Horses

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HORSES     

 

Majestic and beautiful - Evidence shows that horses have been domesticated for almost 4000 years. Domestication has meant a change in the role of the horse in society - from being hunted as a source of meat to becoming a provider of transport and being a working animal.

 

Horses are still revered in some cultures and play a large role in tales of heroic adventures and in the history of war.

Interestingly, despite domestication for thousands of years now, horses are able to revert to a "feral" state. All feral horses are of domestic types - they descend from ancestors that escaped from captivity.

 

As a responsible horse owner or handler you will need to keep yourself updated on horse care / equine information, to ensure your horse lives a long, happy and healthy life.

 

  1. What are the basics that a first time horse owner should consider?
  2. What should I feed my horse?
  3. What factors should I consider when choosing food for my horse?
  4. How do you clean out a horse stall?
  5. How important is dental care for my horse?
  6. Why do horses wear a fly mask or fly cap?
  7. What is the best way to transport my horse?
  8. What is a poll guard?
  9. What is unusual about horse vision?
  10. What is Laminitis?
  11. What is a farrier?

 

1. What are the basics that a first time horse owner should consider?


Horses like company and should ideally be able to graze with others during the day. Although horses will adapt to stable life, they will need exercising and activities to keep boredom away. Basic horse care involves providing shelter, exercise, daily feeding and watering and regular medical attention including vaccinations. You will need to consider where your horse will stay (on your own property or at boarding stalls), grooming, keep veterinarian and farrier costs in mind, horse riding gear and possibly training and horse riding lessons.

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2. What should I feed my horse?


Horses are grazing animals and are used to eating all day. Horses eat large quantities of hay and grass. Be careful not to feed too much hay with a high protein content, as it can lead to hoof problems (if your horse is getting a lot of protein and not enough exercise).

For horses who spend much of their time in stalls and are not grazing much: their natural feeding patterns can be replicated by keeping hay in front of them for most of the day. They can nibble at it for a while, take a break and then come back to it.

To achieve a balanced diet, a mix of grass, hay and alfalfa works well.

With grain, less is always more, so start with a minimal amount and adjust as necessary to find right balance of pasture, hay, and grain for your horse’s needs.

Horses should have a supply of fresh water and a salt or mineral lick should be provided.

Do not feed a horse directly before or after exercise as it can lead to discomfort and problems with digestion.

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3. What factors should I consider when choosing food for my horse?


Consider these factors when choosing feed:

  • If your mare is in foal, thake into account when her nutritional needs change for the developing foal
  • Is your horse too tired / full of energy after work
  • Is your horse underweight and/or struggling to build muscle
  • Is your horse prone to laminitis and other food-related issues
  • If fed more, does your horse gain weight / have an improvement in energy levels
  • Energy levels of your horse

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4. How do you clean out a horse stall?


Mucking out or cleaning a horse stall means removing soiled bedding. It is a very important part of daily stable management and keeps the stable smelling good and the horse healthy. Ideally remove the horse from the stall, remove any water and food to prevent contamination. Wearing gloves and gumboots, use a shavings fork and then pitchfork to remove and sift through the manure to separate the manure from the clean, dry shavings. Sweep and then clean the floor with a stable disinfectant. After the floor is dry return the clean bedding and add fresh bedding material to make up for the soiled amount which has been removed. Replace the water and feed bowls.

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5. How important is dental care for my horse?


Dental Care is very important for your horse. Food needs to be chewed properly to ensure that is is absorbed - your horses needs the correct minerals and vitamins to maintain good health and correct weight. Dental problems can manifest in other areas of the body - for example dental disease may show up as left hind lameness. Physical signs of dental problems may include: excess saliva, slowness in feeding, halitosis, swelling of the face or jaw, may be reluctant to take the bit, bleeding from the mouth, it may shake its head when being ridden, loss of physical condition or unchewed grain may be noticed in the manure.

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6. Why do horses wear a fly mask or fly cap?


A fly mask or fly cap is a mask used on horses to cover the eyes, jaw, and sometimes the ears and muzzle to protect from flies. The mask is semi-transparent and made from a mesh allowing the horse to see and hear while wearing it. The mask may also provide some protection from UV-light and some are treated with insect repellent. Fly and mosquito protection is an important part of overall horse care, as biting insects are both a source of irritation and also may transmit disease.

 

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7. What is the best way to transport my horse?


Transporting horses over long distances requires the right equipment and training. You need a trailer that is the right size and type for your horse. You will also need to know how to train your horse to enter and exit a trailer with minimal discomfort.

 

Practice the loading process. Once your horse is loading happily, move onto short trips.

 

Horses should wear protective travel clothing to protect them from injury and to keep them comfortable - this includes rugs or fleece for warmth if neccessary, travel boots or bandages, tail and poll guards and head collars.

 

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8. What is a poll guard?


A Poll Guard protects the horses poll area - this is located between the horse’s ears. The poll is the bony point where the spinal cord attaches to the skull.

This sensitive area is highly susceptible to injury, particularly when the horse is in a confined area with limited headroom, e.g. whilst travelling.

 

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9. What is unusual about horse vision?


Horses have excellent peripheral vision, but they also have two blindspots. The blindspots are behind the horses tail (three metres from the tail) and in the area about a metre directly in front of its nose. A Horse will raise or lower its head to look at objects in order to see them better and to focus. Horses do have impressive night vision, though they do not see colour as we do.

 

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10. What is Laminitis?


Laminitis is a disease that affects the feet of hooved animals and it is found mostly in horses and cattle. Clinical signs include foot tenderness progressing to inability to walk, increased digital pulses and increased temperature in the hooves.

 

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11. What is a farrier?


Farriers specialize in equine hoof care. Farriers maintain hooves by keeping them trimmed and clean. A farrier will remove old horse shoes, measure and fit new shoes.

 

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