A relationship with a horse can be one of the most rewarding partnerships that we can possibly develop; it can be a journey of unbelievable riches. If we allow them, horses can be wonderful and gentle teachers, they tend to reflect back to us a very accurate picture of how we interact with the world around us and in a very non judgmental way they present opportunities that enable us to learn, grow and develop and ultimately become a better version of ourselves. In order to get the very best out of your relationship with your horse however, it is essential that you see life from their perspective and a large part of this is understanding their basic needs. A horse will give unconditionally but if its sense of wellbeing is threatened, cracks will appear just like they do in any other relationship you may have when something is out of balance.
Equine Action Qld is committed to promoting responsible horse husbandry and ownership. Often the care and attention horses receive is not optimal and this is certainly not due to outright cruelty but simple ignorance from a lack of understanding; after all we cannot know what we do not know!
EAQ’s biggest dream is that one day we simply will not need to exist, this is a big ask considering the number of horses we sadly have to turn away each year, but we do believe it will be possible. If people could take the time to enrich their knowledge and understanding of these wonderful, majestic and graceful creatures many of the perceived and caused “problems”, “ailments”, “challenges” and “issues” will simply go away. In this section of our website you will find lots of information on many topics that will ultimately lead to keeping your horses safe, happy and healthy. These pillars are the foundations to paving a journey that can be as rich as it is rewarding.
What you need to consider before your get your horse or pony.
You’ve moved on to acreage and now you’re thinking “let’s get a horse to complete the picture!” Or maybe you are considering giving in to your daughters’ incessant request! Many people do not realise just how much grazing a horse requires, a paddock that looks abundant with grass in summer suddenly becomes very bare in winter. In order to maintain themselves a horse needs to consume between 5 – 7% of its own body weight just to meet their major nutrient requirements each day. (Feeding Horses in Australia, A guide for Horse Owners and Managers – John Kohke, Frank Kelleher, Penny Trevor – Jones) If your pasture is unable to provide this you will need to give supplementary feeding. Horses do not make good lawn mowers, they are picky grazers and good pasture management is essential if you are going to keep your feed bill to a minimum.
Horses are herd animals and you will need to get a friend for your horse. Cows do not make good horse companions neither do sheep, goats or alpacas! Just like us, horses are very social creatures and need interaction with other horses to stay psychologically balanced and maintain a sense of wellbeing. They also rely on their friend’s eyes and ears in order to feel safe and more importantly relaxed enough to get an adequate amount of sleep. Horses starved of regular social interactions with other horses are likely to develop emotional and behavioural problems.
Horses need access to fresh clean water every day. Under warm – hot conditions a horse will drink a minimum of 6 – 7 litres of water per 100kgs of body weight. For a 13 hand pony that equates to about 25 litres per day and your average thoroughbred will easily double this. (Feeding Horses in Australia, A guide for Horse Owners and Managers – John Kohke, Frank Kelleher, Penny Trevor – Jones)
Horses are designed to eat little and often as they only have very small stomachs. It is essential however that some food is passing through the digestive systems at all times, if the gut stops this can lead to colic, a very serious and often deadly ailment. Horses are designed to eat a diet that is very high in fibre but low in sugar. Good quality grassy hay is ideal during dry times when the grass is in short supply. A good quality mineral supplement may also be required depending on the quality of your pasture. Your horse may also require bagged food to maintain its energy requirements.
It is absolutely essential that your horse can escape the weather should it choose to. This does not necessarily mean that your horse needs a purpose built stable or shelter, large trees with plenty of foliage can work just as well but they do need to be able to seek shelter from the sun, wind and rain.
Fencing around your horse areas needs to be very strong and very tight! Barb wire should be avoided at all costs and removed; many a horse has been badly injured due to inadequate, old or inappropriate fencing. Your fencing also needs to suit the size of your horse, shetlands and minis won’t stay behind fences designed for thoroughbreds.
If your horse is going to enjoy good health, regular hoof maintenance is essential. Horses and ponies will generally need their feet trimmed every 6 weeks. Good hoof maintenance is one of the most important and under estimated aspects of optimal horse care. It will ensure you and your horse enjoy many years of fun and happiness together as there is nothing more frustrating than a lame horse and prevention is always better than cure.
It is also important that your horse gets its teeth checked on a regular basis. This is usually done annually and will require a visit from a vet or qualified equine dentition. Good dental health ensures your horse will avoid mouth ulcers, a very common side effect from hooks that can develop on your horse’s teeth. Any pain or discomfort from rotting or loose teeth can also be identified and treated. A horse that is not in pain or discomfort is a much safer horse to be around. If you don’t have enough grazing and need to hand feed your horse, good teeth will ensure your horse can get the most out of what it eats as digestion starts in the mouth.
Your horse will also need annual vaccinations for Tetanus, Strangles and depending on where you live Hendra. A regular and comprehensive worming program is also a must if your horse is to avoid complicated and expensive health problems.
Horses require a lot of time!
Whatever time you think you have to care for your horse….. you will need to double it!!
They are creatures of routine and habit and if you are someone that goes away on a regular basis or works long hours, then a horse probably isn’t for you. Horses live for a very long time, up to 40 years! They are an enormous commitment and one that cannot be considered lightly.
The cheap part of owning a horse is buying it, horses are expensive to maintain but the cheapest option in the long run is keeping them safe, happy and healthy. Please, if you cannot afford to spend a few thousand dollars each year on your horse’s care then please do not consider adding a horse to your family.
This article would not be complete if this topic was not touched on. When you get two completely different species interacting, neither of which speaks the others language accidents or even death can occur. Horses are by far Australia’s most dangerous animal.
On average 1.2 people are hospitalised each day in Australia due to a horse related injury of which, 80% of these cases occur during trail or general horseback riding. (www.safeworkaustralia.gov.au/sites/SWA/about/Publications/Documents/856Horse-Guide.pdf – Appendix A – Information about horse related injury) The above statement is not designed to put you off buying a horse, if the time is taken to learn what your horse is trying to say through its own form of communication which is body language most interactions with horses are very safe.
Developing trust and learning your horse’s body language from the ground first is a wonderful way to start off your relationship and keep you safe. Horses do not deliberately set out to hurt you, accidents happen generally because we are not listening. .