Six Suggestions for Caring for Your Horse
To keep you and your horse happy and healthy you want to provide the best possible care for your mount. Here are six tips for tending to your horse:
- Give your horse a good "once over" each day. "By spending a few minutes a day examining your horse, you know what's normal and can better recognize the warning signs of illness," says Dr. Julie Lucas, an equine veterinarian in Wauconda, Illinois. Be on the lookout for lumps or masses on the skin; swellings or hot spots; open sores; scabs or hair loss; rocks in the hooves; or foul discharges from the eyes, ears or nose.
- Feed your horse two or three smaller meals a day, rather than just one large dinner. "A horse's gastrointestinal tract is designed for grazing; it isn't meant to handle one big meal all at once," says Scott Pierce, an equine veterinarian in Lexington, Kentucky. Most horses do best with smaller, frequent meals, typically in the morning and early evening.
- Make sure your horse's stall or shelter always has a fresh layer of bedding, such as wood shavings or loose straw. Bedding absorbs urine and protects your horse's hooves from damaging moisture. Scoop out the soiled bedding and manure once a day and replace it with about six to eight inches of clean bedding.
- Stabled horses need regular exercise to keep their minds and bodies in top condition. Try to give your horse at least a half-hour of exercise each day. Riding is the best form of exercise, but you can also vary the routine by lunging your horse, ponying or driving him, or attaching him to a hot walker.
- Stick to a regular vaccination and deworming program to keep your horse in good health and to protect him from serious illness. Dr. Pierce recommends that horses get dewormed every six to eight weeks. Alternatively, a horse could be on a continuous dewormer like Strongid-C and receive additional boluses of dewormer at key times during the year.
- Horses should be inoculated for tetanus and equine encephalomyelitis at least once a year and receive the influenza/rhino vaccine between two and four times a year, depending on the animal's risk of exposure. In areas where there is rabies, an annual shot for rabies is highly recommended.