Horses have been helpful companions of humans for quite some time: in battle, on the road, at work and at play. Regardless of their “profession,” all horses require the same basic care.
All horses need protection from outdoor elements, whether it is a stall in a barn or a run-in shelter in a pasture. Straw or wood shavings should cover the floor, even those equipped with rubber matting, to serve as bedding for comfort and warmth. Clean bedding is also essential for healthy hooves, so the stall will need frequent cleanings, depending on how much time the horse spends in it.
The average horse will eat, per day, up to five pounds of grain, 20 pounds of hay, and drink up to 12 gallons of water. Where fresh grass is available, the hay requirements lessen. Many varieties of grain and hay are available to meet special nutritional requirements. Treats such as apples and carrots are not only fun to give, but they are healthy snacks that horses love.
Medical treatment is a necessity. Horses will need to have a veterinary checkup, including vaccinations, at least once a year (preferably twice.) Required vaccinations will vary depending on what the horse is used for, the environment it lives in, and where it will be traveling. Horses also need de-worming approximately every eight to 12 weeks, once again, depending on its environment. Some areas are more prone to different types of bacteria and parasites. Horses should have their teeth floated (filed evenly) as needed to help them chew. Frequency of treatment will depend on age and diet.
Horses spend a lot of time on their feet. Hooves need trimming and possibly shoeing every 4 to 6 weeks. The type of shoes needed, if any, depends on footing conditions and performance needs. A blacksmith can give any recommendations for special shoes or treatments.
Daily grooming and hoof cleaning is not just important, but a fun way to bond with a horse. Essentials include a hoof pick, curry comb, body and dandy brush, mane and tail comb and fly spray. Cleaning out the hooves daily will remove any foreign objects and identify any loose shoes, which will prevent injury and lameness.
Caring for a horse is a lot of work, but worth the effort. Your reward will be a happy, healthy horse that cares a whole lot for you.