Many people who own horses admit that they under-estimated the amount of care required by the owner. It is absolutely vital to carry out good research and seek professional advice prior to buying a horse. Here are a few points to get you started.
Many horse owners keep their horses and ponies at 'Livery Yards' or 'Livery Stables' - these are businesses which provide fields and often stabling and equestrian facilities for horse owners. They can vary in size, facilities available, standard and cost. It is worth putting in some very careful research in to finding the right livery yard for you and your horse - the British Horse Society has a 'Find a Livery Yard' webpage of equestrian establishments in your area which should be able to start you on your search as well as offer extensive advice on horse ownership.
If you would like to keep your horse at home, or in a rented field, as a general rule, allow at least one acre of land per horse. Check the field for health hazards (rubbish, pesticides, poisonous plants, trees and shrubs, etc.) and ensure that the field is properly fenced. The field should be fenced so the horse cannot escape or injure itself. Do not use barbed wire.
Your horse needs to be able to shelter from the heat, cold and rain. Thick woodland, trees or a hedgreow can provide a certain amount of shelter from wind, rain and sun, however a shelter/shed will work very well. The flooring of the shelter should be dry and the walls should be strong and hazard-free.
If your horse is kept in a stable make sure you provide adequate bedding (e.g. straw, wood shavings or wood pellets) and keep the stable clean by following a daily mucking-out routine. of removing all droppings at least once a day and bedding that has been saturated by urine several times a week. Dirty bedding can encourage flies and parasites and can also affect the horse's welfare, including breathing, foot health and skin health, which can in turn incur expensive veterinary fees to treat.
As with all animals, a well-balanced diet is very important. Your horse needs the right quantity and quality of food. Be careful not to overfeed - a horse doesn't stop eating when it is full. The most important part of a horse's diet is fibre - this can be sourced from grass whilst grazing or hay (cut, dried and baled grass) or haylage (cut and baled grass with a higher moisture content). Grass has a high sugar content, predominantly through the warmer seasons of the year and horses can therefore become obese and suffer from colic and an extremely painful condition called 'Laminitis'. Horses can also suffer from Grass Sickness, which in many cases results in death of the animal.
Seek veterinarian advice on the most suitable feeding program for your horse.
Ensure that a fresh water supply is available to your horse at all times. A healthy horse can drink up to 12 gallons of water per day.
Like any pet or farm animal, horses can be prone to illnesses, sickness, disease and accidents. A daily check and care routine can help you keep an eye on their wellbeing and spot any problems. As a basic starter for their care routine, in order to keep your horse healthy, its coat, mane and tail should be brushed and cleaned regularly - these enables you to maintain the welfare and skin health of your horse as well as check for cuts and abrasions, parasites, sunburn, fly bites, skin diseases including sarcoids, seasonal ailments and condition of the horse. In addition, you should check and pick-out your horse's hooves to check against problems such as ensuring there are no stones caught in them, they are not suffering from thrush, have no punctures in the sole or solar abscessation (pus in the foot). Take a look at our information about caring for your horse's feet. Feet should be trimmed approximately every 6-10 weeks (this will depend entirely on what condition your horse's feet are in - your farrier will advise you on this). You should only allow a qualified and registered* farrier attend to your horse's feet for regular trimming and shoeing. Find a registered farrier in your area here.
*Under Section 16 of the Farriers (Registration) Act 1975 it is an offence for unregistered persons to carry out farriery. Farriery is defined in the Act as “any work in connection with the preparation of the foot of a horse the immediate reception of a shoe, the fitting by nailing or otherwise of a shoe to the foot, or the finishing off of such work to the foot”.
There is no definition of the word ‘shoe’ in the Farriers (Registration) Act 1975 but it is the Council’s view that the term refers to the purpose of a shoe and therefore includes conventional metal shoes and also non-metallic solutions, which may include, amongst others, glue-on plastic shoes or hoof wraps.
Illegal farriery is a criminal offence which can result in a fine of up to £1000, legal costs and a criminal record.
By using an unregistered person a horse owner may be risking the welfare of their animal, may invalidate any insurance if their horse is lamed or injured, and may be aiding and abetting criminal activity.
Your horse will also require the following:
- Dental examinations (commonly once-yearly, however some require more)
We also strongly advise that you arrange for any newly purchased horse to be tested for the highly infectious disease Strangles before it joins your yard. This is now a very common and often compulsory requirement from livery yards for all new horses before they arrive.
Always seek veterinarian advice for a suitable health care program for your horse.
Found the horse of your dreams? How do you know it is really in good health and will be fit for purpose?