How to care for horses – Part 1

1. Living environment

Worldwide, horses and other equids usually live outside with access to shelter from the elements. In some cases, animals are kept in a barn or stable, or may have access to a shed or shelter. Horses require both shelter from wind and precipitation, as well as room to exercise and run.

They must have access to clean fresh water at all times, and access to adequate forage such as grass or hay. In the winter, horses grow a heavy hair coat to keep warm and usually stay warm if well-fed and allowed access to shelter. But if kept artificially clipped for show, or if under stress from age, sickness or injury, a horse blanket may need to be added to protect the horse from cold weather. In the summer, access to shade is well-advised.

For horse owners who do not own their own land, fields and barns can be rented from a private land owner or space for an individual horse may be rented from a boarding farm. Unless an animal can be fully maintained on pasture with a natural open water source, horses must be fed daily. As horses evolved as continuous grazers, it is better to feed small amounts of grain throughout the day than to feed a large amount of grain at one time.

If a horse cannot be fed by its owner every day, it is usually kept at a boarding stable, where the staff will care for the horse for a fee. As equines are herd animals, most have better mental behavior when in proximity to other equine company. However, this is not always possible, and it has been known for companionship bonds to develop between horses and cats, goats and other species. There are exceptions. Some horses, particularly stallions may need to live on their own as they may fight with other animals. Horses that are not on full-time turnout in a field or pasture normally require some form of regular exercise, whether it is being ridden, longed or turned out for free time. However, if a horse is ill or injured it may need to be confined to a stable, usually in a box stall.

2. Pastures

If a horse is kept in a pasture, the amount of land needed for basic maintenance varies with climate, an animal needs more land for grazing in a dry climate than in a moist one. However, an average of between one and 3 acres (12,000 m2) of land per horse will provide adequate forage in much of the world, though feed may have to be supplemented in winter or during periods of drought.

To lower the risk of laminitis, horses also may need to be removed from lush, rapidly changing grass for short periods in the spring and fall (autumn), when the grass is particularly high in non-structural carbohydrates such as fructans. If the terrain does not provide natural shelter in the form of heavy trees or other windbreaks, an artificial shelter must be provided; a horse’s insulating hair coat works less efficiently when wet or when subjected to wind, horses that cannot get away from wind and precipitation put unnecessary energy into maintaining core body warmth and may become susceptible to illness. Some horses are turned out in a natural setting during the winter or when retired from work. However, even in these cases, animals need to be checked frequently for evidence of injury, parasites, sickness or weight loss.

Horses cannot live for more than a few days without water. Therefore even in a natural, semi-feral setting, a check every day is recommended; a stream or irrigation source can dry up, ponds may become stagnant or develop toxic blue-green algae, a fence can break and allow escape, poisonous plants can take root and grow; windstorms, precipitation, or even human vandalism can create unsafe conditions. The pasture used to graze any horse or pony should be rotated when it has been used for some months. Horses will not eat grass that contains too much of their own manure. This is known as sour grass and further decomposition of the manure needs to be allowed while the horses are kept in an alternative paddock.

To be continued ………..

Source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Horse_care

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