CAN YOU AFFORD A HORSE?
If you are interested in adopting or buying a horse, you must first determine whether you can afford to take on that responsibility. In addition to the purchase price (or adoption fee), you must consider the costs of adequate shelter and fencing, stable equipment, grooming supplies, tack, grain and hay. Also, there will be the cost of shoeing or trimming, vaccinations, Coggins testing, and the inevitable vet bill for illness or injury. Below is an overview of the various expenses.
Let's start with the basics of shelter, fencing and water supply:
Shelters can be made from either wood or metal. They should have a roof and one to three sides. For a single horse, the door should be at least four feet wide. Shelters that are used for more than one horse should have doorways at least five feet wide on at least two sides so that a trapped horse has a chance to escape from a bully.
No-climb horse wire is generally considered the safest fencing for horses. It is woven rather than welded and has small squares that a horse cannot step its foot through; however, a horse can bend the wire with a hard kick, so it is not impossible for a horse to get its foot stuck in this kind of fencing.
Electric fencing is good if the pasture does not run alongside a busy road. A shortage of electric power will allow the horses to escape. Solar chargers eliminate the need for electric power cords.
Field fencing comes in two styles: the kind that has large squares and the kind that has large squares on top and smaller squares on the bottom (to keep little critters out of the field). This fencing is much cheaper than no-climb horse wire but there is the danger that a horse will get a foot caught in the fence, especially if it paws at feed time or kicks at another horse or even at a fly. Horses tend to panic when they get a foot caught in a fence and the result is usually a badly cut leg, sometimes resulting in permanent lameness.
Barbless wire is good, although it works best when used together with at least one strand of electric wire at the height of a horse's chest to keep the horses from trying to push through the wire to get to grass on the other side.
Barbed wire is not considered safe fencing for horses. Horses can get a leg hung up over it while pawing or kicking, or a bully horse might run another horse into the fence. Imagine the sight of a horse thrashing in panic because it has one or more legs tangled in a barbed-wire fence, and then imagine how sliced up those legs are going to be when you get that horse untangled.
If you already have barbed wire in place, or if you feel you need to use it because it is economical, you can run a strand of electric wire along the inside at the horses' chest height to help keep them off the fence.
Most people run a hose from the nearest faucet to a trough in the horse's paddock. A variety of rubber and metal troughs are available at feed-supply stores. For one or two horses, you can get away with using a plastic or rubber muck-type basket or buckets hung on the fence. Provide at least ten gallons of water per horse every day.
If you can afford an automatic waterer, it will be much easier to provide and maintain a clean, algae-free and ice-free water supply for your horses. Cleaning troughs is a chore that needs to be frequently repeated. Automatic waterers require only that you wipe the bowl clean.
Once you have adequate shelter, fencing and a water supply arranged, let's consider what is needed to maintain the horse's living area. Check back for this information to come.
WINTER HORSE CARE
When freezing temperatures are setting in, we need to make sure our horses are protected from harsh weather. They also have special food and water needs this time of year.
Ideally, horses will have a two or three-sided shed so they can escape the wind and rain. At a minimum, horses should have a windbreak of dense trees or a building that they can stand beside in order to escape the prevailing winds (usually from the north and the west). Horses in an open paddock with no shelter should be protected with a well-fitted, waterproof blanket.
Horses need more calories in the winter to keep warm. Heap up those feed scoops on cold days and toss some extra hay! Check your horse at least once a week to see if he or she is losing weight by running your hand into the horse's coat and over its ribs. (Don't count on checking them "by eye" because a winter coat can conceal the ribs on a horse that is starting to lose condition.) You should barely be able to feel the ribs.
Horses typically drink less water in the winter, which can cause intestinal impaction (the same as constipation in people). Impaction colic is life-threatening in horses but can be prevented by encouraging the horse to drink an adequate amount of water each day. This can be done by adding a few tablespoons of salt to the horse's feed in the morning and again in the evening, and by making sure that the water is not frozen. Do not count on a salt block to serve the same purpose. Your horse might not lick the salt block enough to make a significant difference in its water intake.
West Nile Virus is a threat to horses and humans. The virus is spread by mosquitoes. The following steps can help prevent this disease:
- Use insect repellent on yourself and your horses.
- Vaccinate your horses against West Nile.
- Remove sources of standing water, where mosquitoes breed (for example, clean and refill your water troughs regularly; be aware of buckets, etc., that collect water around the barn and home)
- Stay inside after dark, when mosquitoes are at their worst
For information on many aspects of horse care, go to www.equisearch.com
For information on the care and training of donkeys and mules, check out
www.LuckyThreeRanch.com and www.LoveLongEars.com
Check out www.mustangs4us.com for a variety of articles about adopting and training a wild horse or burro.
Natural horse-training links: www.tomdorrance.com, www.rayhunt.com and http://www.parellinaturalhorsetraining.com/
Clipart courtesy of www.equusite.com and www.alove4horses.com. The art on alove4horses is copyrighted by Joni Solis.
*This page is a work in progress to provide helpful information and website links regarding various aspects of equine care and welfare. If there is a topic you would like to see covered, please send an e-mail to let us know. Also, if you know of a good source that isn't listed under the "Links" heading below, please submit it via e-mail for consideration. Contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org