Owning a horse is a massive commitment of time and money. The lifespan of a horse is 25 - 30 years, so they play a significant role in your life for a very long time. Having said this...
Horses are emotional and loyal animals, meaning you will be rewarded with many years of joy and friendship.
There is also nothing in the world like the freedom and exhilaration of riding a horse at full gallop.
This page will help you with some important information on the day to day health and care of your horse.
Born to run - they need space
You may not own a farm, but your horse requires a paddock of at least three acres. It is common to agist horses on properties with other horses. This works well as horses are social animals and will appreciate the company.
Paddocks should be well drained so mud is reduced. They should also have a good cover of grass. Trees and shelter should also be available.
Strong fences are extremely important. Wooden posts and rails are best but if wire is present it should be in good condition (not barbed), and have minimal loose strands.
Ensure there are no poisonous weeds, rubbish, debris, tin sheeting or anything else that your horse is likely to get tangled in.
Finally, try to find a paddock close to your home as you should check and feed your horse daily.
As long as their paddock is big enough, horses will tend to exercise themselves. However, they can become lazy and gain weight if they're never ridden.
Make time to ride your horse as often as you can. Ensure you have the correct saddle and equipment as well as protective riding attire, especially a horse riding helmet and smoothed soled boots for riding.
It is difficult to give exact feeding regimes as this varies significantly with your horse's level of work or exercise, as well as the time of year and pasture or grass quality.
In times of good, lush pastures, supplementary feeding may not be required with horses that are lightly ridden. When pasture quality and grass decreases due to shortage of water (such as in summer), good quality Lucerne or grass hay will be required on a daily basis for your horse to maintain body weight.
Horses with high energy requirements, lactating mares and young growing horses, may require feed concentrates such as pellets and/or grains in addition to pasture and hay.
Extreme care should be taken when a horse (particularly a pony) has been on a high roughage or low energy diet and is suddenly exposed to lush green pasture or grains. A severe and painful foot condition, known as laminitis, may develop.
Horses can drink up to 45 litres or more each day, so always be conscious that your horse has enough water available at all times.
Shelter from sun, wind or rain is vital and this could be in the form of a hedge or tight group of trees. If your paddock is rather bare you should provide a shed or stable.
Rugs are also a great form of protection from the elements and every horse owner should ensure they have one, especially if your horse is very young or getting old. If your horse is rugged, they will need checking every day. Make sure you keep your rugs in good condition and that they're not making your horse uncomfortable by being too heavy or rubbing and causing sores.
Find a vet
Horses can injure themselves at any time, day or night. Find yourself a good vet who is experienced in handling and dealing with horses. Talk to other horse owners about this or call the Australian Veterinary Association.
Horse check list
- Suitable paddock
- Feed and water containers
- Saddle blanket
- Horse rug
- Grooming brush
- Hoof pick
- Worm paste
- 2 in 1 vaccine
- Fly veil
- Insect repellent
- Vaccination - Horses are extremely sensitive to tetanus and must be vaccinated against this yearly. Horses should also be vaccinated yearly for Strangles - you can protect against both with Equivac 2-in-1 vaccination, available from selected PETstock stores.
- Worming - Horses are very prone to catching worms and should be treated three - six times per year. Different worms are prevalent in different areas, consult your vet for more information.
Your vet may use a stomach tube to 'drench' your horse or you could use an 'all wormer' paste. These pastes are available at PETstock. If your horse does not like paste, a pelleted wormer may be a suitable alternative.
- Sun & flies - In summer, flies cause extreme irritation. They are also responsible for weeping eyes and conjunctivitis in horses. Invest in a good 'fly veil' and insect repellent to help prevent this.
Horses with white noses or pink areas of skin are subject to sunburn, just like humans. Use zinc cream or special animal sunscreen on these areas.
Insect repellents and sunscreens are available at PETstock.
Combination products are also available.
- Hooves - It is vital to maintain excellent care of your horse's feet and hooves. The hoof can become overgrown or cracked allowing water to leak in, which can result in pain and foot abscesses or fungal infections. Stones can be embedded in the sole and frog, so check regularly and clean them out with a hoof pick before every ride. Condition them weekly (or more if required).
- Teeth - Horse's teeth grow continuously, meaning they need constant care. Majority of problems occur with teeth you cannot see, at the back of the horse's mouth. Teeth can develop sharp hooks and edges and need filing back yearly by a vet or horse dentist.
Find a good farrier to trim and shoe your horse every six - eight weeks. A good farrier can give you the advice you need and treat any hoof problems before they become severe.