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Can You Care For Your Own Horse?

Perhaps you've played with the idea of bringing your horse home to live with you on your own property. That will (and should) make you ask yourself if you know what to do to care for him on a daily and monthly basis. If you're wrestling with these thoughts, consider the following important questions to really test your horse care knowledge and confidence:

  1. Horses are herd animals and do best when with at least one other horse. To keep your horse company, would you have another horse on your property or a surrogate, such as a goat?

  2. Is there adequate land available to keep at least a couple of large animals? Does it have adequate grazing pasture (at least three acres for two horses)?

  3. Here in New England, horses can tolerate the winter cold and wind with their winter coat. But if it rains when the temperature is a little above freezing, they're at risk for hypothermia and need a shelter or run-in. Is there an available barn or shelter? If not, are you building one? Is there adequate space?

  4. Do you know enough about horse feed? You'll have to make decisions about the grain you buy, how much protein it needs to contain, how much fat, how much roughage, etc. Then, you need to know how much to feed so they get adequate nutrition, but don't put on too much weight. Plus, some horses have specific dietary needs — would you be able to put all this together, recognize when a change is needed, and be able to figure out what to change and how much?

  5. Could you notice if hay has mold? Or how about if it's too dusty? What about weedy?

  6. If you don't have year-round warm weather to maintain grazing fields, does your property have adequate storage, such as for hay bales? If not, do you have a truck and a local feed store?

  7. If your horse were to develop colic, could you recognize it? Would you know what to do and whether you needed to call the vet or could handle the situation yourself? What if he's "tying up"?

  8. What about actual injuries? What can you handle and do you know when to call the vet? Do you have a trailer, tow vehicle, and driving experience with them in case a serious injury to a horse requires immediate transport to an equine hospital?

  9. Can you deal with mucking at least two stalls or paying to have them cleaned? Every day? Including weekends and holidays?

  10. What are you going to do with the stall muckings? You see, they have this very bad habit of accumulating into a really, really, big pile over time. Do you have a way to get rid of the pile periodically? Where? Will it look good in your yard? Maybe shading your house? Will your neighbor's like it?
The foregoing are just some of the kinds of knowledge and experience you want to consider before bringing your horse home, because, if you do, his care and well-being — his very life and health, will now become your direct responsibility. If your neighbor has horses and you're "piggy backing" on their horse farm and expertise, you don't have to know all this stuff yourself and can learn from them. Whether you continue to board your horse or decide to bring him home, you'll want to feel he receives proper care so that he, like other family members, stays safe and in good health.

Besides being an avid trail rider, Jerry Tardif is a technology consultant and a horse and nature photographer in SE Connecticut — see his work at: www.jerrytardif.com. He is also co-founder and President of QueryHorse.

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