Horse and donkey care

The most significant single influence on the welfare of the horse is the care and management provided by the person giving day to day care for the horse. All horse owners and keepers have a legal duty to be aware of the welfare needs of their horses and be capable of providing for them under all reasonably foreseeable conditions.

Feeding Every horse must be offered daily an appropriate ration of food, to maintain its body condition around Body Condition Score 3 (see Weight and Body Condition Scores). This daily feed ration depends on the workload and maintenance of the horse, taking into account its type and size, age, current and required weight and body score; and environmental factors such as climate, shelter and availability of grazing. Meeting the nutritional needs of horses can be complicated by the overwhelming variety of products available and the special requirements necessitated by conditions and ailments such as laminitis and dental problems. Click here to read more.

Stable Management Any building constructed or adapted for the keeping of horses should provide for their safety and comfort. Ease of access, drainage, light and ventilation are the basic requirements as an aid to disease and injury prevention. The fire risk should be considered at all times.

Biosecurity Good stable management and hygiene standards are essential basics to bio- security. Spread of disease can be reduced by not sharing tack and equipment between horses. Sick horses should be looked after by one person and careful hygiene precautions taken. If an infectious disease is present on a yard, there should be no movement of horses on or off the yard. Isolation facilities should be provided, especially at larger premises, those with a significant turnover of horses or those which import horses from overseas.  Click here to read more.

Pasture management and poisonous plants Horses generally require a minimum of one to two acres per horse. This can vary depending on the size of the horse, the type of land, the quality of the grazing and on the type of pasture management practiced. Yards and pastures should be properly fenced to confine horses. The ideal fence is post and rail with the rails set on the horse side of the fence. Gates should be kept closed and preferably locked. Ragwort is poisonous to horses and causes primarily liver damage, which can have potentially fatal consequences. It is also poisonous to humans. Click here to read more.

Grass Cuttings  soon start to ferment after they have been cut and if these are ingested in any quantity they can cause digestive upsets in a number of ways. Gas caused by the fermentation can cause distension of the intestines, the alcohols and sugars produced can cause metabolic problems due to over rapid absorption of nutrients, and the bacteria developing in the cut grass can cause enteritis and diarrhoea.

Any of these conditions would be severely distressing to the horse, and in the absence of prompt veterinary treatment, or sometimes in spite of it, could prove fatal. If a horse is well fed and in a field of good grass it is unlikely to consume grass cuttings, although there is always that possibility, but if the horse is in any way hungry or short of food it is very likely to consume large quantities of cut grass with deleterious results.

Seasonal – winter care at this of year time it is especially important to make sure your horse is as healthy and happy as can be. Make sure you check for these winter ailments and follow this basic advice to ensure you and your horse survives the period trouble free.

Mud fever – Mud fever is a bacterial infection of the skin. Good management procedures can help reduce the occurrence of mud fever. It is important that the horse has somewhere to stand every day that is dry and mud free, ideally a stable. Carefully brush off dry mud, paying particular attention to the pasterns, fetlocks and under the belly. If you have to wash off wet mud ensure you thoroughly dry the area. If you apply a barrier cream ensure the area is first completely clean and dry, otherwise bacteria will get trapped underneath. If you are at all concerned, contact your veterinary surgeon.