by Olivia Kile August 14, 2019 6 min read
Horses are a huge responsibility that requires specialized care and a watchful eye. There are many aspects of horse care that are all equally vital for a healthy equine. This includes many different tools and products such as horse grooming tools, horse clippers, buckets, pitchforks, and countless other items.
If you are blessed to be able to keep your horse at your own farm, you’ll need the whole enchilada: shelter, water tubs, high-quality hay, a wheelbarrow, grain (if necessary), a good relationship with a reputable large animal or strictly equine veterinarian and farrier.
Horses are continuous grazers that are specially designed to take in small amounts of food almost all day long. Unlike other species, especially humans, horses’ stomachs do not only release digestive juices at the presence of food. There is always acid in the stomach because there should always be a small amount of food for it to work on. This is why horses are very prone to ulcers; this especially happens in barns that do not provide forage multiple times per day.
High-quality hay should suffice horses that are in no work to those in moderate work. Most horses do not need grain, so we recommend consulting with your veterinarian or private equine nutritionist. Discuss with a professional your specific horse’s needs so that you can properly meet their nutritional and caloric needs.
1. Orchard and Timothy grass mix hay is the most popular hay type fed to horses.
2. Grass mix hay is the most available and usually easy to find a trustworthy provider.
3. Alfalfa hay is another popular choice for older horses or those that have issues holding weight. This is a great source of fiber, vitamins, protein and calcium.
Feeding your horse is the most important topic of discussion for proper horse care.
"Proper digestion = healthy gut function = happy horse = happy owner"
Horse Grooming Guide - Grooming your horse is not just about keeping them clean and getting ready for a show. Although important, horse grooming acts as a relaxing massage. Grooming also acts as a Kickstarter to the circulatory system before a hack or riding lesson. Getting the blood flowing starts the warm-up process for proper muscle and soft tissue function.
Horse Grooming also gives you a chance to get familiar with the status of your horse’s body like swelling, new cuts and even lameness.
There are many horse grooming supplies you will acquire along the way, but there are just a couple keystone horse brushes for proper coat care. The curry comb is usually a rubber handheld piece that has thick, raised points. Used in a circular motion, a curry comb is used to bring all of the deep grime to the surface for the other brushes to remove from the coat.
A proper horse grooming kit will also contain a stiff brush to be used in flicking motions to bring more dirt to the surface. A soft brush is used to give a sleek appearance and shine to the coat.
Next, a hoof pick is used to remove caked dirt and stones which can become uncomfortable for the horse to walk on.
The mane and tail are the same hair type, but are generally taken care of very differently for those that enter the show ring. For English disciplines, the mane should be pulled to decrease thickness for easy braiding. The tail should never be heavily groomed unless it is the day before and of the show.
A thick, long tail is highly desirable. A mane and tail conditioner can be used to keep the hair soft, shiny and help prevent it from drying out. Mane and tail conditioner should be applied after rinsing out shampoo or can come in a spray bottle form for detangling when brushing through.
Depending on your horse’s coat, work level through the winter as well as the climate, you may want to invest in a pair of horse clippers. Horse clippers require a little bit of maintenance, but clipping your horse’s coat can help with the release of heat when working heavily through the winter.
If clipping and you live in a cold climate, you should also invest in a waterproof horse blanket for your horse during turnout. A clipped horse has less hair to trap natural heat. A waterproof horse blanket will make up for the loss of the natural “blanket”. But Does my horse need a blanket ?
If you are keeping your horse in a stall, it will need to be cleaned as often as possible, but at least once a day. Urine builds up heavy ammonia smell, which can be damaging to your horse’s respiratory system. Removing this as often as possible keeps your horse’s respiratory system healthy and prevents heavy coughing.
Most people use shavings in a stall that are lined with rubber mats. Rubber matts or dirt floors provide slight cushion compared to concrete. A comfortable, clean environment is important for your horse when the weather outside is not idea or for layup purposes when your horse is lame or needs to be on stall rest.
A stall needs to be clean in order to no contaminate hay or water heavily as well. Hay should always be fed on the ground in a natural position for the horse. Lifted hay bags and racks can cause strain on the horse’s poll (a bone that is part of the spine and can be easily stressed and damaged) that is located at the ears. Ground feeding also prevents choke from occurring.
Cleaning a horse stall can become therapeutic after you become a pro. For this, you will need 3 things -
This task is easiest when the horses are out to pasture for a few hours or if you put your horse close by on some breakaway cross ties. Make sure the horse is easily seen from the stall in case of an emergency.
Placing the wheelbarrow in the doorway will be an easy place to pitch the dirty bedding into from any angle in the stall. With the pitchfork, find a pile of the brown stuff, scoop and shake off the excess clean bedding. You want to be sure to get rid of all the dirty bedding as possible, but try to save as much clean bedding as possible. Getting rid of clean bedding is not cost-effective and makes more work for you!
Next, with the pitchfork, throw the unwanted material into the wheelbarrow. Repeat this process until the stall is poop-free. Watch out for wet spots as well, this will be urine which causes bad ammonia odor to build up.
That is the question that varies from a barn to barn and really depends on the cleanliness of the hay as well as the specific horse that resides in the stall. If you know your horse will be satisfied with leftover hay and it will be eaten, then keep it. If not, toss it.
Scrubbing water buckets is also an important aspect of incomplete stall cleaning. This prevents scum and bacteria build-up. Make sure to not replace with clean water in the buckets before clean bedding has been spread in the stall and the dust has settled as to not get a layer of dust particles on the water surface.
Next, after all urine and feces have been cleaned out of the stall, and it needs more shavings, do this now.
After bedding has been replenished, with a broom, sweep underneath the hay pile as well as the aisle area that has caught flying bedding. Sweep in the doorway to make a clean appearance from the aisle looking in. Replenish more hay as needed.
Now that you have an idea of how to care for a horse, go get some practice at a local barn. Starting as a volunteer stable hand can be a great stepping stone for when you want to either work at a busy show barn or keep your horses at your own farm one day.
Never be afraid to reach out to a trusted mentor or your veterinarian for advice. You will have all the time in the world to cuddle your equine best friend. Your horse will thank you!
Olivia has a passion for all things equestrian and equine health and still enjoys riding. Olivia earned a bachelor's degree in Equine Science from Delaware Valley University and currently works as a sales and marketing assistant at Breeches.com
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