Owning a horse can be a rewarding and enjoyable experience. Whether a horse is used for pleasure riding, competition or just kept as a pet, it can make a wonderful companion and great activity.
There are many important responsibilities associated with owning a horse. Owning a horse is a long-term commitment, requires significant time and effort, and is expensive.
As a horse owner, it is your legal responsibility to make sure that your horse is provided with the basic requirements to keep it healthy and happy.
The basic requirements include adequate and appropriate feed, water, shelter, space and exercise, company, health care, and treatment of illness or injury.
The basic requirements for caring for horses are as follows:
Horses must have access to an adequate amount of good quality feed in the form of roughage (pasture, hay or hay cubes) to keep them in good body condition.
You may need to supplementary feed a horse that is being worked regularly or if there is not enough pasture and the horse is losing body condition. Provide a salt lick or mineral block in paddock. Check with your veterinarian for suitable supplementary feeds – grass clippings and many food scraps are not suitable feed as they can cause a horse to become ill.
Clean water must always be available. A self-filling trough is best. Bathtubs, if used, must be checked daily and re-filled if necessary. Self-filling troughs should also be checked frequently. Buckets are not suitable as a permanent water supply as they can be tipped over. In cold weather measures must be taken to ensure water does not freeze. As a guide, a horse may drink 25-45 litres per day in hot weather. Special Note: Given the scientific research on the water needs of horses in general, snow alone will not meet their water requirements.
Horses need shelter from extremes of sun, wind, snow and rain. Trees or a walk-in shed / stable make suitable shelter. A waterproof rug can be used to protect the horse from cold weather but must be checked daily to ensure it is not rubbing, slipping or leaking.
Horses must have enough space to walk and run around, unless they are exercised daily. Sick or injured horses may need to be confined under the directions of a veterinarian.
Tethering of horses is only acceptable for short periods of time and requires supervision, provision of adequate feed and water, suitable tethering equipment and flat terrain. Horses must not be tethered long-term.
Horses are herd animals and need the company of others, whether in the same paddock or a neighboring paddock. Keeping a horse on it's own so that it can not see other horses may lead to behavior problems in the paddock or when out riding.
Check your horse carefully frequently (daily is recommended) to make sure it has enough feed and water and is not injured or ill. Consult a vet if the horse is injured or ill. If handled frequently, your horse will be easier to manage when the farrier, vet or dentist comes.
Fences must be kept in good repair to prevent injury and escape. Remove rubbish to prevent injury to the horse.
Stallions require special handling. All colts and stallions not used for breeding should be gelded. Geldings and mares make more controllable companions than stallions; particularly for less experienced horse owners.
Breeding horses is expensive, time consuming and requires special facilities. Breeding horses should not be done indiscriminately and should only be done by, or with the advice of, experienced people.
If you can no longer care for the horse, you must arrange for it to be cared for by someone else, sell it or have it "put down" by a vet. It is much kinder to have the horse disposed of than let it suffer from neglect.
Selling a horse can be done privately such as through a friend or on social media, or the horse can be taken to a public auction.
If your horse can be ridden, attending pony club or having regular riding lessons will help you to learn to ride properly and enjoy your time with the horse.
If you have little or no experience riding a horse, you should seek professional training from a certified riding instructor/coach.
Purchasing properly fitting riding equipment is essential to ensure your safety and prevent injury to your horse. Consult with your local tack shop and/or riding instructor for advice on the appropriate riding equipment for you and your horse.
Buying a horse? Things to consider
Cam you provide all of the above requirements?
How much time and money do you have to spare? Keeping a horse requires substantial time and financial commitment.
Do you have a suitable property to keep the horse on that is appropriately fenced, suitable for catching and working the horse, contains adequate pasture or other feed, and is close enough to home to allow daily visits? Or can you afford to pay board for your horse at a suitable facility that will adequately care for your horse?
Do you have enough money to feed the horse if the pasture becomes inadequate?
Can you afford to purchase gear, including a saddle, saddle blanket, bridle, grooming gear, feed and water containers, and riding clothes, including a suitable helmet and riding boots? Also include the cost of, and access to, a pony club or riding lesson program and vet and farrier costs.
Consider the cost of a suitable vehicle and trailer if you plan to travel to events/competitions or if you need to transport your horse for medical care.
Arrange an examination of the horse from your own vet before buying. While expensive, this may save you from buying a horse that is unhealthy, lame or otherwise unsuitable. If possible, take an experienced horse person with you to assist with selection of a suitable horse to buy. A trial period before buying is ideal so you can be sure that the horse is suited to you.
General health care
Have a farrier trim the hooves every 6-8 weeks to prevent them chipping or becoming too long and uncomfortable for the horse. Shoes are only needed if the horse is to be ridden on hard or rocky ground, if required for the purpose of competition or if the horse has a hoof condition that requires shoes to treat.
Horse's teeth need to be checked by a horse dentist or veterinarian at least once a year. If not treated they can become sharp and cause pain and mouth injuries.
Worm your horse regularly to prevent worms building up in the stomach and intestines. Many worming pastes require use every 6-8 weeks. Follow the directions on the product as dosage frequency and amounts vary. Reducing the build-up of manure in your horse's paddock is also a simple way to reduce worm contamination of pastures.
A veterinarian should vaccinate your horse for diseases such as tetanus, viral respiratory disease and strangles. Your vet will advise what your horse should be vaccinated for and how often.
Equine Infectious Anemia (EIA)
The Saskatchewan Horse Federation strongly recommends that all horses to be tested annually for EIA by having a veterinarian conduct a Coggins test. All requirements for testing will follow CFIA* guidelines.
Monitor body condition
Do not let your horse get too fat or too thin. As a guide, if the ribs are showing it means the horse is too thin. A big belly and crested neck means the horse is too fat. Ideally, ribs should be able to be felt but not be seen.
Some horses that get too fat, particularly ponies, can develop laminitis. This is a very painful hoof condition that may be untreatable and require the horse to be "put down". Consult a vet if the horse appears lame or uncomfortable.
Colic is a name for a range of problems related to a horse's digestive tract (gut). Colic can be very painful and can have very serious consequences, including death.
Symptoms may include lying down or rolling frequently, teeth grinding, restlessness, repeatedly kicking or looking at their flanks or sides. If you suspect your horse has colic seek urgent veterinary attention.
Make sure you have a plan for your horse in an emergency. Consider having your horse microchipped and make sure your property has a Premise ID. This will help to identify your horse, you and your property in an emergency, should the need arise.