Horse Care / Horse Husbandry
Horse Husbandry is a rarely heard phrase these days. Horse care, horse health, horse nutrition, horse supplements, horse feed, horse tack, horse blankets (ad infinitum) are words or phrases you are more likely to come across as the market tries to sell you its individual products.
The phrase "Horse Husbandry" needs a revival to remind us that, for physical and mental health we have to look at everything as a whole - The Whole Horse Protocol
Presuming you are a competent rider with some years of experience with horses before even considering purchasing a horse, or you wisely are going to keep the horse liveried in a knowledgeable stables, have you considered what use exactly you expect from your future equine companion, be it to compete (and in which discipline) or just the occasional trek, and therefore considered your own physical condition and that you are ´up to the job´. Now, you know to take a vet with you before making your final decision, if not also a knowledgeable horse friend as well? Choosing the right horse for your needs is a whole other subject! There is an old Irish saying "when selling a horse you only need one pair of eyes to see the customers face when you point out all the good things. When purchasing you need 3 sets of eyes, one listening, one looking, and one checking from behind"!!
If you are going to keep your horse on your premises there are many things you need to consider. FENCING - is it strong, adequate. Is it safe for the horse. Old (or new) barbed wire or thin hot wire is not. There are many safe options on the market. Personally we have concrete posts (we have a huge fire risk here) with wood bars (yes they could burn but they aren´t as expensive to replace!) and on the inside of this fence, in front of the wood bars I have a run of 6mm hot-rope. Horses can be prone to chew wood. WATER - your horse needs a plentiful fresh and constant supply. A horse can drink around 40 liters (10 gallons) of water a day. So you need to think how you will provide that supply. Is there water on site or will you have to bring it in buckets? Which brings me to another very important consideration - how prepared are you to be there for your horse? I mean, you can´t go off for a weeks vacation if your horse relies on you for its feed and water. You can´t even go away for a weekend if you have no assistance to help look after your horse. You also need to think what will happen if you fall ill! Having a horse is a huge responsibility. A dog can so easily be put in kennels. A horse can´t!
The next subject is SHELTER. Now you know I would prefer to see your horse living out, with a good, solid field shelter to fend off winter rain, summer sun and high winds, but if you want to stable your horse do your research. Make sure it is the right size for your horse, with a high airy ceiling, proper ventilation, electricity, running water. Consider the bedding options and the fact that you must muck out at least once a day. Where are you going to keep your muck heap? A horse produces 9 tonnes of manure a year! Depending on the set up and size, your paddock will need to be cleaned at least once a week as well.
My stables are solid wood to half height, with round galvanised posts for the top half (the horses can see each other and touch noses). The floors have rubber matting which requires only a thin coat of wood shavings to stop the ´splash back´ and absorb liquid. The matting provides the comfort and the shavings are cleaned out completely every day. Much quicker than mucking out a straw or shaving filled stall, much more hygienic and much more comfortable for the horse. After the initial cost of the matting it is also much cheaper as far less loose bedding is required. My stalls also have automatic water troughs and the barn has an over head micro spray system. This keeps the temperatures right down in the summer and completely eliminates flies. So I also save on sprays and gels!
HORSE FEED - Forage feed is the bulk of a horses diet. A horse needs to eat approximately 2 to 2.5% of it´s body weight each day and at least 85% of this should be in the form of grass, hay or haylage. You need to calculate your horses weight to calculate the amount of feed, which again will need to be adjusted depending on the amount of work and age of your horse, along with any special dietary needs. It doesn´t need to be as complicated as it sounds. A good feed supplier will help you with this information, along with your veterinarian (you have found yourself a good horse vet?) and your knowledgeable friends.
HORSE FEED - what again? This not a repetition of the above, I just thought the following needed its own space; Don´t be taken in by fancy sweet smelling mixes of grain, or hard feed as it is also known. All feeds should now come labeled with not only the ingredients, but their nutritional value and a sell by date. Just a nutritional value label is not sufficient if the ingredients may contain something your horse can´t tolerate. You need to know it all.
If it comes in sacks of 40 kilos, or is not in any way cooked/laminated/micronised you are feeding your horse at the very least badly, at worst ulcers and possible colics. - you know the saying buy cheap, pay twice! If you change your horses feed it is a process that should be done slowly, mixing the new feed with the old, gradually increasing the quantity of new to old.
Please remember that hard feed should be considered a supplement. Forage being the principal need of a horses diets and grain being only necessary to supplement any minerals or vitamins lacking in their hay and relevant to the work and age of a horse. Of course more important still is a constant supply of water.
If you keep your horse at a yard - Are the staff actual horse-friendly grooms, or just cheap ´mucker-outers´? This makes a huge difference as to how your horse is handled. Is the yard on its own property or rented? I´ve heard, once to often, of people turning up to see their horse only to find it abandoned as the staff have left, or people being given very short notice to find a new place for their mount due to the management having to give up their lease. I don´t want to alarm you, just make you aware that question´s should be asked.
If they offer turnout for your livered horse ask to see where. Turn up unannounced (within reasonable business hours!) to see if the stalls are just as clean as when you arrived at a pre-arranged time. Ask exactly what is included in the price. Be prepared to tie your horses worming schedule in with theirs. A good yard will have a schedule and require this. This will also follow for annual vaccinations. Be clear on what food your horse will received and how often. Common sense for the most part, but we often forget at the hour of truth what we really want information about, so if you´re like me - make a list! A professional yard will give you a contract and expect a deposit.
GROOMING - Please remember this is what I do and not necessarily what is correct. I don´t groom my horses everyday as they live out and need the layer of dust or mud that they have put on themselves to protect them from heat, sunburn or cold. That is exactly what they would do in the wild. But what I do do is give my horses a good scratch every day! This accomplishes various things. First it is quality time with my horses, letting them know that I don´t always want something of them (schooling, riding, competing) when I go to their paddock. It helps our relationship of mutual respect and trust. Secondly, without them realising I am schooling them - as I scratch a rump I get them to yield, as I caress a shoulder I get them to turn. Finally, and most importantly, I can check for any bites, cuts, scratches or tender spots via this process, just as you should do when you groom with a brush. Grooming before riding I do in this order.
1st I check hooves and pick or brush as necessary.
2nd I brush the mane and tail with my fingers. Why? Because all and every kind of mane brush (though I have found a rather fabulous one at last!) pulls hair and puts stress on the roots. Fingers are more than efficient and sufficient for daily riding. I do use a brush before a competition, after my fingers!.
3rd I use a plastic curry comb to loosen and bring to the surface all loose dirt on the body etc. Always brushing in a circular motion in the direction the coat grows starting at the neck, working down the shoulder and front leg, then the body working towards the rump and finally the back leg.
4th using a soft brush and a metal curry comb again starting at the neck I brush the horse twice, the curry comb once (so I´m not putting the dust and debris back on the horse). This is then repeated until the whole body is done. I only ever use a metal curry comb on a horse if he has a thick winter coat and a lot of mud caked on it.
The reason I brush the body last is it is also a process of warming the muscles in preparation for exercise.
FIRST AID - The most important thing in this box is the phone number of not one, but two vets. You never know one might be on holiday, or ill themselves, when you have an emergency.
I always carry a thermometer (a digital one from the pharmacy), a few doses of anti-inflammatory, an antiseptic ointment (Furacin), some sterile gauzes (20 cm´s wide, you can always fold or cut smaller), a couple of rolls of self-adhesive wrap (10cm´s wide), hydrogen peroxide, iodine (provedone, betadene), scissors, a gel bag kept in the freezer, an industrial sized roll of cotton wrap, electrolytes, latex gloves, tweezers, and Camrosa (we love this magic ointment).
If you can´t deal with the problem with these items it´s because you need to call the vet.
A very good reason why pasture management is so important. That means regular manure picking, checking water supply is clean and rotating pasture´s whenever possible.
Another reason why worming is so important. I don´t mean the administering of anti-parasite pastes or powders. I mean controlling them by first doing a count to see if you need to worm and if so, correctly administering the product. Not all products are suitable for all weights and ages or for pregnant mares.
This foal was wormed, but this caused an impact in his intestines which looked, and found, the weakest point to escape - the umbilical cord. Yes, sadly he died. This owner was being careful and thought they were doing the right thing - but didn´t do a worm count before administering a chemical into his system.
Oh, and if your vet wants to use an injectable wormer on your horse. Send him or her packing off the property! They have been removed from use since about 1988 with good reason. The injection will kill your horse if it has worms.
Horse Facts & Interesting Horse Trivia
Did you know............ FACTS
A horse can live up to 40 years of age, or more, though it´s average lifespan is 20-25 years. But many horses in captivity only live to age 8!
The oldest recorded horse was Old Billy, who lived to age 62. He was a barge horse on the English Canals.
This darling Thorougbred is Shane. Currently, in 2012, he is celebrating his 51st year and a very active retirement, happily at his home in the UK.
There are about 75 million horses in the world.
The horse belongs to the "Equus" family which comes from the ancient Greek word meaning "quickness".
One of the first horses was called a Eophippus. It lived about 60 million years ago and was as tall as a fox. It had toes!
6 million years ago this ´horse´ had developed into the single toed Pliohippus that is the basis of todays Equus Domesticus.
Hippophobia and Equinophobia means a fear of horses.
There are over 350 different breeds of horses and ponies.
All horses, including zebras, belong to the genus Equus.
The horse was the last primary animal to be domesticated.
A horse has two ´blind spots´. One directly in front of them and the other directly behind them.
Most of the time, a horse has "monocular" vision. This means a different image is seen by each eye so that a horse is seeing two different pictures at the same time. A horse can also have "binocular" vision. Binocular vision is when both eyes work together to see one picture (humans have binocular vision). A horse only has binocular vision when it is looking down its nose.
A horse´s heart weighs about 4.5 kilos.
The average horses head weighs about 5.3 kilos.
Horses can not breath through their mouths.
Horses can not vomit.
A horse has approximately 205 bones.
Arabians have one less rib, one less lumbar bone and one or two fewer tail vertebrae than other horses.
A healthy adult horse should have a pulse between 36 and 40 beats per minute while at rest. (Adult respiratory rate is 8-16 breaths per minute)
A horse sleeps 2 and 1/2 to 3 hours a day.
Horses lie down only about 43.5 minutes a day.
Horses sleep longer in summer than in the winter.
The horse is a herbivorous mammal. It has a small stomach for its size and needs to eat little and often.
In the wild a horse will graze up to 16 hours a day.
Horses have a prehensile upper lip. Prehensile means "adapted for seizing, grasping, or taking hold of something." Their upper lips are very sensitive and capable of feeling the smallest of differences in objects.
No two horses are identical.
A foal is a baby horse.
A yearling is a foal after its first birthday.
A colt is a young male horse.
A filly is a young female horse.
A stallion is a male horse, when it turns 4 years old.
A mare is a female horse, when it turns 4 years old.
A sire is the word for the father of a horse.
A dam is the word for the mother of a horse.
A mare is pregnant, "in foal", for 11 months. Most mares give birth in the spring and under the protective cover of darkness.
Traditionally a horse was measured in hands. A hand being 4 inches (or 10 cms).
The World's Largest Horse was a Shire gelding named Samson, bred by Thomas Cleaver of Toddington Mills, England. Foaled in 1846, this horse measured 21.2 1/2 hand high (2 m 17.5 cm) in 1850, and weighed 3,360 pounds (1522 kilos).
Adult female horses usually have 35 teeth. Not including wolf teeth, which are usually just found on the upper jaw and are vestigial, meaning through evolution have lost most or all of their function.
Adult male horses usually have 40 to 44 teeth. Again not including wolf teeth.
You can get a good idea of the age of a horse by looking at its teeth up to about aged 10.
Foals are born with milk teeth which they loose between 3 and 5 years of age, being replaced by permanent teeth.
Horses can be either the same colour all over (whole colours) or a mixture of colours (broken colours). There are thousands of different colour combinations for horses. The most commonly recognized whole colours are - bay, black, brown, chestnut, dun, cream, palomino, or grey. The broken colours include piebald (often called pinto), skewbald (also known as paint horses), roan and spotted (Appaloosa) horses.
Horses make 8 basic sounds- snort, squeal, greeting nicker, courtship nicker, maternal nicker, neigh, roar, blow.
A horses hoof grows on average 1 cm per month. The diet and exercise of a horse can be a great determining factor in this growth. The more a horse moves the more its hooves grow. Did you know................ TRIVIA
If a statue in the park of a person on a horse has both front legs in the air, the person died in battle; if the horse has one front leg in the air, the person died as a result of wounds received in battle; if the horse has all four legs on the ground, the person died of natural causes.
In the old black and white films, when the script said that a horse was to be shot, they really did the shooting on screen!
The fastest Pony Express ride was 7 days, 17 hours and was carrying Lincoln's inaugural address.
China not only has the most people in the world, but also has the most Horses with 10,000,000.
With his long limbs and large heart and lungs, the horse is designed for galloping. Jumping is not a natural activity for horses and left to their own devices most will go around obstructions. The British racehorse Humorist, who won the English Derby in the early 20´s, should never have been able to race. When he died shortly after the derby, an autopsy was made, and it was found out that he had been born with only one lung.
The only horse to defeat the great race horse Man'O War was named 'Upset'.
The world speed record for a horse is 69.52 kilometers per hour (43.2 mph), it was set by a four year old race horse named Big Racket.
The longest tail measured was 6.6 meters long was grown by an American Palomino named Chinook.
The longest mane was 5.4 meters long and grown by a Californian mare named Maude.
The smallest breed is the Falebella of Argentina. The tallest of the breed stands about 74cm (30 inches) at the shoulder.
The smallest pony in history was a stallion named "Little Pumpkin." He stood 35cm (14 inches) and weighed only 9 kilos!
The oldest horse ever to give birth was a 42 year old Australian brood mare.
Rabbits are not rodents. They are lagomorphs, and are more closely related to horses than they are to rats or mice.
According to superstition in Lincolnshire, England, if you see a white dog, you should stay silent until you see a white horse.