It is most important to feed a horse a balanced diet adjusted to its exercise level. A balanced diet must include the following seven elements: proteins, fats, starches, water, fibrous roughage, salts and vitamins.
Proteins replace muscular wastage and form muscle fiber. Fats and starches produce heat and energy. Water is essential so that body functions and the digestive system can work. Fibrous roughage is the agency by which concentrated foods are broken up and absorbed, and it is necessary for proper functioning of the intestine. roughage includes chaff and fresh grass.
Hay provides the main source of fibrous roughage for the stabled horse and can contain high percentages of protein. Oats, barley, peas, beans and maize—in fact most of the grains are good energy foods. Additional foods include bran, linseed, and fresh foods such as a all tend to have a laxative effect on the horse.
Handling a Horse
The major reflex in the horse is one of flight not fight. When handling a horse it is of the utmost importance to show that you are not going to hurt it. Speak to the horse before approaching it and always move slowly. In many instances, because they are inquisitive animals, the horse will approach the quietly spoken person. When catching a horse in a paddock, carry some feed and talk softly as you approach. Avoid chasing the horse and do not make loud noises. Always let the horse know what you are doing. The approach should be to the shoulder of the near-side, whether the horse is in a paddock, yard or box. Once you are close enough, pat or stroke the lower neck or shoulder. To touch an area such as the fetlock, start at the shoulder and run your hand down the horse’s leg.
Properly fitting head gear is essential. Rope halters should have a knot to prevent the noseband from becoming too loose or too tight. Bridles must be comfortable with the bit just touching the corner of the lips. Lead-rowt, should be thick and soft; thin nylon can burn the handler’s fingers.
Grooming is an important part of the horse’s hygiene, particularly where horses are stabled and hand fed. To keep your horse healthy and clean, you will need at least the following basic gear:
Brushing the Coat
The dandy brush is used especially in winter on dirty, muddy horses with long coats. It has long stiff bristles and removes dried, caked mud from the horse’s coat. Take care not to brush too vigorously in tender areas. Do not use it on the flanks or the legs.
In summer when the hair is shorter, it should not be necessary to use the dandy brush at all. A body brush is generally quite adequate, and much more comfortable for the horse. Hold the brush in the hand nearest to the horse’s head. In other words, use your left hand when you are grooming the near-side (left side) and your right hand when you are grooming the off-side (right side). Use the brush in long, sweeping, slightly circular movements in the direction of the hair. Every few strokes the brush can be cleaned by pushing it across the teeth of a metal curry comb. A rubber curry comb can be used lightly on the horse to remove caked sweat, but the metal curry comb should never be used in this way. The whole of the horse’s coat, except for the mane and tail, can be brushed with the body brush. Make sure you also clean the awkward places such as the inside of the legs, under the belly, the neck, and under the mane. Clean the horse’s eyes and wipe its nostrils with a damp cloth. Use a second cloth to wipe out its sheath and under its tail.
In more temperate climates, where the winter is not severe and where horses are stabled and rugged, owners often prefer to clip the body hair. This is done for better hygiene and for appearance, especially in show horses. The horse generally dislikes the noise and vibration of the clippers and hence the clipping should be done by a professional. The horse can be clipped all over or longer hair left over the ribs or flanks to provide some extra protection against the cold.
Grooming Mane and Tail
The mane and tail should be carefully combed to remove tangles, and then brushed out using a dandy brush. The mane should lie flat against the horse’s neck. Many manes fall naturally to the off-side, but a thick mane may fall to either side. It is a good idea to brush all the mane over to the wrong side, and then over to the other side. This allows you to get to the underneath hairs of the mane. So that the head collar and bridle will lie flat across the poll, many people trim away a few centimeters of mane just behind the horse’s ears. This can be done with scissors or special mane clippers (much easier to get a good result).
To brush a horse’s tail, stand well to one side of the horse, hold the end of the tail in one hand and the brush in the other. Many people like to cut the tail horizontally about 10 centimeters or so below the point of the hock. This ensures that when the horse is moving the tail is level with the hock
The life span of horses is twenty to twenty-five years, about one-third of human beings. Horses are generally in their prime between the first three and twelve years—this may vary because of individual animals or because of the different kind of work they do.
The approximate age of the horse can be determined by noting the and degree of wear of temporary and permanent teeth. Temporary teeth are easily distinguishable from permanent ones because they are smaller and whiter. The age of a horse cannot be determined when it is more than twelve years old. At that age the cross-section teeth is changing from oval to triangular in shape, and they project or forward more and more as the horse becomes older.
Horse riding is one of the oldest arts. Nowhere else is the phrase ‘bus, beware’ more applicable. For this reason it is best to avoid auction sales. any other form of purchase where a rush decision has to be made. It is bey to purchase the horse after a long-term association. Where this is not possible, many owners will allow you to spend a few days riding the horse. getting to know it and being satisfied that it is in good shape. Never bu y a horse without having it thoroughly examined by an experienced equine veterinarian. Many problems, both current and potential, may be avoided by thorough veterinary examination.
The horse’s teeth should be inspected twice a year. Young horses up to the age of five should have their teeth checked more frequently. Teeth can become sharp or worn, or there may be retention of caps. All these problems will prevent proper mastication and may contribute to biting and riding problems.
The minimum dimensions of a stable (stall/box) should be 4 X 4 meters, with a clear headspace of at least 5 meters The stable should have a pleasant outlook, as horses confined to small areas can become bored and develop the vices of crib-biting, wind-sucking and weaving. It helps to have chickens, dogs or other animals roaming about the yard. Preferably face the stable towards the yard where there is human activity.
In the northern hemisphere the box should face south; in the southern hemisphere the box should face north. This will ensure that it catches as much sun as possible.
The box should be well ventilated, have a high ceiling and be well drained The drainage from the box should run towards the door rather than towards a drain in the centre. Drainage from each box can then be collected in one long drain. Enclosed drains should be avoided where possible because they are easily blocked. In colder climates, stables should be well insulated. One of the most important aspects of stables is their safety. It is essential that the wall surfaces are smooth, and preferably made of a solid material such as brick or boards that are tongue and grooved. Fibro asbestos or corrugated iron sheets are dangerous.
The stable door should be in two halves, with the bottom half at least 1 meter high. This provides safety for the horse, and prevents it from jumping out. At the same time, it is low enough for the horse to look over. Provision should be made for inserting a bar about 30 centimeters above the bottom door. This will inhibit horses who may still have thoughts of jumping over the door, and can also be used to restrict the activities of ‘weavers’. A weaver stands with its head over the door, rocking from one foreleg to the other and exhausting itself. The door should be at least 1.3 meters wide so that the horse does not knock its hips as it passes through. Two bolts, one at the top and one at the bottom, are essential. This will ensure that the efforts of bolt-openers are frustrated, and will also discourage the persistent `door banger’ who likes to hear the door rattle each time it is kicked.
Stable fittings should include two rings, one for tying up the horse and the other for fastening the hay net. A manger and a self-filling waterer should be secured in a corner at breast height. All light fittings, plastic pipes and anything chewable should be kept well away from the horse. To deter woodchewers, and avoid maintenance on timber fittings, use metal cover strips on the edges or paint with creosote and sump-oil (50/50).
The stable floor may have a waterproof base such as concrete or bricks, or be of a porous substance such as ashes or sand. The former are the most hygienic and provide the basis for a clean-smelling, fresh stable. Bedding for the horse (in decreasing order of preference) is straw, wood shavings, sawdust, sand or soil. Stabled horses should be groomed daily and their stables mucked out three times a day. This involves removal of manure and urine and any contaminated bedding.
Horse Fencing is about l0 centerlines in diameter, or fiat, 15 X 4 centimeters Paddocks for horses can have either two or three rails. Two rails are suitable for large paddocks where horses graze—but where they are small and the horses hand fed, it is best to have three rails. The horses in the latter group tend to have little grass in their paddocks; they get bored and are likely to spend more time against the fence getting into mischief.
The hardwood posts should be at least 20 centimeters in diameter and can be left whole or split into halves. The posts should be at least 75 centimeters into the ground, leaving 1.5 meters out of the ground. They should be spaced 2.5 meters apart. The rails can be wired or bolted to the posts—but there must be no protrusions to cut a horse.
Fences can be painted. But to prevent chewing (crib-biting) and to preserve the wood, it is best to paint with a 50/50 sump-oil and creosote mixture. The sump-oil should be at least three months old.
An alternative fence is one made of 7.5 centimeter pipe. Keeping horses in paddocks with steel posts and wire is very dangerous and invariably leads to injury, sometimes of a serious nature. Yards containing hand-fed horses should be separated from adjacent yards by a gap of at least 2 meters to prevent fighting.
All rubbish should be removed from yards and paddocks to avoid injury. Pipe gates are best—but avoid mesh sizes that can trap a horse’s hoof. Wooden gates are less suitable because they sag and horses chew them. Gate latches must be hard for horses to open.
A stabled horse must be exercised each day, whatever the weather. To keep the horse alert and interested, the exercise must be varied and carried out intelligently. It should be the equivalent of walking for ten minutes, trotting for five minutes and cantering for five minutes, with a walk of about twenty minutes in the afternoon. If the horse is receiving a high-grain diet, it should be given at least this amount of exercise each day of the week, otherwise it is likely to become `tied-up’ when exercised the day after a rest. (`ried-up’ is the common term for azoturia, a condition in which the stored-up energy in the muscles breaks down into an acid which causes the muscles to cramp and stiffen painfully. It can be very dangerous.) The horse may get its daily exercise by riding or lunging.
Lungeing should always be done in an enclosed paddock or round yard, so that if the horse escapes it will not run on to the road. Lungeing gives the horse an opportunity to develop its muscles without carrying the weight of a rider. Twenty minutes of lungeing is a good alternative to a hard ride. It calms down very fresh horses, and if a horse has a sore back or can’t be ridden for some other reason, it is the ideal way to exercise it. Horses in large yards or paddocks do not require daily forced exercise.
If a horse has raised a sweat after exercise, it should be washed down with warm water (in winter) or cold water (in summer). Excess water should be removed with a scraper. In cold weather, the horse should be toweled down until it is dry and warm. If the horse cannot be washed all over, at least use a sponge or wet cloth to rub over the saddle, girth and bridle marks, particularly behind the ears. The areas between the hind legs and under the tail, the sheath, and around the elbows must also be washed thoroughly. Once the horse has been washed, the legs should be inspected for cuts and thorns, and the feet picked out.
To avoid colic, always allow a horse to cool down completely before offering it even a small amount of water. Do not feed for at least one and a half hours after severe exercise.
Cleaning the Feet
The horse’s feet are the most important part (hence the old saying, `no feet, no horse’). If they are neglected, the horse will be ruined. The feet should be picked out every day; the shoes should be removed every four weeks and the feet trimmed by a blacksmith. The horse’s hoof is equivalent to your ‘fingernail and does not feel pain.
To pick up the horse’s foot, lean gently against its shoulder and push its weight on to the other foot. At the same time, lift the leg just above the fetlock, while giving the order ‘Up’, or ‘Lift’. If the horse fails to obey, put one hand behind and below its knee and push forward while the other hand lifts the fetlock.
Terms applied to horses
At birth: a foal. A colt is a male foal; a filly is a female foal. The terry yearling is used in the year after a horse is born. The next year the horse is called a two-year-old. Up to three years of age a young male horse is called a colt; a young female horse is called a filly. An entire or stallion is an uncastrated male horse over three years of age. A gelding is a castrated horse of any age. A mare is a female horse over three years of age.
The height of a horse used to be given in hands with one hand being four inches in measurement. Today horses are measured in centimeters and normally a horse measures over 142 centimeters and a pony is under 142 centimeters in height. A horse or pony is measured with a special measuring stick placed at the highest point of the withers.
Three diseases that can be prevented by immunization are equine influenza strangles and tetanus. For information about vaccinations against these and other diseases in your area, contact your veterinary surgeon. Horses can be vaccinated at a very early age and usually require annual boosters. Ever horse should be vaccinated against tetanus, at the very least.