The Daily Essentials
Taking care of your horse is an important responsibility, but it need not be overwhelming. In just a short time each day, you can keep him looking and feeling his best with a few simple tasks, including feeding and watering, grooming, performing a health check, mucking the stall, and turning him out for some fresh air and exercise.
Feeding and Watering
Your horse must be fed and watered every day. When it comes to his diet, small, frequent meals are best. Horses have small stomachs in relation to their body size, so they cannot properly digest too much food at once. They can also develop ulcers when too much time elapses between meals.
Allow your horse to graze outside as much as possible on fresh grass. When he’s stabled, feed him a constant supply of high-quality hay. If he requires extra calories, you can supplement his diet with grain. He should also have access to a salt or mineral block to replenish the salt lost through sweat.
To prevent dehydration, your horse should always have access to clean, fresh water. Monitor how much water he consumes daily; significant increases or decreases in intake can indicate a health problem.
Although certain grooming tasks do not need to be performed every day, a quick session daily—in as few as 20 minutes—will keep your horse looking and feeling good. Each day, brush him with a rubber curry comb using a gentle circular motion. This will help loosen dirt, dried sweat, dead hair, and mud. Next, use a stiff brush to remove the debris that the curry comb loosened. In addition to currying and brushing your horse, check his hooves and shoes; clean out any dirt and debris with a hoof pick.
Give your horse a daily once-over to check for any physical abnormalities. Begin your inspection at his head and then move to each side, checking his conformation and the quality of his skin and coat. Also, watch your horse move, looking for any gait abnormalities that might indicate a problem. If anything seems out of the ordinary, call your veterinarian.
Mucking your horse’s stall daily—cleaning it thoroughly—is essential for a few reasons. Not only does urine and manure attract insects, but they also produce moisture and ammonia fumes that can sicken your horse, causing hoof, respiratory, and skin ailments.
To muck out your horse’s stall, simply remove the manure piles with a manure fork and take out dirty bedding (which can consist of straw, shavings, or other cushioning material). Then spread the remaining bedding evenly across the stall, adding fresh bedding where needed. Clean the stall between one and three times per day, depending on how dirty it is.
Let your horse out to pasture or into a paddock for at least several hours daily to give him some fresh air and exercise. But keep an eye on the weather and your horse’s safety: In cold, windy temperatures, limit his time outdoors or provide him with shelter; in hot, humid weather, let him outside during the cooler morning and evening hours.
When guiding your horse outside, use a halter and lead rope for safety. Also, check his footing, watching out for muddy or very icy conditions.