Horses require routine care and management to remain healthy and productive. Daily care should include good feeding and watering practices, daily grooming and exercise, good foot care and proper sanitation. By providing good care, horsemen can minimize the costs of health care and maximize their enjoyment of their horses.
Providing daily feed and water is essential for a healthy horse. Lots of clean water should be available at all times. Horses will normally drink 10 to 20 gallons of water per day. Horses also need 5 to 10 pounds of grain and 10 to 20 pounds of hay per day to meet their nutrient requirements. Horses maintained on pasture will require less hay and grain. Horses should be fed according to their body condition. For example, a fat horse needs less feed, and a thin horse needs more feed.
Horses should be groomed daily to maintain a good hair coat and to minimize skin problems. Always brush your horse both with and against the lay of the hair to loosen the dirt and dandruff and bring out the natural oils in the skin. By brushing against the natural direction of the hair, the dirt and dandruff underneath the hair are loosened. Grooming also massages the hair coat and stimulates blood supply and releases the natural oil in the skin. The horse should be washed after exercise to remove sweat and dirt. Many skin problems are a result of poor grooming.
All horses need daily exercise to improve their mental and physical health. Horses that live in a closed environment have excess energy and may become nervous. Nervousness leads to stall vices. Inactive horses become dull, disinterested and may develop health problems. Research indicates horses will travel seven to 14 miles per day in a pasture. If your horse is stalled, you should exercise him 30 minutes per day to keep him in good condition. In young growing horses or out-of-shape horses, exercise should begin very slowly and increase over a two- to three-month period. Your horse will be much more enjoyable if he is in good condition and feels like trying to perform for you.
Regular foot care is needed to maintain a sound horse. The feet should be cleaned daily and trimmed or reshod every six to eight weeks. The inner part of the foot, which is called the frog, must be in contact with the ground. The frog is largely responsible for pumping blood out of the foot and the maintenance of a healthy foot. Feet that become too dry and brittle will crack and cause lameness. Additionally, excess moisture will break down the outer covering of the foot and can cause cracks and lameness. Daily cleaning and care can alleviate most of these problems.
Daily cleaning of the horse's environment will reduce insect populations and reduce skin and foot problems. Horsemen should clean stalls daily to remove feces and wet bedding. At least once a month stalls should be cleaned to ground level and lime or disinfectant should be sprinkled on the ground to kill bacteria. Manure should be stockpiled and composted for two to three months to kill parasite eggs.
All horses should be vaccinated for contagious diseases and dewormed regularly. By providing good health care and good daily management, horsemen will have many years of enjoyment from their horses.
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