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How To Care For A Horse (If You Really Want To!)

Apr 11, 2008
Everyone remembers the "Simpsons" episode in which beleaguered Homer - not yet the walking punchline he was to become in later seasons - works himself nearly to death, taking second shifts at the Kwik-E-Mart with Apu, in order to afford a pony for young Lisa.

All ends well for the Simpsons, but the care and feeding of horses really isn't light work.
First of all, there's the question of lodging. After all, your new Thoroughbred race horse isn't exactly going to fit in the closet. Horses require shelter from rain and wind, such as a barn, stable or shed; this is especially true if you're keeping the horse's hair short (for show), in which case you may also need a horse blanket. In pleasant, sunny weather, your horse needs shade. Your horse also needs, year-round, grazing land - usually between 1-3 acres of pasture per animal fills the bill. And there's the all-important exercise grounds (keeping a horse cooped up 24-7-365 is just cruel).

Most Americans horse owners, not having access to these things, rent a space for their horses at a boarding stable. These, of course, are not cheap - and some horses, especially stallions, aren't best kept in such social environments anyway, as they will tend to fight with other animals.

Even if you live in a temperate climate and keep your horse out to pasture most of the time, she or he needs a place to shelter from the rain, as the insulating coat of hair doesn't work nearly as well when it's wet.

If you can keep you horse on grounds of your own, make sure, when feeding the horse, watch out for laminitis, a debilitating condition that can come from eating the lush, quick-growing early-spring and fall grass (such grass is high in fructans and other non-structural carbohydrates). Similarly, if you're lucky enough to be able to rely on a natural nearby water source, check every day to make sure the stream hasn't dried up, gone stagnant or developed blue-green algae (lethal to horses).

Finally, be careful in selecting fencing materials. Wire is a terrible choice for small pens (they'll run into it); that goes double for barbed wire, which is condemned in almost every horse management book (but widely used in the Western US). If you do use wire, use it in a larger pen (where the horse won't constantly be coming into contact with fencing), use a smooth and clearly visible wire (perhaps a heavy woven mesh with closely spaced strands), keep openings between strips too small for a hoof to fit through, and maintain your wire fence carefully.

To help with the visibility issue, as well as the durability of the fence, you might consider using a wood top player (no chance of trampling that down). Wood or synthetic-wood fences make a somewhat more expensive, but correspondingly better, more durable choice.

Horses need to eat 1.5-2.5 % of their body weight in food every day. The most common sources for filling this heavy nutritional need are grass, hay, grain, and pellets sold commercially. Again, keeping your horse fed is not cheap.

Horses' coats should be groomed every day, ideally; in the real world, you should at least groom your horse before every ride to prevent chafing (for the horse, not you). A grooming regime includes the following elements: A round, short-toothed tool called a curry, used to loosen detritus from the horse's coat and generate cleansing natural oils; a stiff-bristled dandy brush which cleans the larger materials stirred up by the curry; a soft-bristled body brush used for dust; a mane brush (usually wide-toothed; some people simply use a human hairbrush for this part); a hoof pick for cleaning the horse's feet and preventing injury; fly spray, which needs no explanation; a metal or plastic tool, the sweat scraper, for, well, scraping away sweat; and scissors or clippers to keep certain areas short-maned (these include the "bridle path" behind the ears so that the bridle lays flat, and fetlocks).

You're probably wondering how to bathe a horse? (Or perhaps you're wondering why anyone goes to all this trouble, even for an animal as beautiful as the horse?) This task can be done with a simple garden hose and human shampoo (though horse shampoo is available for the punctilious); however, many horses, under conditions of normal wear and tear, never need a bath. No, I'm not kidding.
About the Author
TRP Services offers Thoroughbred horse racing and horse racing tips online for horse racing handicapping and those who love thoroughbred horses for the horse racing tracks.
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