Horse Care Basics – Part 4

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The final part of Horse Care Basics discusses tips on hoof care, rugging horses, managing flies, cooling down your horse after exercising and sleeping habits of horses. make sure you’ve read Part 1, Part 2 and Part 3 for more useful tips on how to care for your horse.

Keep the flies away

During summer, many irritating flies may disturb your animal. Flies are hard to control but here are some tips:

  • Remove manure from the paddock or stall as excrements attract flies.
  • Put a fly mask on your horse to protect his eyes. Fly masks must be removed at night as they obstruct the horse’s vision, and may lead the horse to run into objects and hurt himself.
  • Use natural fly spray or ointment with Neem oil and various essential oils like Citronella and Cajeput. It is best to avoid chemicals but if you have to use them, then choose one that is safe for humans. If you read on the container that you have to wear protective gear and must not have the product in contact with your skin, then wonder for a minute what damages it will cause to your horse!
  • You may need to rug your horse, especially if he has an allergic reaction to insect bites. There are some fly mesh rugs that, as the name says, are designed to keep flies biting the horse.

Rugging horses

It is generally not necessary to rug horses as they will naturally adapt to the weather. Their body regulates their temperature by producing more heat for extra warmth or sweat to cool down. However, sometimes putting a rug on your horse may be recommended.

In cold weather, horses who, by nature, tend to be on the slim side, will loose weight as they will need to produce more heat to keep warm, hence using more energy. Rugging them will help maintaining a healthy weight.

The old horse also falls in the above category and may suffer from arthritis as well. Keeping him warm will ease the pain and promote better movement.

Thoroughbreds and other hot blooded horses who utilise a lot of energy at best of time, will benefit from a rug during the winter months to keep their weight on.

Horses allergic to insect bites may feel more comfortable with a fly mesh rug during the summer time when insects are highly active.

Grey, white and albino horses need to be protected from the sun all the time and will need to be rugged to avoid skin cancer, especially here under the harsh Australian sun.

There might have some other medical conditions that may require your horse to have a blanket. Seek veterinarian advice if it is the case.

Otherwise, the only reasons are the cosmetic ones, which humans create so the horse keeps a clean coat for show or competition.

When buying horse rugs, it is important that you get the right size for your horse. You can visit this site for help on how to measure your horse for a rug. Ill-fitted rugs can cause horrific injuries to your horse.

It is primordial that you use rugs that are appropriate for the weather of the day. Do not use a winter rug in the middle of summer or a cooling rug in winter! Over rugging your horse during hot weather can create a heat shock and cause death. A cooling rug in minus 5 degrees Celsius will bring the temperature down even further.

For your horse’s sake, do not leave the rug on 24×7. The skin needs to breathe and horses need to have access to sunlight. Such practises are cruel. And it is important that you check your horse’s body everyday for injuries or sores.

Horse cooling

One must never hose down a horse with cold water after strenuous exercises when the horse is hot and sweaty. This can cause shock, muscle spasms and binding causing sudden death. The horse’s breathing should return to normal before washing him. If available, use warm water instead of cold water.

In case of heat shock, see your vet immediately. You should cool down your horse by walking him on a lead for 10 to 15 minutes. A hot and sweaty horse must never been put in his stable to cool down as it may generate heavier breathing resulting in shock.

Horse shoeing and hoof care

The hooves of domesticated horses must be maintained through trimming every 6-8 weeks. If your horse has good hooves, shoeing may not be needed and should not be done. However, depending on what you do with your horse, shoeing may be necessary to provide extra protection. Where the hooves have been damaged over time due to bad shoeing or heavy exercises like racing, the horse may require constant shoeing. In these cases, I highly recommend that you find a farrier qualified in remedial shoeing or equine structural and functional podiatry. These farriers specialise in equine orthopaedics and biomechanics which work in conjunction with the muscular-skeletal alignment of the horse’s upper body.

The hooves grow around 1 cm/month and it takes a year to grow an entire hoof. Shoeing is a painless exercise when done properly. Do not attempt shoeing your horse or trimming your horse yourself if you haven’t received adequate training. Horses are on their feet 24×7 and bad feet will cause a multitude of health problems to your horse. A bad trim or shoeing may generate bowed tendons, splints being popped, soreness in back and shoulders, spasms, decrease blood flow in the hoof, lameness and sole bruising. When horses are in pain, their behaviour is likely to change and they may become aggressive, reluctant to work, buck, bolt, shy, avoid being saddled or girthed.

Make it a habit to clean your horse’s hooves daily, especially if he is shod as dirt, gravels and other matters easily lodge themselves between the shoe and the hoof. Matters get trapped due to the shoes and are unable to be removed by any other mean than manually with a hoof pick. When the horse is stabled and is bound to walk on excrements, bacteria may set into the frog causing infection, lameness and much pain to the horse as well as your pocket because you will need the farrier and the vet.

Horse sleeping habits

Most of the time, horses sleep standing up but occasionally will lay down if the environment is favourable. If stalled, they must be allowed to sleep in a dry and airy stable in peace. Due to their formidable acuity for potential threats, horses standing up asleep have half of their body fully awake and will take flight in a split second if danger is lurking.

Horses are amazing, intelligent and sensitive creatures who will happily help us achieve our dreams as long as we respect them, are trustworthy, and provide them with proper care and love. Caring for a horse is highly rewarding and although it requires some work, I would never have it any other way.

This concludes my Horse Care Basics series. I hope you have found some useful information in these articles.

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