Horse Care 101: Proven tips & Tricks

You’ve finally achieved your dream of having your own horse and want to learn about horse care!

It is an exciting time, no doubt.

We are here to provide you with a beginner’s guide to horse care that every new owner needs to know.

Let’s dive in and get you on the road to keeping your horse happy and healthy.

Related: Buy Horse Like a Pro

Horse Care Basics

a lady fixing the horse's bridle as part of her daily horse care routine

Every horse has some basics needs that you, as their guardian, are responsible for meeting.

Taking care of a horse is more complicated than a dog or cat.

You will start a journey of endless learning and hopefully joy.

The very basics that you need to put in place before you bring your horse home can cost some money at the beginning. Every horse needs the following.

  • A safe pasture that is free from dangers, such as holes, ditches, and steep hills. 
  • No stray wire or objects that can injure your horse should be in the pasture.
  • Don’t use barb wire or wire fencing with large holes that can trap a leg.
  • Good, solid fencing so your horse can’t escape your property.
  • Quality grass and hay
  • Shelter to protect the horse from the weather and insects
  • Fresh, clean water access at all times

Those are the basics all horses require. You also might want a stable and other facility, such as an arena, depending on your riding goals and budget.

Health Care 101

a vet vaccinating the white horse as part of his yearly horse care routine

To ensure your horse’s health, it will need regular health care.

The basics are annual vaccination appropriate for the region you live in. If you are unsure what ones you need, ask your vet.

Don’t neglect this, as vaccinations protect your horse from serious, sometimes fatal diseases. Book your vet for at least one health check each year, even if your horse seems to have no problems.

Record Some Baseline Statistics

When you first get your horse, carry out some simple checks and take note of them. This can help you in the future if your horse gets sick.

First, take your horse’s temperature. To do this, you need a regular digital thermometer with a string attached to it.

Insert the thermometer tip in the rectum and wait until it beeps. Write down what it says. The normal temperature for a horse is 99 to 101.5 F.

For a foal, the normal temperature range is 99 to 102.1 F. Anything above the max of the normal range can indicate a problem, such as an infection.

Do this temperature check a few times, so you have a baseline for your horse. Now when your horse shows signs that something is wrong, you will notice any shifts that go outside his normal. 

The other baseline statistics you need are your horse’s pulse and respiration rates. These are your horse’s vital signs. The normal pulse range for a horse is 22 to 44 beats per minute.

While the normal respiration rate range is 8 to 20 breathes per minute.

The easiest and most accurate way to check a horse’s heart rate is with a stethoscope. If you don’t have one, then you will need to palpate one of three arteries.

Using your middle and index fingers, place them flat against the artery. You can do this on the maxillary, which is under the jaw bone, the radial, which is on the inside of the knee, and the digital which is just below the fetlock.

Count the pulse for 30-seconds and multiple by 2 to get the beats per minute.

To take the respiration rate, stand next to your horse and look at its flank. Then count the breathes the horse takes over 30-seconds and multiply by 2.

This gives you the respiration rate.

Put Together an Emergency Kit

A horse emergency kit is essentially a first aid kit. It will probably have more in it than your own personal kit. In the kit, you will want a variety of clean bandages, sterile gauze pads, antiseptic, rolled cotton, and scissors.

You will also need oral Banamine, bute, and other emergency medicine to use as directed by your vet.

Include VetWrap, duct tape, masking tape, a hoof pick, rubber gloves, a thermometer, stable wraps, and zinc oxide cream (think diaper cream for babies).

It is also good to have some clean towels, a headlamp, a copy of vital statistics, and vet phone numbers.

Make sure you keep these items in a secure box, so they don’t get dirty. Also, check the expiration dates on everything and replace what is out of date.

Groom Your Horse Regularly

lady grooming the horse's feet using the hoof pick

For good horse care, you need to groom your horse regularly.

This includes removing anything stuck in its mane and tail, cleaning the feet, and removing excessive dirt.

While grooming, look for any injuries and treat them straight away. We put together a step by step guide to help you: How to Groom A Horse

Foot Care

farrier cleaning horse's hooves

Regardless of if your horse wears shoes or not, it needs to see the farrier every 6 to 8 weeks.

The farrier will trim the hooves and keep them in the right shape and balance.

The hooves grow all the time, and neglecting this will lead to problems.

Provide A Safe Environment

brown horse inside a wooden stable

Where you keep your horse must take their safety into account.

This means suitable fencing that is free from wire and dangerous gaps.

The surroundings should be free of hazards that the horse can injure itself on. Paddocks and stables need cleaning regularly, at least a few times a week, and ideally every day.

Horses are herd animals, so don’t keep a horse on its own. Find your horse a companion. Another horse is the best choice, but donkeys also will work.

Food And Water

horses drinking fresh water

Ensure your horse has access to food and water. The water needs to be fresh and clean.

Regularly, scrub out water troughs to prevent dirt and algae.

Never, restrict a horse’s water, unless instructed to by a vet.

Horses are grazers, meaning they eat throughout the day. The basic food is grass and hay. Manage the intake based on your horse’s dietary needs.

Some horses can’t tolerate excessive amounts of grass. Always provide hay throughout the year, especially if the grass is sparse. Some horses will also need grain.

For advice on a diet tailored for your horse, consult with a vet first and then a nutritionist.

Keep An Eye Out For Signs Of Illness

Your horse will show some tell-tale signs that it is not feeling well. If you spot these and are unsure of the next step, always ring your vet. Early treatment can prevent more serious problems.

  • The horse is not drinking water
  • Your horse won’t eat
  • The horse is dull or lethargic
  • You notice a lack of urination or pooping
  • The horse has a fever
  • You notice excessive sweating
  • The horse has a cough or a snotty nose
  • The horse is rolling and/or pawing the ground in a way that is not usual

Check out this video for more info:

Set A Worming Schedule

Horses need regular worming with certain wormers at specific times of the year. Following a schedule will ensure your horse does not develop a parasite burden.

Part of a good worming program includes regular fecal egg counts, which your vet can help you with.

Dental Care

a white horse having his regular dental care with a vet

Horse’s teeth grow continually. Without regular care, the teeth can get razor-sharp.

Once or twice a year, have a qualified equine dental practitioner float your horse’s teeth.

Conclusion

We hope you enjoyed this introduction to horse care. It will help you get started on your journey with your horse. A healthy horse is a happy horse.

If you take good basic care of your horse, you can avoid more serious problems that not only put your horse’s welfare at risk but also does serious damage to your wallet.

References

  • “Equine First-Aid Basics, Part 1.” The Horse, 14 Apr. 2020, thehorse.com/158276/equine-first-aid-basics-part-1/. Accessed 1 July 2021.
  • “How to Take Your Horse’s Vital Signs.” Penn State Extension, extension.psu.edu/how-to-take-your-horses-vital-signs. Accessed 1 July 2021.
  • https://www.facebook.com/thespruceofficial. “7 Things to Know before You Buy a Horse.” The Spruce Pets, 2019, www.thesprucepets.com/horse-care-101-1886033.
  • —. “Horse and Pony Care by the Day, Week, Month and Year.” The Spruce Pets, 2019, www.thesprucepets.com/horse-and-pony-care-by-the-day-1886011.
  • “Signs of a Healthy Horse | AAEP.” Aaep.org, aaep.org/horsehealth/signs-healthy-horse#:~:text=An%20adult%20horse%20at%20rest. Accessed 1 July 2021.
an equestrian kissing her mare

Do you have other horse care tips? We’d love to hear that in the comments below!

Siun L
Siun L

Siun is an all-around animal lover, with a passion for horses. She grew up in the United States, competing in the hunters, equitation, and jumpers. Now living in Ireland, she competes with her own showjumping horses. She is experienced in the care and training of horses, as well as teaching riding lessons. She loves to combine her love for horses with her work. When not working, Siun will be found at the stables, rain or shine.
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10 thoughts on “Horse Care 101: Proven tips & Tricks”

  1. These are some great tips! Raising a horse sounds like a full time job! My dream is to own one when we move, I think my kids would love to have a horse!

    Reply
  2. These are awesome tips! Growing up, we always had lots of horses in our fields and I never thought about how much work my family put into caring for them. I’m definitely going to share this post with my dad!

    Reply

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