Horse Questions & Answers

Horses grazing in the sunsetDo you sometimes feel silly asking your questions to other horse people? Do you think perhaps your questions are too simple and you might be seen as not knowing what you are doing?

My aim is to build this blog up with all the horse questions & answers that I get asked or have come across in my own search for answers.

Horses are complex animals and if you are new to owning them it can sometimes seem overwhelming. There is an old saying that goes “ask one question to 25 different horse people and you will get 25 different answers!”

This can be confusing for new horse owners, and I feel your pain, as I too was in the same situation not that many years ago.

If you can find a knowledgeable friend or acquaintance that you feel comfortable talking with that’s great. If you can’t then just be sure you are getting good information from the internet.

Do some checking and double checking to ensure your sources are reliable before you go changing or implementing new things with your horse.

If you have a question please pop it in the comment box at the bottom of this blog or ask on our Facebook page and I will add it to the list and give you an answer.

Horse Feeding

Q: Do I have to feed lots of different supplements?

I see at my stables that pretty much everyone adds heaps of different things into their horses feeds. Some of these people are very experienced so I feel like I should be doing the same. What should I be adding to my horse’s feed?

Horse eating grassAnswer: Feeding horses can be as simple or as complex as you make it. And unfortunately, the answer to this question isn’t straightforward. But just because everyone is doing something doesn’t make it right or mean you need to also.

The bottom line is what you feed your horse really depends on the horse and what you are doing with it.

For most of us we have pleasure horses. If your horse is only ridden a few times a week and the work isn’t overly strenuous then you probably don’t need to feed a lot of different supplements.

If on the other hand you are working your horse 5 days a week and the work is quite athletic eg. long distances or fast-paced then your horse may need additional nutrition added to his feed.

The other consideration is what are you feeding your horse and how well are they doing on it now? If your horse is predominantly on a good quality hay with maybe some purchased horse feed daily, you are only working him a few times a week and he looks in good condition eg. weight is good and his coat is healthy then you may not need to feed anything extra.

The only three things I think most people should consider are:

Salt: Your average size horse (500kg) needs10 grams of sodium and 40 grams of chloride on a cool day even when not exercises. The addition of salt to a horses diet on a daily basis is also recommended if you feed lucerne chaff or hay.

Normal table salt, Himalayan or flake salt will do the trick. Salt helps maintain hydration in horses as well as other benefits.

I give mine 30 grams of salt daily in the morning feed and increase this as the weather warms up or I feel they will be doing strenuous exercise likely to cause them to sweat.

Vitamin/Mineral Mix: I feel this is money well spent to ensure you are providing the correct ratio and that your horse is receiving a balanced diet. You just about need to be a rocket scientist to work out exact quantities of vitamins and minerals depending on the types and amounts of the various feeds your horse may be consuming.

You need to have your hay tested for content to make an informed decision on what may be lacking. I don’t know about you but I won’t be getting a hay sample tested every time I get a new batch of hay delivered.

So I err on the side of caution and feed Kool Glow which is a vitamin & mineral mix to both my horses. There are plenty of these types of all-round supplements available. My advice though is to buy a good quality (usually more expensive) product. You will end up feeding less of it and it will do a better job than the inferior quality ones.

Bentonite Clay: Bentonite clay acts as a toxin binder for your horse. The clay because of it’s negative charge can draw out toxins within your horse’s body which have a positive charge and bind them to the clay. Bentonite Clay is also a great natural source of various minerals including silica, sodium, copper, calcium, magnesium, iron and potassium.

It is quite inexpensive and I feed a large heaped tablespoon to mine in each nights feed.

Horse Training

Q: How often do I need to ride my horse so he will behave?

People have told me my horse is naughty because I don’t ride him often enough. I can only ride on the weekends. How often would I have to ride him so that he behaves himself when I do ride?

Bolting horseAnswer: I feel this is an old wives tale that you have to ride your horse 3 – 5 times a week to have a well-behaved horse. If your horse has suitable training then it doesn’t matter how long you leave him between rides, he will not have forgotten how to be a well-behaved horse or how to execute any of the movements you have trained.

My qualification on this is that you do need to have done the training beforehand. If you have a young or green horse then yes you do need to put in the time and effort to teach your horse how to be a good equine citizen. BUT once manners and expectations from your horse have been trained and consolidated even if you left your horse out in a paddock for 12 months he will not forget what you have taught.

If you stable your horse then he may be fresh and energetic when you get him out for a ride, but that is very different to naughty behaviour. I have a set of what I call pre-flight checks that I carry out on my horse before I swing a leg over. These checks assure me that my horse is ready for me to ride. I do these before every ride regardless of whether I have ridden the day before or not for a few weeks.

My horse is used to this routine of warm-up checks, it helps him feel confident because he is now very good at them and he knows what to expect when we run through them. It also gives me a chance to see if he is spookier than normal today, how responsive he is and also if there are any braces in my horse I need to get rid of before I mount up.

These are my pre-flight checks:

  1. Groundwork: Circling at trot and canter. Often times if your horse is prone to buck it won’t surface until the canter. Make sure you circle your horse at canter and see what you have. Better he gets any buck out while you are on the ground! This also shows me that my horse is acting like a partner if he can maintain gait, direction and speed on a loose rope for a few circles each way.
  2. Neck flexing both on the ground and then under saddle. Before I get on I bend my horse’s neck so that his nose touches back where his girth is on both sides. This is not to see how athletic my horse is but to notice any braces in his neck. The one rein stop is my emergency movement if things should go pear-shaped. If my horse is already braced in his neck then the one rein stop may also be useless to me. Once I do get in the saddle I also do the neck flexes on both sides in case anything has changed from the ground to the saddle.
  3. Flapping of stirrup leathers both stationary and also when moving. I start with the horse still and move my leathers both up and down so they make a slapping noise and also side to side, if all is good with the horse still we move off with me doing the same. This simulates the leathers moving and also any sound which may happen as you get on or during the ride. Once again it is better to know your horse is not going to cope with this before you get in the saddle.

All this takes me about 4 – 5 minutes and gives me an opportunity on the ground to fix any issues my horse may have and ensures I am confident my horse is listening to me and is prepared for me to ride.

Horse Health

Q: What annual check-ups do I need on my horse?

I have heard I need to get my horse looked at by a vet every year. My horse has been healthy so why do I need to do this?

Horse mouth open showing teeth and bitAnswer: I believe it is very good practice to have your horse vet checked at least annually. There are several areas that your vet can help you with.

Teeth: Most horses need to have their teeth checked each year. Young horses and the elderly it should be twice yearly, but for most once a year is enough. Your vet will check that the horse’s teeth are not sharp and are wearing evenly. They can fix any small problems there and then.

Tetanus/Strangles Injection: Unless you are confident giving injections yourself then this an annual vaccination you can also get your vet to do while he/she is there. My horses are yarded at a race course so they come in contact with quite a few transient horses during the year so I maintain their strangles vaccine, you may choose not too depending on where you take your horse and how many other horses they are likely to mix with.

Tetanus should be given every year as a preventative. You just never know when your horse may get injured and believe me it’s bad enough that your horse is injured without the possibility of getting tetanus on top of that.

Beans: Geldings can also be checked for beans by your vet each year. These are secretions which can build up to a hard bean/pea like shape within your horse’s sheath. Very uncomfortable. If your horse needs to be sedated for his teeth it’s a good opportunity to have your vet check him out at the same time for beans while he is relaxed.

Preventative drenching: My horses live on sandy soil so each year I have them nasal tubed and drenched to prevent sand and impaction colic. Impaction colic can build up over many years until it becomes a problem, preventative drenching will go a long way to helping move any unwanted objects within your horses gut.

We have had two horses in the space of 6 months at my stables with impaction colic, both of which went from being perfectly normal to very sick within 24 – 48 hours. Both were only saved due to veterinary intervention, and not cheap vet treatment either. Prevention is better than cure when it comes to colic as not every colic story has a happy ending.

Do you have more horse questions?

Horse FAQ'sI will build on these horse questions & answers over time so please be sure to check back regularly.

If you have a burning question or two you would like answered please pop them in the comment box below, email me if you prefer or even jump over to our Facebook page and put them there.

And remember there is no such thing as a silly question only the one you didn’t ask. Your horse is counting on you to look after him so if you are not sure of something then please ask.

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Horses are my passion. And while not everything in horses is black and white, and there are many choices you will need to make for your horse, I hope to explain things in a way that helps you make informed decisions, so you can provide the very best life to your horse.