You are thinking of buying your first horse, but you need to know how and what is required to raise your horse before bringing your horse home. This article will cover all the basics that you need to know how to raise a horse successfully step by step.
Raising a horse includes feeding, cleaning, caring, watching your horse 365 days a year. These are some requirements you would need to raise a horse successfully, a stable for your horse to sleep in, a sizable paddock for grazing and outside exercise, food and fresh water, farrier services, and veterinary care.
Here we will discuss everything you need to know about caring for and raising your horse at home. Before we go into the finer details of horse care, let’s look at the essential basics you need at the ready for your horse before you can bring your horse home.
Living Environments for your Horse
Raising a happy, healthy horse at home is by providing the best possible safe and natural environment for your horse.
You should provide your horse with a stall or stable to sleep in at night. A safe, warm, and dry stable or stall to stay in on cold rainy winter days. You should place comfortable bedding on the stable floor. Horses lay down at night to sleep.
Dust-free wood shavings or straw are excellent bedding for your horse’s stable floor. Your horse’s stable needs daily cleaning. You need to remove any manure and soiled bedding every day. Refresh the bedding daily and spread it evenly over the stable floor.
An outside fenced paddock for pasture grazing and outdoor exercise
Your horse will need an outside fenced paddock with access to pasture grass for grazing and daily outdoor exercise to stretch his legs. For one horse, the adequate size of a paddock should be at least two acres.
Your outside paddock should also include a three-sided box shelter for your horse that will provide him protection from the elements. This is particularly important in the summertime when the sun can be scorching, giving him a place to shield from the blazing sun.
The box shelter should also have a waterproof roof for when it rains and be high enough for your horse to stand in comfortably without bumping his head on the roof. Remove any manure from the box stall every day.
For a more in-depth look, read more on horse living environments.
Feeding Your Horse
Before you bring your horse home, you need to have food ready for his arrival. Feeding a high-quality hay and grain diet to your horse is essential in raising your horse at home.
Grass and hay are the staple feed for a horse, so give your horse plenty of hay and allow plenty of access to pasture grass. A horse should eat one or two percent of its body weight of roughage each day.
It is important to know how much your horse weighs. A horse of 500 kilograms would need 7 kilograms of hay per day and 3 kilograms of mixed grains.
If you have adequate grazing in your paddock and your horse spends a reasonable amount of time grazing, you can reduce the amount of hay. Feed your horse good quality hay like alfalfa hay.
Make sure the hay is mold and dust-free. Some common types of hay suitable for feeding your horse are timothy, alfalfa, clover, and fescue.
Your horse should have enough hay or grass to eat through the day. The average-sized horse should eat two to four percent of his body weight in hay per day.
Mixed grains are another component of a horse’s diet and should be fed to your horse in small quantities at a time. Do not feed too much grain feed to your horse.
A high carbohydrate grain diet can cause some health problems to your horse. An excellent example of grain feed includes wheat bran, oats, and ground ear corn.
Never feed your horse before or after exercise. You should wait an hour after feeding your horse before riding your horse. If you are planning to do strenuous exercise with your horse, waiting for 3 hours is recommended.
For a more in-depth look, read more on feeding your horse.
Water for your horse
Horses need to consume a lot of water to keep their large bodies functioning correctly. A horse needs to drink 5 to 10 gallons of water per day.
Exercise, hot weather, humidity, sweating, a higher intake of hay, and pregnancy will all increase your horse’s water intake up to three times the average intake. Make sure your horse always has access to clean, fresh drinking water all day and night.
When your horse doesn’t drink enough water, it increases the risk of impaction colic, and extended periods without water can even result in kidney failure, brain damage, or organ failure.
Check your water bucket levels throughout the day and refill them if needed. You should always clean your horse’s water buckets regularly.
Grooming Your Horse
You need to purchase grooming items to groom your horse. Grooming is an integral part of horse care. Your horse needs daily grooming to keep his coat clean.
Grooming also allows you to check your horse’s body for injuries and any abnormalities like lumps and bumps. Groom your horse at least once a day before or after riding.
Grooming removes dust and loose hair from your horse’s coat, leaving it shiny and clean. Using a mane and tail comb, you can brush out your horse’s mane and tail to help detangle it.
Here is a list of items you need in your grooming kit:
- Dandy brush. Dandy brushes have stiff bristles that are good for getting rid of dust and grime.
- Body brush. Body brushes have soft bristles and are used to brush over your horse’s body.
- Curry comb. Curry combs are made from rubber. They are used in a circular motion to loosen hair and grime off your horse.
- Tail and mane combs. Mane and tail combs are usually made of stainless steel and are wide-toothed combs made to easily glide through the mane and tail.
- Hoof pick. A hoof pick is used to clean your horse’s hooves. A hoof pick is made of steel that allows you to pick muck and small stones from your horse’s hooves. Your horse’s hooves need daily cleaning.
- Clean towel. A towel is used for a final wipe down from your horse after grooming.
- Water or sweat scraper. A water scraper is used to scrape water or sweat from your horse’s body. If you wash your horse with water, they are ideal for removing excess water from your horse’s coat. Water scarpers made with rubber at a rounded angle can fit and glide over your horse’s body.
- Fly repellent. When flies are abundant during the summer months, it is preferred to use a fly spray on your horse’s coat to keep pesty-biting flies away. There are many options of fly sprays available on the market. Citronella fly spray is a favorite.
- Mane and tail detangler. A valuable item to have in your grooming box is a tail and mane detangling conditioner when showering your horse. It can be applied to your horse’s wet tail and mane and helps to brush out the knots a lot easier.
- Grooming box or bag. Keep all your grooming supplies neatly organized in a handy grooming plastic container box or bag. Brushes should be washed and cleaned regularly to prolong their life.
How to groom your horse
When you start to groom, your horse starts grooming him the same way every day. Most horse owners like to start from the head and work their way to the back and tail. It is your choice which part you want to groom first. Always be gentle when grooming your horse.
- Starting with your horse’s head. Use a soft brush to brush hair and dirt off his face gently. Take care not to hit or bang the wooden part of the brush on any portion of your horse’s head. That will hurt and make him reluctant to stand still next time you want to brush his face. Gently brush his face, ears, and chin.
- Use the curry comb in circular motions to loosen hair, dust, and grime off your horse’s body. Be careful on sensitive parts of your horse’s body like the stomach and flanks. It might tickle, and you might get a reaction from your horse. Don’t apply too much pressure there. Once you have loosened, the hair and dirt change to the dandy brush.
- With the dandy brush, remove all the loosened hair you just loosened with the curry comb and start to brush the hair and grime off vigorously. Make sure to brush your horse’s legs too. Start from the front to the back of your horse, always brushing in the direction the hair grows. Don’t brush against the grain.
- Use the soft body brush after you used the stiff-bristled dandy brush. Softly and gently brush over your horse’s whole body removing any fine dust.
- Using the towel, gently wipe over your horse’s body to remove the final bits of dust. Be gentle and make slow, gentle movements around your horse’s face so as not to scare him with the towel.
- Lift up your horse’s hooves one by one, and with the hoof, pick flick out any stuck sand, manure, or stones. Always flick from the top downwards to remove any dirt from your horse’s hooves.
- Always pay attention to your horse while you are grooming him. Look for sensitive areas and your horse’s body language. An alert owner will quickly pick up on any abnormalities and painful regions before they become a problem.
For a more in-depth look, read more on grooming your horse.
Hoof Care and Shoeing
Your horse’s feet need care, too, and your horse will need to see a farrier every four to six weeks to trim and shoe your horse’s hooves. A farrier visit should be scheduled regularly to keep your horse’s hooves in good condition. A farrier will trim your horse’s hooves and keep them in the correct shape.
The farrier service costs depend on if your horse is just having a trim or having shoes fitted to his hooves. Shoeing a horse is more expensive than just having a trim every six weeks.
If you decide to compete with your horse in shows and events, you might want to shoe your horse to protect his hooves from wear and tear.
There are vitamin supplements for horses available on the market that you can add to your horse’s feed to maintain good hoof health.
For a more in-depth look, read more on hoof care and shoeing for your horse.
Horse Diseases and Conditions
The most common contagious horse diseases that horses can get are:
- Equine Encephalomyelitis (Sleeping Sickness)
- Equine Herpesvirus (EHV)/Rhinopneumonitis
- Equine Influenza (Flu)
- Equine Piroplasmosis
- Equine Protozoal Myeloencephalitis (EPM)
- Equine Viral Arteritis (EVA)
- Potomac Horse Fever (PHF)
- Rhodococcus equi
- Streptococcus equi (Strangles)
- Tetanus (Lockjaw)
- West Nile Virus
Some of the most comment horse ailments are:
- Skin conditions
- Rain Scald (Rain Rot)
- Mud Fever
- Sweet Itch
- Cracked Heals
- Respiratory conditions
- Common Cold
Other common ailments include:
- Painful Back
Read more for a complete guide on horse diseases and ailments.
Veterinary Care For Your Horse
All horses need regular veterinary checkups and care, and while you are raising your horse at home, you still have to provide that care. Schedule a veterinary visit for your veterinarian to give your horse an overall health check.
Your horse will need yearly vaccinations and regular deworming. Once a year, your veterinarian needs to give your horse his vaccinations against known horse diseases.
Your horse needs to be vaccinated annually against Strangles, Eastern and Western Encephalitis, Tetanus, West Nile Virus, Venezuelan Encephalitis, Rabies, Influenza, and Rhinopneumonitis.
A Rhinopneumonitis and Influenza booster should be given every six months.
Your horse’s vital signs
Knowing your horse’s vital signs is essential and helpful if you need to call your veterinarian out for any health issues. Your veterinarian might ask you some questions over the phone, and being able to give him your horse’s vital signs will help your veterinarian assess the situation. The normal vital signs of a healthy horse are;
- Heart rate 38 to 44 beats per minute.
- Rectal temperature 37 – 38.5 C
- Breathing rate 12 to 22 breaths per minute.
- Your horse’s gums should be moist and light pink and, when pressed, should have a capillary refill time of fewer than 2 seconds.
- You should hear sounds of the intestines on both sides of the horse’s abdomen.
- Your horse should pass 6 – 10 manure passing’s in 24 hours.
- Urination should take place 3 – 4 times in 24 hours.
- In 24 hours, a 500-kilogram horse should drink 20 – 25 liters of water.
How to calculate your horse’s weight
Knowing your horse’s approximate weight is important to calculate the correct amount of feed for your horse. You also need to know your horse’s weight so that you can give the right dose of worming or any other medication that can be given to your horse.
If you do not have a livestock scale to weigh your horse, you can calculate your horse’s approximate weight using a standard tape measure in inches. Use this tape measure to measure your horse’s heart girth (from your horse’s withers down and around his belly) and body length.
Measuring heart girth
To measure the heart girth of your horse, measure in inches from the base of your horse withers down to a couple of inches behind your horse’s front legs under your horse’s belly and then under and up to the other side to where you started.
Note your tape measure will run at an angle. The measurement you arrive at is your horse’s heart girth.
Measuring body length
To measure the body length of your horse, measure in inches from the point of your horse’s shoulder to the point of your horse’s rump. Note your tape measure will run at an angle. The measurement you arrive at is your horse’s body length.
Now that you correctly measured your horse, perform the following calculation;
Heart girth X Heart girth X length, divided by 330, + 50 = weight.
Salt and Vitamin supplements
Your horse will need salt and mineral added to his diet. You should provide a salt lick or add a mineral supplement to your horse’s diet. A horse’s diet should include 1.6 to 1.8 grams of salt per kilogram of dry feed per day.
Deworming your horse against internal parasites
A regular deworming program will keep your horse free from harmful internal parasites. Deworm your horse every six months (Spring and Fall) with a deworming product like Ivermectin against internal parasites.
You can easily administer the worming paste, which comes in a ready-to-go syringe, to your horse by yourself. Follow the instructions on the packet to administer the correct dosage to your horse. Worming pastes usually are given on a horse’s tongue. Regular deworming keeps your horse healthy.
For a more in-depth look, read more on veterinary care for your horse.
Dental care for your horse
All horses need a dental exam at least once every year. A veterinarian with dental experience can check your horse’s teeth for sharp enamel overgrowths that can affect your horse’s mouth. Combine your horse’s annual dental exam with his yearly vaccination and health checkup.
Exercise your horse
Your horse needs around 20 minutes of exercise every day to keep him healthy and fit. Riding your horse is an excellent way to exercise your horse.
In general, your horse needs four to five hours of exercise per week. This exercise routine should be made up of 20 % walking, 50 % trotting, 15 % cantering, and 15% galloping.
Always allow your horse to warm up for 5 minutes before vigorous exercise, and always walk your horse around to cool your horse down after exercise. Never put a hot, sweaty horse into a stable.
Some horse management tips for raising your horse at home
- A well-cared-for horse can live up to 30 to 35 years.
- Your horse needs companionship. Give your horse lots of love and attention. Sometimes a companion animal like another horse or goat is required to keep your horse company if you cannot be with him at times. Horses are herd animals that don’t like to live alone.
- Keep a close eye on your horse’s body condition to ensure he is in optimum health and doesn’t become obese or lose weight.
- Dietary changes to your horse’s diet should be done gradually.
- Keep all your horse’s feeding and drinking buckets and living areas clean.
- Keep regular contact with your veterinarian to discuss any changes in your horse’s diet or health.
Some warnings to note when raising your horse at home
- Raising a horse at home is expensive; there are always costs involved after the initial purchase price. Do not commit to raising a horse at home if you do not have the adequate financial resources to provide your horse with all the necessary needs required.
- Be careful and observant around your horse. When a horse spooks at something and you are in the way, you could get hurt.
- Familiarize yourself with poisonous plants like buttercup, acorn, and oak leaves that grow in your area. Check the grazing areas regularly for toxic plants that can be harmful to your horse.
Raising a horse at home can give you many years of happiness and are full of rewards, but as wonderful as it is, know that it takes a lot of work, love, care, and full-time commitment.
Before you decide to raise a horse at home, be sure you are up to the task and have the financial means available. A horse raised with love and care will trust you, depend on you and see you as a lifelong companion.