your horse weighs and also that you take into account your horse's activity level. Too much food is as bad as too little. When searching for the correct horse food, remember that horse care products can be obtained from a variety of suppliers. Check around for the best food at the best value. If grazing area is limited, it's up to you to make sure your horse has enough additional food available that it can munch on throughout the day. To determine how much food your horse requires, contact a veterinarian for specific guidelines or check out this basic feeding chart from the University of Nebraska.
Water for Horses
While a horse doesn't require as much water as an elephant, it does require about 16 gallons per day, and when you're carrying water twice a day, it can seem like you're watering an elephant. The ideal water supply for a horse is one that is available round the clock. If this is not possible, it's imperative that a horse is given fresh water at least two times a day. Lack of water can lead to illnesses such as colic or impacted colon. This is especially true in the winter months when horses are fed primarily dry hay. In winter, water is the most essential ingredient in your horse's diet. A secondary problem can be the habits of your horse. Because horses don't require as much water in the winter months, most horses won't drink much. This often leads to inadequate water intake. Therefore it's important that water intake is monitored. In freezing temperatures ice may form on the watering trough. Each time you break the ice top it off with a bucket of hot water from the tap. The water will be lukewarm, not hot when it mixes. Automatic watering systems are available, but they are costly and horses often shy away from them due to the noise.
Providing shelter is another necessity. If your horse is kept outdoors, a three-walled shed with a roof is usually adequate. Make sure the open side faces away from the prevailing winds and the ground is well-drained. Horses kept in barns should be provided individual stalls. Stalls should be cleaned daily and refilled with dry bedding. The daily opening and closing of the barn door will allow some ventilation, but even when the wind is whipping outside, a barn door should be slightly cracked to allow fresh air to continually flow through the building. For warmth, allow horses to retain their furry coat throughout winter months and avoid trimming fetlocks and ears. If blankets are used, do not interchange or share blankets with other horses. Also, blankets should be fitted correctly. A blanket that is too tight will cause chaffing. If it's too loose it will cause slippage and can entangle the horse's legs. A blanket that is too thin may not be adequate, yet if it's too thick it can cause sweating, which is even worse.