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5th January 2006


1. Worming
It’s been estimated that regular worming has been the most significant advance in horse care over the past 100 years, responsible for increased horse life span… making it number 1 on our list!  Horses should be wormed regularly, combined with good pasture management such as regularly picked up manure.  Remember to worm for bots (and remove bot eggs from your horse as soon as you notice them) and also change brands regularly to avoid chemical resistance.

2. Teeth
Horses with bad teeth can’t eat properly which = loss of condition and declining health.  Unlike humans, equine teeth grow continuously and a horse’s upper jaw is around 30% wider than his lower jaw, so as the horse grinds his food from side to side, the teeth wear unevenly.  This results in sharp edges on the teeth which can cause lacerations to the tongue and cheeks.  Ever had a painful mouth Ulcer?  Imagine one 10 times bigger being continually scraped by a sharp tooth.  OUCH!  Paddocked horses under the age of five should have their teeth checked by a qualified horse dentist every six months and horses over five years, every 12 months.

3. Feed
Incoming feed should match your horses outgoing workload as closely as possible.  Remember that a horse’s digestive system is designed to have roughage passing continually through it, so they need access to either good quality grazing or sufficient grass hay.  Never make sudden changes to a horse’s diet as this can lead to colic.

4. Pasture Management
This is kind of related to worming and feed but is important enough on its own!  Good pasture management is a must…you can’t just turn horses out in the same paddock year after year and expect quality grazing.  Manure should be collected on a daily basis, as the worm life-cycle depends on eggs passed in manure to be eaten by a new host horse.  Harrowing is also recommended as this spreads manure, exposing and destroying the eggs.  Rest your paddocks regularly and NEVER turn horses out in paddocks containing any Patterson’s Curse, currently growing like…well… a weed, after this years devastating drought and bushfires (it’s been responsible for up to 30 horse deaths this year in the ACT alone).  Consult your Department of Agriculture about weed control.

5. Water
Bet you knew this was going to be included!  Horses need around 24-45 litres of water per day…and more in hot weather.  Water is important for digestion, cooling, electrolyte balance and a heap of other vital body functions.  Horses should have access to fresh clean water 24/7 (that means always!).

6. Shelter
Horses don’t react to weather like we do…they’re used to it and nature has equipped them with efficient body temperature regulating mechanisms as a means of staying cool and warm.  But they DO need to have access to some kind of shelter if they’re confined to a paddock.  Trees are ideal as they provide both shade and some protection from wind and rain.  The next best protection is an open shed (one with a roof and three walls).  They may not always use it mind you but at least they have the option!

7. Feet
Sorry, here it comes… “No Hoof, No Horse”.  An old saying you’ve heard lots of times but oh so true!  Horses in the wild wear their feet down naturally, but paddocked or stabled horses will need their hooves trimmed regularly, otherwise the hoof wall will continue growing unchecked, outwards and curling upward, developing into what’s referred to as “pixie” feet.  This strains the legs and makes walking extremely difficult.  Some horses have naturally brittle feet which would benefit from a daily application of hoof dressing and there’s also supplements you can add to your horses feed to help strengthen the hoof.  Also, make sure you regularly clean out your horse’s hooves…that’s what hoof picks are for!