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A Beginners Guide to Horse-care

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Owning a horse can be an incredibly rewarding and fun experience, but it comes with responsibility. A lot of care needs to be taken when choosing a horse, especially when it is the first time one is being bought. It is easy to get excited and carried away by color, size or temperament of a horse and regret their decisions later.

Take time, look around at all the possibilities. Spend time with him/her and get to know the personality of the horse. Once you break in and start a relationship, the whole impression of a horse change, and often it is clear which one is the right choice.

Photo credit: thehorsepedia.com
Things to consider when buying a horse:

• It is generally better for a first time owner to start with an older horse, as a young horse will require a lot more training and can be more difficult to handle

• Heaver riders need larger, sturdier horses, and short riders might consider ponies or other small breeds

• Look for a clean and healthy coat, signs of sores and swelling and clear, clean eyes

• A beginner would do well to take the honest opinion of a trainer, concerning the riders skill level and horse compatibility

• A horse that stands still for inspection is a good sign and a good candidate for a beginner

• Ask for the whole history of the horse and if anything sounds doubtful, consult with a veterinarian

• While spending time with the horse, watch for signs of lameness or bad behaviour

• When the right horse has been found, make another appointment and take someone more experienced, so it can be made sure nothing is over looked

• Make sure the horse has had all necessary vaccinations, continue to give them as needed

Photo credit: equinejustice.org
Relationship and Trust

Spending time with the horse is the best way to cultivate trust and develop a bond. It is best to not rush this important phase of building a relationship, as it is fundamental to the future happiness and fun that can be received from the horse as well as given.

To start with, provide consistency and routine with food, water, shelter and grooming. Grooming is a great time to bond, as it can feel as good for the horse as it is pleasurable for the owner. When grooming, be sure to start with techniques that the horse already knows and add, or change, things slowly as the relationship and confidence increases.

The most important thing around a horse is calmness and rhythm. Whether walking, talking, brushing, saddling the horse or swinging a rope, it should always be done with a calm and steady rhythm. Horses will perceive any excitement, or surprises, as a threat.

Maintaining a Clean Environment in the Stable

Horses need space and light in their stables, as they are not happy spending too much time in the dark. It is vital that the stable is kept clean, in order to prevent mildew and bacteria and not let it become a heaven for parasites. All of which could lead to serious illness and infection for the horse.

A stable that is about 400 square feet per horse is a good size. Important requirements for a stable to ensure the horse stays healthy are:

• A good drainage system so the faeces and urine can easily be removed

• Well ventilated; fresh air will help reduce dust mites and mildew

• Clean bedding, there is now a variety of bedding form which to choose

If a horse is not comfortable and happy in its stable, then it will never settle down and get the rest it needs. This means a grumpy horse that will not heed to any training, and a lot of frustration for the owner. If horse and owner are unhappy, it is a recipe for disappointment and a long struggle, so it is essential that the horse’s basic comforts and needs are met.

Photo credit: equinesaltlicks.com

Horses are essentially grazing animals, so the bulk of their food should be hay and forage. As long as it is good quality, it is enough to maintain their nutritional needs, and supplements may only need to be given occasionally. A horse eats about two to four per cent of its body weight every day. This can increase in winter.

It is also vital that the horse has access to clean water at a comfortable temperature at all times. A healthy mature horse can drink up to 12 gallons a day. Adequate water intake is necessary for their digestive system.

A horse also needs salt in its diet; either by having a salt block to lick on, or fed loose white salt. This is just as important in hot climates as it is during winter.

Hayley works at Anything Equine, In her spare time she writes helpful advice and tips for beginner riders on a range of topics including equestrian health conditions and pasture management. 

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