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The care of horses involves many tasks. This article looks at some of the basic necessities and tasks you need to know when you are learning about how to take care of horses correctly. You may be required to undertake these as a horse owner and/or carer when you are caring for horses who live in a paddock/ field/ pasture (depending on the country where you live).

A horse is a much bigger commitment than other family pets, if fact everything about them is bigger, feeding, veterinary bills, worming not to mention all the accessories that go with them. With the right care and knowledge you can keep your horse happy and healthy.

Routine Checks When Caring For Horses

Horses which are kept outdoors will require checking at least once a day. If you have poor quality or little pasture you may need to feed twice a day. Horses kept in paddocks/ fields/ pasture have more opportunity to exhibit natural behaviours and so are less likely to develop boredom related behaviours.

When you attend to a horse in a paddock/ field/ pasture you should routinely check for injuries and the condition of the paddock i.e. is the fencing broken. Paddock kept horses will be more exposed to the elements so a horse may require rugging when it is cold or raining. The hooves should be clean daily to remove dirt and debris and any stones or sticks that may have become wedged under the hoof.

The quality and quantity of the plants in the paddock/ field/ pasture may determine how much you need to feed the horse. Pasture which is over run by weeds or poor quality grasses will have little if any nutritional value. Good paddock/ field/ pasture management practices can help to reduce weed growth in a paddock/ field/ pasture.

Rotating paddock/ field/ pasture regularly to avoid over grazing will assist in giving the paddock a rest to allow pasture to regrow. Over grazing leads to good, quality pasture being eaten to the point where it doesn?t regrow and leads to weeds setting in.

Planting improved pastures is an option, but an expensive one especially if you are keeping your horse on someone elses land (agisting/ livery/ boarding)!

Weeds can be removed by hand if you have time or by regular spraying however horses will need to be kept away from sprayed plant material. Poor Pasture.

This paddock contains weeds, little grass and patches of dirt. It also appears a little unsafe due to the wooden rails sticking out.

Checklist When Caring For Horses

Having a well maintained paddock/ field/ pasture will help to prevent unnecessary injury to a horse.

Some desirable and safe qualities to look for in a paddock/ field/ pasture are:

  • Well sighted fences (meaning fences that can be easily seen)
  • Sunny areas
  • Watering points that if shared by numerous horses, can be accessed by a few at a time. (e.g. not in the corner or confined space)
  • Shaded areas
  • Areas which are protected from wind
  • Strong secure fencing with no sharp or rough edges
  • Good pasture

Some undesirable and unsafe qualities are:

  • Holes (e.g. rabbit holes)
  • Rubbish (e.g. old tyres, timber scraps)
  • Small gateways (e.g. not big enough for a horse, coming off hinges)
  • No sun or wind protection
  • Dirty water (e.g. stagnant creek)
  • Poor fencing (e.g. loose, flimsy)
  • Poisonous plants/weeds
  • Rusty wire
  • Chemical residue

The safety considerations to include when working in horse facilities are:

  • Ensuring no sharp edges on things like walls, fences, feed bins, gateways.
  • Keep horses separated from spectators, pedestrians and traffic (e.g. fences, signs, Separate entrances for horses & people, traffic officers)
  • Fences shouldn?t be flimsy or have loose wire the horse can get caught up in.
  • Gateways need to be wide enough & should swing freely in both directions (i.e. not coming off the hinges)
  • Walkways should have secure footing that isn?t slippery
  • Working/exercise areas/arenas need footing that is secure, non-slip and free from holes
  • Free from dangerous objects
  • Keep areas well maintained
  • Areas used during the night should be well lit
  • “No smoking” policies and signs
  • Regulations banning smoking & the use of naked flames
  • Check fodder for heat and mould
  • Appropriate fire extinguishers/hydrants located around facilities
  • Fire drills, escape routes and procedures in place and accessible for staff and public
  • Fire breaks around buildings and facilities
  • In the case of fire, rugs and blankets should be removed from horses

Providing Water to Horses

Though horses need a great deal of water, they spend very little time drinking, they will usually consume water 2-8 times a day with each time lasting 1-8 minutes. How you provide and supply water to your horse will depend upon your situation.

Here we have the advantages and disadvantages of some common watering systems.

Bath tubs & containers:

Bath tubs hold large quantities of water and are good if numerous horses will be accessing the one water source. they are also easy to empty to clean. If using a tub they should be rust free. The disadvantage of bathtubs is that they may be heavy to move and some have sharp edges and corners which have the potential to cause injury.

Containers can come in all shapes and sizes and are generally easy to relocate. Rubber ones are softer and may last longer than plastic however they may be easier to knock over. Plastic are also easy to relocate but tend to deteriorate in the sun.

Automatic machines:

Automatic waterers save time in that they automatically refill when the water reaches a certain low level. They are simple to clean as most have an outlet to release stored water. However if the waterer breaks of doesn?t function properly the horse could be without water and it will cost time and sometimes money to repair.

If you have one horse and are learning about how to take care of a horse, or are about to start working with horses and need to know about how to take care of horses in a professional environment, horses need their basic needs met. When caring for horses they need food, water, protection from wind, rain and sun as well as company (preferably from other horses). Probably the most important thing to remember when caring for horses is that they need regular checks from humans to monitor their horse care needs!