A horse or a donkey can make an excellent companion. For some people, the purpose is companionship, pleasure riding, or competitive showing. Whatever your purpose of owning a horse, it is a beautiful experience. However, there are some important responsibilities associated with owning a horse that extends beyond the legal responsibilities of food, water, and shelter. There are six essential elements like nutrition, hoof care, dental care, shelter, parasite management, and grooming.
Let’s dive in a little deeper to understand the approach for primary horse care and husbandry.
A shelter should include three sides and a roof to shield your horse or donkey from wind, sun, and precipitation. For the health of your horse, it is often best to provide a run-in shelter which allows your horse to come and go from a stall into a paddock at their choosing. Make sure the shelter provides adequate drainage from the roof, to prevent puddles and mud forming in traffic areas. Frequently check the shelter for any loose or protruding nails or other hardware on which your horse could injure themselves. The best footing and floor substrate is one that keeps your horse’s feet dry and out of the mud.
A horse grazes constantly in nature, and it is best to mimic this by feeding frequent small meals to your horse or donkey. You might find that a slow feed net or grazer is helpful to mimic natural grazing. Please consult with an equine veterinarian for guidance on the appropriate type of feed for your horse or donkey. Ideally, your horse can obtain all of its nutrients from forage (grass & hay or hay pellets). Depending upon the quality of the hay you may also feed a mineral or vitamin supplement, sometimes referred to as a Ration Balancer. A horse should receive 1-2% of their body weight in forage per day which can be divided into meals and should be adjusted up or down as needed to maintain your horse’s ideal weight and body condition.
A horse or donkey’s hooves must be cleaned out and inspected daily, even if you are not riding them. A small piece of stone, or worse, a wire or nail could go undetected and cause significant and possibly life-threatening damage to your companion’s hoof and internal structures. Work with your farrier and equine veterinarian to create a trimming and shoeing schedule to help optimize your companion and athlete’s movement.
Horses and donkeys require, at least, annual oral examination and dentistry. How would you suspect that the teeth need attention? If your horse starts dropping the feed or balling hay, moving their mouth in an unusual chewing pattern, tossing their head, or reluctant to accept the bit then the teeth might need attention. Please consult with your veterinarian promptly as dental pain and discomfort might cause your horse to become uncooperative.
Recommendations have changed from rotational deworming (i.e. give a different type of dewormer every 8 weeks) to targeted deworming. Targeted means identifying the gastrointestinal parasites your horse or donkey might be carrying by performing a fecal egg count test on their manure.
Based upon the results of the twice-annual (April & August) fecal test EquidDoc can recommend the proper deworming compound to use. It is recommended that all horses and donkeys receive a once-annual deworming of ivermectin and praziquantel during the winter months. Please consult EquidDoc for guidance.
Grooming is not just a pre-riding ritual. Regular grooming removes mud and sweat to allow the hair to lay appropriately on the horse to assist with proper thermoregulation (both for staying warm and dissipating heat). Grooming also allows the natural oils of the skin to spread through the coat which acts as a natural water barrier. Brushing daily helps you detect any blemishes, scratches or signs of infection in a timely fashion.
EquidDoc Veterinary Service is always available to consult with you on keeping your companion and athlete, horse or donkey, happy and healthy. Happy Spring & Have a great ride!