The ABCs of Horse Care

Horses aren’t really pets. These days, it’s true, horses are often kept for recreational purposes, but historically, horses were working animals, and equine ownership was a type of economic investment. You have to devote a lot of resources to the care and maintenance of a horse. Visit VPD for horse products that will keep your horse healthy and happy.

Horse Care Essentials

Caring for a horse can be considerably more complex than caring for other animal companions. If you own a horse, or you’re thinking of acquiring one, here are some things you’ll need to think about and plan for.


Horses are herbivores. A horse that weighs 1,000 pounds and has access to a pasture with high-quality grass may spend up to 17 hours a day grazing; during that time, it will consume between 15 to 25 pounds a day in forage. That same horse confined to a wintertime stall will consume between 15 and 20 pounds of hay per day.

Most horses do not need to supplement forage or hay with grain. Grain is not an optimal food for horses because the equine gastrointestinal system has evolved to process large quantities of roughage. If a horse is being exercised rigorously, is competing regularly in competitions or is nursing a foal, then it may benefit from the extra calories. When you are supplementing your horse’s regular nutrition with grain feeds, remember to:

• Feed small meals throughout the day
• Avoid grain feeds with molasses
• Mix grain feed with chaff to prevent your horse from bolting its grain


Horses need pasture lands to roam on in order to satisfy both their needs for exercise and their nutritional demands. The size of the pasture will depend upon the region of the country where you and your horse live. In northeastern states where grass and ground shrubs grow abundantly throughout the warmer months, two acres of passage may be sufficient to support a horse’s forage needs; but in western states, which are drier and where grass grows more sparsely, a horse may require between 2 and 10 acres.

Pastures must be free of hazards such as loose wire fencing, rusty machinery and holes, which increase the risk of injury. Pastures should have access to a supply of fresh clean water as well as to a salt lick. Optimally, there should be trees or a manmade structure that can provide shelter from hot sunlight or pouring rains. A horse pasture also needs to be fenced securely using wooden, plastic, vinyl or mesh-wire fencing materials.

Health Care

When you own a horse, you need to develop an ongoing relationship with a large animal veterinarian. Horses need vaccinations and regular worming procedures. Preventive vaccines that are routinely given to horses include:

• Rabies
• Tetanus
• Equine influenza
• Equine herpes (rhinopneumonitis)
• Eastern and Western equine encephalomyelitis

Depending on the part of the country in which you live, other vaccinations may be appropriate, too.

Worms are only one of several parasites that horses are prone to becoming infected with. Worms can cause life-threatening colic as well as weight loss and a lusterless coat. Your veterinarian should be testing your horse regularly for worms, and if evidence of an infection is found, he or she can advise you on how best to get rid of them. Preventive care is important here, too. You can minimize a horse’s exposure to worms and other parasites by regularly rotating pastures and removing horse feces.

Contrary to popular opinion, most horses do not need shoes unless they are competing in races or pulling large amounts of weight. Horse hooves grow just like human nails, however, and they’ll need to be trimmed every six to eight weeks if the horse isn’t getting enough exercise to wear its hooves down naturally.

Dental care is also important for horses. Horses need to have dental checkups at least twice a year.

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