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Cape Ann Veterinary Hospital
"Exceptional pet care for extraordinary pets."

Horses

Owning a horse is no simple task; it requires a significant amount of time and monetary expense to care for and house a horse. When properly cared for, a horse has a life span estimated between 25 and 45 years. Presently, there are 267 different breeds of horse, each with a unique skillset to accommodate various activities. Some breeds perform better as leisure horses, while other are better sporting breeds, so it is important to consider what you will want to use your horse for prior to purchasing it.

Regardless of the breed of horse you choose, all horses are routine animals and benefit from having a set schedule and regimen every day. Waiving from their schedule could result in panic or fear. A horse should have access to water around the clock, as horses can drink over 10 gallons per day. Salt blocks should also be provided to encourage a horse to drink more water, especially during summer months. Anyone considering purchasing a horse should know that they require much more than a regular domesticated pet.

How are horse ages classified? 

  • Colt – a male horse younger than four years of age
  • Filly – a female horse younger than four years of age
  • Foal – a male or female horse that is less than one year of age
  • Gelding – a castrated male of any age
  • Mare – a female horse older than four years of age
  • Stallion – a non-castrated male horse older than four years of age
  • Yearling – a male or female horse that is between one and two years of age

Regardless of their age, horses need daily care and exercise. Prior to purchasing a horse, you should be sure that you have enough time to dedicate towards grooming, training, and daily exercise.

What do horses eat? 

  • Alfalfa 
  • Bran
  • Cubes (alfalfa or hay) 
  • Grains
  • Grass hay 
  • Processed feed 
  • Root vegetables 
  • Supplements (according to a horse’s specific needs)

Housing a horse

Before getting a horse, a primary concern should be where you are going to house it. For a prospective horse owner with their own property, maintaining a horse can be easier because the animal is on-site, which allows you to spend unlimited time with your horse and allows you to manage their stable with your standard of care. If you plan on housing a horse on your property, the horse will need a covered shelter, preferably a box stall that is a minimum of 10 by 12 feet. They must also have an exercise area of at least 5,000 square feet, but upwards of 20,000 square feet is ideal. The more room your horse has, the better.

Alternatively, a pet horse can be kept at a stable, where you lease or rent a stall. Some stables are all-inclusive and take care of brushing, daily exercise, and feeding. These stables often have a higher monthly cost, but might be worth the extra money if you cannot visit your horse on a daily basis. Some high-end stables even keep a farrier and horse veterinarian on-hand, making every aspect of horse ownership less complicated (though more expensive).

Supplies most horse owners need: 

  • Bedding
  • Bit
  • Body brush
  • Bridle
  • Curry comb
  • Dandy brush
  • Fly spray
  • Halter
  • Hoof pick
  • Mane comb
  • Manure fork
  • Reins
  • Riding helmet
  • Saddle
  • Saddle pad
  • Salt blocks
  • Sponge
  • Stirrups

Your horse will also have to visit a farrier approximately every 8 weeks. A farrier is a horse hoof specialist that shaves down hooves and shoes them. Because horse feet grow like human fingernails, they require maintenance to prevent pain and ailments such as hoof abscesses, thrush, contracted heels, and quarter cracks. The farrier will determine how much of the hoof needs to be shaven.

Temperament

Horses have a unique personality. They are prey animals with strong, innate fight-or-flight responses. Because they are easily startled, it is important to build a solid bond with them and form mutual trust. Horses are herd animals that follow a pecking order similar to a dog; because of this, you have to establish yourself as the dominant one. Once you establish dominance, understand that horses have a unique ability to sense human emotion, meaning if you’re scared or stressed, so are they. In stressful situations, horse owners must remain calm.

As seen with race horses, a horse has significant spatial awareness and is able to move according to others’ movement, as well as predict the future movement of other horses. They have incredible memory and sensory systems and are able to detect the slightest noise or faintest hint of a potential oncoming predator. If a new item is introduced to their housing area, they instantly detect something isn’t right and will study it intently before reacting and fleeing or coming closer for a better look.