Ten easy steps to good equine health
Okay, so maybe I wasn't being entirely truthful about the easy part, we all know that looking after our horses is bloody hard work. How can something so big be so damn fragile!?
There are some things we MUST do to make sure they're healthy though. Use the ten steps below as a checklist and you'll be well on your way to good equine health!
Teeth - Do you have a good dentist, someone you really trust is doing a good job? Have they offered you to feel the back molars, the ones right at the back? Good dentistry is key to a happy, healthy, long-lived horse. Horses must be able to chew to produce alkaline saliva to buffer stomach acid, they must be able to chew to start the digestion process, they must be able to chew to eat roughage which they MUST have for good gut health.
Feet - They don’t say ‘no hoof no horse’ for no reason! Up to 90% of lameness issues are hoof related, not leg/shoulder/hip related so look after your horse's hooves! Do you have a good farrier? Do you trust him/her? Do they treat your horse as an individual? Are they open to other ideas? Why do you shoe/have your horse barefoot?
Diet - Obviously I could write a whole post about this... Check out my ten easy steps to good equine nutrition post for more info, but the most important things to know are: Is it balanced, adequate (without being too much), and I'll say it again, roughage, roughage, roughage!
Company - they’re herd animals, they need friends. Of course there are exceptions to the rule, but generally they need to at least be able to see another horse.
Parasites - Faecal egg counting (FEC) and parasite control (when required). You need to do FECs regularly, especially if you know your horse is carrying a lot of worms. Don't worm if you don't need to, they're becoming resistant to worming products!
Vaccinations - tetanus and strangles each year. Record it so you know when it's due.
Safety - Is your paddock big enough? Is the fencing safe? Do they have access to fresh, clean water, to some kind of shelter, are they being bullied by other horses and can't get to food/water?
Excrement - observe it - I’m obsessed! I look closely at my horse’s poo at every opportunity, they can’t talk so you need to read the signs! Does it smell sour? Can you see visible worms or bot larvae? It is in balls or is it sloppy like cow pats? Does he pee in a stream or is it more like a sprinkler? What's normal for your horse?
Easy does it - Horses, like us need time to develop fitness. Not riding for two weeks and then cantering for more than five minutes will make her sore, just like us if we've had a break from the gym and then we go back into it like we used to! Their brains also get frazzled quickly and they need a break from learning. Go on a trail ride and let your horse walk on a long rein.
Treat your horse as an individual, just because something worked well for her horse, doesn’t mean it will for yours. My horse likes carrots, yours likes apples, hers gets fizzy from oats, mine doesn't need oats. In the same way that I think that cucumber is the world's MOST disgusting food ever, you think it's refreshing and delicious. We're different, your horse is different. There no one-size fits all approach to anything to do with horses. And wouldn't it be boring if it was!?