If times are tough and you need a hand, the RSPCA is working across the City of Latrobe to help.

Need a hand caring for your horse?

Caring for your horse

Horses make our lives better. They are wonderful, gentle creatures that make excellent lifelong companions.

But caring for a horse is a serious, long-term responsibility. We know happy pets make happy people, so here’s a guide to help you keep your horse healthy for life.

If you are worried about your horse, reach out to RSPCA Victoria today.

Nutrition

Providing adequate feed for your horse should be a carefully managed process. As herbivores horses require a steady intake of food (plant materials) across the day. They normally consume 1.5-2% of their body weight in dry feed each day and graze for 12-22 hours.

Horses have evolved to eat low energy (low calorie) fibrous food for many hours of the day and night, as they are natural grazers. Whenever possible allow your horse to graze and aim for this to be the bulk of your horse’s diet. If there is not enough pasture aim to feed lots of hay, you may also need to provide supplementary feed.

Horses also need around 20-55 litres of water a day, depending on food, exercise and heat.

Housing

Horses are sociable animals by nature, so keep this in mind when deciding where they will be housed. Horses must have room to move – to stand, stretch and lie down.

Paddocked horses should be given access to shade, particularly in warm weather as they are vulnerable to overheating, sunburn, horse flies and eye cancers. Stables do not provide adequate shade as the enclosed sides contain heat, so ensure there is a shaded outside yard attached so that the horse can get outside.

In cold, wet weather a good quality and well-fitting rug can help the horse to maintain condition, as a cold wet horse will burn a lot of energy keeping warm. Rugs need to be checked regularly (at least twice a day) to make sure that the straps have not broken, or the rug has slipped, which can cause injury to your horse. It should also be removed regularly to ensure it is not rubbing or letting water in, and your horse is maintaining a good weight.

Exercise and play

Exercise is a very important part of caring for a horse. It is not good animal welfare to keep horses confined in yards or stables without providing lots of opportunities for movement.

Horses that live in pasture with other horses in a herd will exercise themselves. Horses that are kept in yards or stables must either be turned out daily onto pasture (preferably with other horses) or a large area (again preferably with other horses) so that they are able to not only move, but interact socially with other horses.

The best way to get horses moving is to turn them out to graze with other horses. They will then walk steadily for several hours. This is the most ideal form of basic exercise for a horse.

Bathing and grooming

If your horse lives outside in a herd situation and does not wear rugs, then the only grooming you need to do is just before you ride him or her.

When horses are kept on their own (not recommended) then grooming becomes even more important because the horse cannot take care of their own skin. Allow them to roll in sand or mud from time to time for the sheer pleasure it brings. This can be done when the horse is sweaty after work. The horse can then be cleaned up starting with a stiff bristled brush (to remove dead skin and hair) and finishing with a softer brush to remove dust.

Farrier care

It is very important that all domestic horses have good, regular hoof care, regardless of whether they are shod or unshod (barefoot).

Unshod horses need regular trimming. If your horse lives in a pasture or stable, their hooves need to be trimmed every three to four weeks. Horses living on harder surfaces may need less frequent trimmings, as this will wear down their hooves naturally.

Shod horses need to be re-shod every four to six weeks irrespective of whether they have worn the shoes out or not. The hooves grow continuously and when shod the hoof cannot wear down as it would normally.

Have a regular appointment with your farrier so that your horse does not go too long between shoeing.

Microchipping

We recommend microchipping your horse to link them to your care. This is critical information to ensure the welfare of your horse when travelling or during natural disasters or disease outbreak.

A microchip will also allow you to track the life of your horse if you sell them to a new owner.

Veterinary care

Your horse will require regular vet and dentist visits. The vet will provide vaccinations, boosters and general health checks. This is critical for your horse’s wellbeing and will help ensure they live a long and happy life.

If times are tough and you need a hand, the RSPCA is working across the City of Latrobe to help.

Need a hand caring for your horse?