5. Barns and stables
Horses are sometimes kept indoors in buildings called either barns or stables. The terms are often used interchangeably; a barn is the more general term for a rural building that houses livestock, the term stable is more often used in urban areas and can be used as a noun to refer to the building that houses horses or the collection of horses themselves, or as a verb to describe the act of keeping horses in a stable. These buildings are usually unheated and well-ventilated; horses may develop respiratory problems when kept in damp or stuffy conditions. Most horse barns have a number of box stalls inside, that allow many horses to be safely stabled together in separate quarters. There are also separate areas or even rooms for feed, equipment and tack storage and, in some large stables, there may be additional facilities such as a veterinary treatment area or a washing area in the building. Barns may be designed to hold one horse in the backyard of a family home, or be a commercial operation capable of holding dozens of animals.
The standard dimensions for a box stall (called a “box” in the UK, and a “stall” in the USA) vary from 10′ by 12′ to 14′ by 14′, depending on local cultural traditions, the breed of horse, gender, and any special needs. Mares with foals often are kept in double stalls. Stallions, kept alone with less access to turnout, are also often given larger quarters. Ponies sometimes are kept in smaller box stalls, and warmbloods or draft horses may need larger ones. Horses kept in stables need daily exercise and may develop stable vices if they are not given work or turnout. Box stalls usually contain a layer of absorbent bedding such as straw or wood shavings and need to be cleaned daily; a horse generates approximately 15 pounds (6.8 kg) of manure and several gallons of urine each day. There are health risks to the horse if forced to stand all day in its own waste. However, stables are built as much for the convenience of humans as horses; most healthy horses are equally, if not more, comfortable in a field or paddock with a simple three-sided shed that protects them from the elements.
In some parts of the world, horses that are worked daily are kept in tie stalls, usually about 5 to 6 feet (2 m) wide and 8 to 10 feet (3 m) long. As the name implies, a horse is tied, usually to a ring in front of a hay manger, and cannot turn around in a tie stall. But if the stall is wide enough, it can lay down. Tie stalls were used extensively prior to the 20th century, and barns with tie stalls are still seen in some regions, particularly in poorer countries, at older fairgrounds and agricultural exposition facilities, but are not used as often in modern barns.
A horse or pony needs approximately 1.5% to 2.5% of its body weight in food per day, depending on its age and level of work. This may include forages such as grass or hay and concentrates such as grain or commercially prepared pelleted feeds. Like people, some horses are “easy keepers” and prone to obesity, while others are “hard keepers” and need a great deal of food just to maintain a slim build. The average riding horse weighs roughly 1,000 pounds (450 kg), but the weight of a horse can be more closely estimated using a weight tape, which can be purchased from a feed store or tack shop.
Best practice is to feed horses small quantities multiple times daily, unless they are on full-time pasture. Fresh, clean water should be provided free choice at all times, unless there is a specific reason to limit water intake for a short period of time.
A horse that is not ridden daily or subjected to other stressors can maintain adequate nutrition on pasture or hay alone, with adequate water (10–12 gallons per day minimum) and free access to a salt block or loose salt. However, horses and ponies in regular work often need a ration of both forage and concentrates.
Horses that are fed improperly may develop colic or laminitis, particularly if fed spoiled feed, subjected to excessive feed, or an abrupt change of feed. Young horses who are improperly fed may develop growth disorders due to an imbalance of nutrients. Young horses may also develop osteochondrosis if they are overfed. Regularly monitoring the horse’s body condition score on a regular basis assists in helping the horse maintain proper weight.
To be continued ………..
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