Horse Care Hints & Tips
Taking your horse or pony home
In this Section:
+ Field and Stables
A new horse may be unsettled as the result of a move so it is essential to consider this after purchasing your horse; the horse must be given time to adjust to its new home and surroundings. Leave it to settle for a few days before riding to allow the horse to settle in to its new environment. It is important to allow time for you and your horse to get to know each other and for a bond to develop; this will lead to a more enjoyable riding experience.
Your horse will spend a lot of its time out in a paddock and it is important that these surroundings are perfect for the animal. The advantages of keeping an animal at pasture is that it is a more natural habitat for the horse which can also be shared with other horses, ponies or even donkeys.
The paddock should be secured by adequate and secure fencing. Horses will need a large area to graze and gallop at their own leisure. Its sensible to rotate the grazing areas by using different parts of the field as over time your horse can flatten down and destroy the grass in the field, rotating the area will allow other parts to recover.
A sheltered area in the field to protect your horse from severe weather is essential. The shelter will help protect the horse throughout the winter months from the winds and during the summer months will protect from the heat of the sun.
Your horse will also need to be watered while out at pasture so make sure that there is a constant supply of fresh, clean water. Ensure that during the summer months regular refills are made and make certain that during the winter months the water supply is checked frequently and break any ice that has formed to allow access to the water.
It is natural to keep a horse or pony at grass; however this is not always practical depending on the horse and its use. A stabled horse will always be readily available for riding and will need minimal grooming, however the horse can become bored and develop bad habits. Stabling a horse near others will make the animal feel more comfortable as they will be reassured by the sight and sounds of the other horses close by.
Ensure that the stable is large enough for your horse and that the door is sufficient for you and the horse to get through with enough room spare. The floor will need to be absorbent and not too slippery, if the floor is concrete then you need to ensure that there is adequate drainage and bedding within the stall.
Bedding will need to be placed in the stable for when your horse needs to sleep and rest. Straw is a popular choice; it's comfortable for the horse and absorbent. The horse may have a tendency to eat the straw, which can result in a 'hay belly', so dust free shavings are a good alternative. They are more absorbent and less odorous; some people argue that the advantage to using shavings is that they are easier to clean and the horse will not eat them.
Horses need plenty of fresh air so it is essential that your stable is well ventilated. Fresh water also needs to be available, the water holders should be cleaned and checked daily and cleaned intensively once a week.
It is crucial that the horses stable is kept clean; unclean stalls will attract insects and can encourage illness and disease. If the horse is stabled for 24 hours a day it is advisable to muck out the stable at least twice a day. Droppings and soiled bedding should be removed with a shovel and wheelbarrow and any remaining bedding should be levelled out with some fresh hay/shavings added. Ensure that all feed tubs and buckets are replenished and all toys are tidied away.
+ Watching out for hazards
It is essential to watch out for hazards within the pasture area as things such as dropped litter and stones can injure your horse. It is also important to check for poisonous plants within the pasture at least once a week. The following is a list of the most harmful plants that all horse owners should look out for:
- Deadly nightshade
- Oak leaves and acorns
- Meadow saffron
- Castor bean
- Star thistle
One of the most common causes of poisoning within horses is from ragwort, a common but toxic weed that grows throughout the British Isles. Ingestion of the pyrrolizidine alkaloid toxin contained in ragwort typically results in the delayed onset of chronic, progressive liver failure which in time leads to death. The symptoms of ragwort poisoning can include loss of appetite and constipation and in later stages can result in digestive disorders.
In 1959 the Weeds Act was created, which means that the Secretary of State may serve an enforcement notice on the occupier of the land on which ragwort is growing, meaning the occupier will need to take action to prevent the spread of the weed.
In 2004 the Ragwort Control Act was passed by Government which amended the Weeds Act. This new act gave further protection to horses and other animals from the fatal ingestion of ragwort. The code aims to promote good practice and good neighbourliness and therefore reduce significantly the risk posed by ragwort poisoning to horses and other animals.