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New Year’s resolutions for the horse owner

New Year’s resolutions for the horse owner

Written by: Sharon Smith MSc SEBC(Reg) IEng BHSAPC

Are you going to make any resolutions this year? If not for you, spare a thought for your horses in 2018. Here are some ideas, based on the outcomes of the 4 main priorities for equine welfare [1]:

1) Unresolved stress/pain behaviour

⦁ Get your horse’s teeth checked under sedation, even if your usual dentist is fabulous. An EDT or vet can then do a thorough inspection for caries, before it becomes an expensive, and/or painful, load of procedures.

⦁ Have ALL your tack checked for fit, including the bit and bridle. If your horse is in full work you may need a 3-monthly visit by a qualified Saddle Fitter. More than half the behaviour problems under saddle are caused by pain from an ill-fitting saddle.

⦁ How’s your First Aid? Log ‘normal’ temperature, pulse and respiration. Blow the dust off the top of your first aid kit (unless you have a horse like mine, that self-harms almost daily) make sure it’s stocked properly (ask a vet). Are the things that are supposed to be sterile, unopened and in date? If not, why not practice with it while you horse is healthy – just in case?

2) Inappropriate nutrition

Use a weigh-bridge. You could make a couple of trips to a vehicle facility with/without horse. There may be independent horse weighing services, or some feed companies with a mobile weighbridge. Then check your weigh-tape and ensure accurate sedation, medication, worming and legal transportation.

Feed more forage. Fibre-based bagged feeds still don’t offer the same amount of ‘chew’ as forage. Chewing stimulate saliva and is protective against performance-limiting gastric ulcers. There is evidence that racehorses on a grass and hay diet can be successfully raced over several years [2].

Have your forage analysed. If you horse needs to lose or gain weight, or you’re serious about competition, you can’t afford to ignore the mineral, protein and energy contribution of forage to the equine diet, and you might off-set the costs of the analysis in savings in hard feed and vets bills!

3) Inappropriate stabling/turnout

⦁ Remember horses need the 3F’s: Friends, Forage and Freedom. Environment has as much to do with performance and behaviour as training. Can you make improvements?

⦁ Make changes to minimise air-born dust, and plan a regular clean: up high as well as down low. Maintain the best dust-free environment for horse and humans.

⦁ Walk the yard with a notepad and review bio-security, fire procedures, environmental impact, fencing, access for emergency vehicles, and security measures.

4) Delayed death

OK, it’s not a nice thought at such a jolly time of year, but it’s best to be prepared….

⦁ Write a list of ‘Emergency contacts’ for your horse and make sure it’s prominently displayed in an appropriate place, or tell people where to find it.

Make sure people know your opinions and wishes, in case you aren’t contactable.

⦁ Start a separate savings account to cover the unexpected.

And one very easy final resolution is to spend a few minutes ‘undemanding’ time every day. It’s good for you, and your horse in too many ways to list – promise!

Happy New Year!

[1] Horseman, S., Whay, B., Mullan, S., Knowles, T., Barr, A., & Buller, H. (2016). Horses in our Hands. World Horse Welfare

[2] Ringmark, S., Roepstorff, L., Hedenström, U., Lindholm, A., & Jansson, A. (2017). Reduced training distance and a forage-only diet did not limit race participation in young Standardbred horses. Comparative Exercise Physiology, 13(4), 265-272.


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