Grooming of the horses coat and mane and tail keeps it free of dirt and matting, which could become a site for parasite infestation and skin disease, or cause chaffing when the horse is tacked up and ridden. It allows the owner to check the general health and condition of the horse and also develops the trust and affection essential between horse and rider. Horses ridden regularly should be groomed daily before being ridden and brushed after riding, after the sweat has dried. Horses that are not being ridden or working should be groomed at least weekly.
Hooves should be checked before and after each ride, or at least once a week (daily is ideal) for hoof disease or injury and to ensure that shoes are fitting properly. A hoof pick should be used to remove stones, mud, dirt and dead horn constituents. As horses hooves continue to grow they need to be checked by a qualified farrier every 4-6 weeks.
Horses’ teeth grow throughout life, but once worn away or broken the horse is no longer able to eat properly, and in the wild would die. Commercial horse rations help to maintain tooth health, but teeth should be checked annually by your veterinarian, who may have to rasp sharp edges.
Exercise and Companionship
It is essential that horses are exercised and stimulated. They are social animals, enjoying the company of humans or other horses, and may form attachments with a cat or dog if there is no other companionship.
Horses are natural grazers and a large portion of their daily diet is made up of forage such as grazing or hay, of which they will consume 1 – 2% of their body weight daily. They will spend 16 – 18 hours a day eating and require small and frequent meals of concentrate feed. The type and amount of concentrate or grain fed will depend on factors such as age, pregnancy, body condition and work or exercise that the horse is required to do. Improper feeding such as over-feeding, spoilt food or a sudden change in diet can lead to complications such as colic or laminitis. Overfeeding young horses can result in growth disorders or osteochondrosis – a defect in the formation of cartilage. Ideally a horse should have access to pasture (1-3 acres/horse) with good pole fencing (NEVER barbed wire) which has been cleared of all potentially poisonous plants (eg lantana), debris and rubbish and checked for holes or large stones. Good quality roughage is vital in a horse’s diet. It should be available at all times. Water Horses will drink between 40 – 50 litres of water a day, more if exercising and must have constant access to clean fresh water. Bedding Horses should not be required to stand on very hard surfaces for extended periods of time, so the stable must be bedded with clean straw or dust-free wood shavings. These should be ‘mucked out’ at least once a day and all manure removed and disposed of by composting or burning. This helps to control internal parasites and flies by breaking the life cycle. Shelter Horses on pasture require shelter from wind, rain and sun. If natural shelter such as trees are not available a three sided shelter can be constructed. Horse blankets should be used in very cold weather, particularly for animals that are sick or very old.
Although horses do pick up ticks, these should be quickly seen during regularly grooming and removed by hand or with tweezers. Some acaricides are registered for use on horses but read warning labels carefully.
NEVER USE AMITRAZ-BASED ACARICIDES ON HORSES.
EKTOBAN (cypermethrin) will kill ticks on horse and also help control flies and lice.
SUPADIP (Chlorfenvinphos) is also suitable for tick control. It is essential to control flies around the stable and the yard, particularly the bot fly. (See Fly Control)
Internal parasites such as strongyles (large and small), ascarids, pinworm and tapeworm can effect the health of your horse and a regular deworming programme with an approved anthelmintic such as DECTOMAX INJECTABLE is essential (See Endoparasites of Horses)
All horses must be vaccinated for horse-sickness, tetanus and rabies. Depending on whether your horse will be traveling and racing or competing, there are other vaccinations required eg South Africa requires Equine Flu vaccination. Consult your veterinarian.