Horses have needs which as a horse owner, you are responsible for providing. You must provide food, water and shelter. Those are the basic minimums.
It’s common for new horse owners to either over feed or under feed. Some will put a horse solely on pasture and expect the horse to graze and get all his nutrition from that. Others will give grain or other concentrates several times a day.
How do you know if you’re feeding enough or too much? Check the horse’s condition. If you can’t feel its ribs or spine when you press with your finger, or if it has thick pads of fat or a large round body, you’re overfeeding. If you can see its ribs or if its hip bones are protruding, you need to feed more.
The nutritional requirements of horses vary with age and activity. The majority of a horse’s food should be roughage, either grazing or hay. If you have a horse who only gets ridden once or twice a week, don’t give a daily ration of oats. Your horse will get fat and could become unmanageable. It is possible that no additional feed other than grazing will be needed to keep your horse in good condition.
Horses need fresh, clean water available. Horses can drink up to 10 gallons of water a day and will refuse to drink dirty water. Water troughs or buckets will need to be cleaned often. In the winter, you will need to make sure that the water isn’t frozen.
There are times to limit his water. During a long ride, allow your horse to drink small amounts of water often. After exercising, cool him down before allowing him access to water, especially if the water is cold.
When you keep a horse on pasture, he needs a place to get out of the weather. It can be a simple three sided shelter or access to a barn. Many times a horse will graze in the rain but needs access to shelter so that when he wants to get out of the rain, snow or the sun, he has a place to go.
Horses have other needs as well. Horses are herd animals. They need companionship. If you keep just one horse, try to get it a companion. Sheep, goats, cattle, a miniature horse or even a cat in the barn can be good companions. On my parents’ farm, they had sheep and a cow. Their neighbor had a horse and goats. The neighbor’s horse ignored their goats and made friends with my parents’ cow. The horse and cow would stand together on opposite sides of the fence for hours. They would groom one another over the fence.
In addition to meeting your horse’s need for food, water, shelter and companionship, you need to provide basic care such as farrier and veterinarian care. The farrier will need to visit every 6 to 8 weeks to shoe your horse. You will need to arrange for a veterinarian to visit for inoculations and other routine care. Some routine care such as worming, you will be able to do by yourself with consultation with your veterinarian. Those are things that will need to be scheduled because they are not daily needs.