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Horse Care Hints & Tips

Daily horse and pony requirements

In this Section:

+ Feeding

Ensuring that you are feeding your horse correctly can be quite a daunting experience; horses need a balanced diet that includes the right mix of nutrients, vitamins and minerals to enable proper digestive function. A healthy balanced diet will ensure that the animal maintains a healthy weight, good condition and will provide the horse with energy for growth and work.

Horses are naturally grazing animals and eat for 18 out of the 24 hours in a day; the natural feed for them is grass which varies in its nutritional quality throughout the year and different seasons. For a domesticated horse it is advisable to provide supplementary feed, such as cereals, this will help compensate for the seasonal variation.

Carbohydrates form the basis of a horse's diet and provide their basic nutrient needs; these occur naturally in grass and included in most supplementary feeds. Carbohydrates - as found in naturally occurring sugars, starches and cellulose - provide the horse with quick release energy.

Protein and fats are important for body function, growth and repair and as a source of energy. These can be found in smaller quantities in grass based feeds and in many supplementary feeds.

Crucial to your horses diet is the consumption of vitamins and minerals, these occur naturally in grass and are also included in supplementary feeds. It is important not over supplement one vitamin or mineral, this can be detrimental to the horse as it can inhibit the uptake of other minerals by the body.

+ Watering

Water is crucial to a horse's diet and well being; horses drink approximately 27 to 54 per litres of water a day dependent upon the weather and their diet. Clean drinking water should always be available, whether in the stables or at pasture regardless of the season.

+ Grooming

Grooming is an essential part of looking after your horse and is vital to the horse's health and well being. The process will enable you to build a bond and develop trust with your horse. Grooming will keep the horse coat clean and healthy and will also provide stimulation to the hair follicles and muscles which will result in a better conditioned and shinier coat. The grooming process will also provide you with the opportunity to check over your horse thoroughly and can alert you to any problems or injuries the animal may have developed.

All horses are different and therefore all need to be groomed in a way that suits them best. The process for grooming a horse will vary depending on the season, its living conditions, and what the horse will tolerate.

There are various grooming tools required and again these will depend on how and where your horse is kept. All horses will need their feet picking out daily. The list below details some of the tools required and what they are used for:

  • Body brush - used to clean coat, mane and tail
  • Dandy brush - will remove mud from the horse
  • Water brush - used to apply water or remove stable stains
  • Hoof pick- for removing mud and stones from the hooves
  • Hoof Oil - for a finishing gloss on the hooves
  • Sponges - used to clean eyes, muzzle and dock
  • Scissors - to trim the mane, tail and leg feathers as required
  • Stable rubber/grooming mitt - use damp to remove dust or apply gloss

+ Hoof and Teeth Care

Maintaining your horse's hooves and teeth properly will reduce the risk of any infections or problems. Regular hoof and teeth care will ensure that they remain healthy and strong, as well as being happier too.

Hooves

Horse hooves continuously grow, it is important to keep them strong, healthy and balanced to make sure the horse can move comfortably and correctly.

The hooves should be picked out every day by the owner, all rocks, dirt and other foreign matter should be removed so as to prevent a build up and create foot problems. They need to be trimmed every six weeks whether the horse wears shoes or not.

Keeping the stable clean will also maintain a dry foot reducing the risk of getting an infection such as thrush in the frog area of the hooves.

Different supplements can provide certain additives that will help reduce the amount of cracking in the dry hoof walls; your farrier can advise you on what the best product to use would be. If your horse is getting the right nutrients then their hooves will grow better and stronger.

Teeth

As horse teeth grow continuously, it is advisable that your horse has regular dental checks, at least once a year. A dental exam will guarantee that the teeth and gums are healthy and will ensure that the animal is able to chew its food properly.

There are two main types of teeth in a horse's mouth - the incisors, which are the cutting teeth, and the molars, which are the grinding teeth. The incisors are located at the front of the mouth and the molars are towards the back. Teeth gradually erupt, in response to wear, throughout your horse's life.

Wear is often uneven and can lead to sharp edges and hooks being created in the molars, these can prevent the normal chewing movement of the jaw and make eating difficult. They can also cut into the tongue and cheeks of your horse and cause considerable discomfort.

Here are signs of possible dental problems, which could also be a sign of other illness:-

  • Lack of appetite or reluctance to eat.
  • Drooling saliva, or a discharge from the mouth or nose.
  • Sores and swellings around the mouth.
  • Pain or swellings in the throat and along the jaw-line.
  • Foul smelling breath.
  • Loss of body condition.
  • Chewing more slowly than normal or favouring one side of the mouth.
  • Spilling food from the mouth or deliberately dropping (quidding) balls of partially chewed food.
  • Aggression or reluctance to be bridled.
  • Resisting the bit.
  • Head shaking.
  • Reluctance to move forward when being ridden.
  • Rearing or bolting.
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