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Horse Care Basics All Horse Owners Should Know
About Exercising, Pasture Mainenance, Bedding and More

Owning a horse is a great responsibility. Horses are, by nature, companionable animals designed to graze in open spaces with their herd.

While they will learn to adapt to stable life, it is vital to exercise your horse to satisfy its physical needs. Also, a horse will become bored and discontented if it does not have the regular company of humans and other horses.

While there is no exact acreage requirement for horses, it is generally considered that one acre of pasture per horse is sufficient. Before pasturing your horse, check the pasture for trash, holes in the fencing, and other hazards.

You must check for poisonous plants in your pasture weekly, at the very least. The most harmful plants are yew, deadly nightshade, ragwort, foxglove, buttercups, oak leaves and acorns, bracken, laurel, privet, meadow saffron, castor bean, locoweed, horsetail, star thistle, and sorghum.

Your pasture must be fenced, of course, to prevent your horse from escaping or being injured. White rail fences look great, but are costly to install and maintain. Plain wire fencing is fine if it is well-secured to strong wooden posts. Barbed wire is not recommended for horse fencing.

Your horse will require shelter to protect it from wind, rain, and the sun. A natural grove of trees provides good shade, but for shelter from the elements, a three-sided enclosure works the best. Make sure your shelter is large enough to enable all your horses to fit inside together, and build it so the back wall faces the prevailing wind.

Horses require a constant supply of fresh, clean water. If you plan to use a watering bucket, you must refill it at least twice daily and whenever it is empty. Putting the bucket inside a tire will keep it from being easily tipped over. A watering trough, supplied by a pipe, is better, but must be checked during winter weather to ensure the pipe and water surface have not frozen.

Proper bedding is vital for horses kept in a barn or stable. Horses should not stand all day on a hard floor, and they will lie down to sleep or rest. Straw is a popular bedding choice because it is inexpensive, warm, and comfortable. However, straw occasionally contains fungal spores, and the horse will occasionally eat straw bedding.

Dust-free wood shavings are clean and hygienic. You can also use rubber matting for a soft resting and standing surface, but you should put straw or wood shavings on top of it to provide warmth. Also, hemp has become a popular bedding choice recently.

The stable must be cleaned (‘mucked out’) daily. If your horse is stabled all day, it should be cleaned three times daily. To muck out the stable, you will remove any droppings with a shovel and wheelbarrow, and level the horse’s bedding.

After you have removed the droppings, separate the soiled bedding from the still-clean bedding material. Sweep, and then clean the floor with a stable disinfectant. After the floor is dry, return the clean bedding to its place, then add fresh bedding material to make up for the removed soiled amount.

If your horse is stabled most or all of the day, it will require grooming daily to keep its coat healthy. However, don’t over groom a horse that spends most or all of its time in the pasture. The natural oils in its coat help to keep your horse warm and dry.
 


Read the next horse care article on Managing the Horse Pasture Landscape.
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Horse Tack & Riding Equipment Maintenance

Tack needs to be maintained religiously. Synthetic tack can be hosed down or washed in the washing machine. It's lighter in weight, easy to care for, and less expensive than leather. Leather, needs much more care. Inspect it every time you clean it. Wash it every time you use it, and then oil the leather parts a few times a year.

Browse some different types and styles of synthetic and leather horse tack available online.

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