Horses are living creatures with needs and emotions. But if you love horses, you don't need to be told that. And like all living creatures, they need to be kept healthy if they are to be happy and successful. However, this world can be tough, and “nature red in tooth and claw" has a number of threats to horse health that a wise owner will want to watch out for.
Living conditions are the first consideration when it comes to horse health. If a horse is kept stabled, the stable will need to be kept free from damp and mould - and, to consider the opposite extreme, protected from excessive heat. The straw or other bedding used to cover the floor of the stable should be mucked out regularly, preferably daily, and care should be taken that the new bedding is free from mould, damp or mildew. The stable should also be checked carefully to make sure that there are no sharp edges that a horse can cut itself on.
If a horse is kept in pasture, a shelter of some kind must be provided so the horse can find shade from excessive heat, or cover from rain. The field must also be checked to ensure that no poisonous plants such as nightshade or hemlock are growing in it or near it where the horse can eat them. Fencing should be checked to make sure that the horse cannot escape and that it has no sharp projections that a horse could cut itself on if it uses the fence to itch itself.
Correct feeding is another vital aspect of horse health. While it is obvious that malnutrition is bad for any horse, excessive or incorrect feeding can also be a threat to horse health. Colic can be caused by eating the wrong sort of food, such as under-ripe apples are notorious and eating too much can cause a horse to founder and run the risk of laminitis.
Stabled horses, in particular, require especial care for their diets. The right proportion of energy foods should be given according to the work the horse is performing. Fresh food, such as raw fruits and vegetables, will be a welcome addition to a horse’s diet, and it stands to reason that horse health as well as human health will benefit from the vitamins provided by these.
Horses, like other companion and working animals, need protection and medication to ensure that they are free from parasites. Veterinarians recommend that horses be wormed twice a year, preferably in autumn and spring, to ensure optimum horse health.
Mucking out stables and/or pasture frequently is another important part of controlling parasites. In this respect, keeping a horse at pasture can be an advantage, as a horse can be moved from field to field, thus ensuring that any parasites in the dung will die and/or be dispersed before the horse returns to that particular field again.
On a day to day basis, the most important part of horse health is regular interaction between horse and rider. Daily grooming, feeding and riding is not only the source of much pleasure for both horse and human, but it also gives the rider/owner a chance to make sure that their horse remains in good condition.
By interacting with a horse daily, it is very easy to see if the horse is showing any signs of poor health, such as poor coat condition, mucus in the eyes, scouring (diarrhoea), strange lumps or cuts. But if you love horses, you'll be spending time with your horse, anyway.
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