Owning Your Very First Horse
We are very pleased to provide this, our third free user-guide. This time we are looking at each and every aspect of horse ownership. This guide covers key topics such as caring for your first horse, equipment required, living requirements, integration with other horses, Insurance, dentistry, vaccinations, infections, worming, food and diet, exercise and more besides. We hope you find this guide useful!
1. About Equi Supermarket
Equi Supermarket is one of the UK's leading online equestrian stores
2. Owning Your First Horse
Whether you’ve already decided to own a horse, or you’re still thinking about it, our guide on caring for your first horse will give you all the information you need.
Caring for an animal of this nature requires a lot of your time, but with the correct input, you can enjoy all of the pleasures that your equine friend will bring.
Horses are a lot bigger than the majority of other animals that you would classify as pets and as a result they have higher demands. Now that you’re the proud owner of your first horse it’s down to you to ensure you provide them with the conditions they require to live a fulfilling and happy life.
Time, financial costs and other considerations aside, we wish you have many happy moments ahead when looking after your new horse.
3. Caring For Your Horse
Your daily routine will shift from the moment you bring your horse back to their new surroundings. For both field and stable horses, you need to make sure that you look after them properly and also provide them with the love, care, and attention they deserve.
It’s advised to check on your horse at least twice a day and your responsibilities will include mucking out their stable, grooming, providing fresh water and food, as well as making regular appointments with the vet or farrier.
Remember that each horse will have different characteristics, although it shouldn’t take them too long to adapt to their surroundings.
Also, bear in mind that this animal will need to maintain a strict routine. So for example, if you give them food at a specific time during the week, the horse will expect the food to be brought to them at the same time during the weekend.
If you follow a strict and dedicated routine and strive to provide your horse with suitable living conditions, you will get full value out of your new friendship.
4. Equipment and Supplies
You might find that some of the essential gear you need will be included when you purchase your horse or collect if from the previous owner.
If you don’t have any equipment just yet or you plan to purchase more, here’s a list of some of the items and supplies both you and your horse will need.
Items for the horse:
- Lead rope
- Grooming items – soft and hard brushes, mane comb, hoof picks, sweat scrapper
- Blankets and rugs
- Hoof oil and cream
- Fly spray and mask
- First aid kit
- Feed and feed tub
- Water trough and buckets
Items for you:
If you plan to take part in show jumping or dressage then here are some of the items you will need to purchase:
- Winter warmers
- Riding boots
After the first couple of weeks, you will start to gain more of an understanding about which items your horse needs. Although it’s essential to provide them with feed, water, and bedding, the other items listed above can be purchased at a later date.
In the meantime, you can focus your attention on building the relationship between you and your horse as they settle into their new home.
5. Sufficient Living Space
It’s likely that you have already arranged where your horse will be kept. If not, you need to organize this before you bring them back to their new surroundings; so consider your options first.
As horses are large animals, it’s vital that they have enough space around them to roam and develop.
You may wish to keep your horse in a field or in a stable. For field-kept horses, make sure the surrounding areas are enclosed so that they can’t escape.
For stabled horses, make sure that they are kept in a secure and locked environment so again they can’t escape when inside.
For both field-kept and stabled horses, it’s worth considering the distance between your home and that of your equine friend.
Remember that if your horse is kept a long way from your house then this will mean more of your time will be spent traveling to and from the destination to care for them.
6. Integration with Other Horses
Whether you own other horses, or yours will be stabled alongside others, it’s important to give your new horse time to settle before you introduce them.
After a couple of weeks, you may wish to allow your new horse to integrate with the others. This process should be completed gradually so that the herd can settle and your horse isn’t bullied by being introduced too soon.
Where possible, see if your new horse can be turned out in an empty field close to their soon to be companions.
This will allow the existing herd to bond with the horse over the fence or at least become familiar with them before they are enclosed within the same area.
Once the horses get used to each other’s company, you shouldn’t have any major problems to address. Each horse will react differently when they meet initially although these feelings should wear off quickly and integration should be easy to achieve.
7. Introducing Children to Your Horse
It’s important to teach children about safety when approaching horses. This will allow them to understand how to react around horses and not cause them any major distress.
Upon viewing the horse you should always accompany children if they are of a really young age. Those who are older may not require you to accompany them at all times, although you should still keep an eye on them. As horses are big animals they can easily cause damage if they become stressed or anxious.
Here are some tips for when children are interacting with your horse:
- Always set a good example to children by safely interacting with the horse yourself
- When approaching the horse always use a calm and soothing voice so they know where you are and they don’t feel threatened
- Ensure children stay away from a horse’s hind legs as they can kick out and cause serious harm
- Always approach their shoulder not head on - a horse has blind areas of vision when they are looking forward so always approach their shoulder
- Never let children duck under the horse’s neck as they will once again be in their blind spot of vision
- Keep children out of the stalls when feeding as the horse could mistake them for a herd-mate and try to protect their food by lashing out
- Teach children not to run away from a horse – instead, they should face them and back off to avoid being chased
- Make sure children understand certain aspects of a horse’s body language so they can observe when they are showing negative signs of behavior
- Tell children that they should always remain to stand, rather than kneeling or sitting, as they will be able to get away quickly if the horse reacts negatively
Teaching children how to be safe around horses could prevent them from serious injury. Remember that a horse will only react on instinct, but if a child understands this then they will be able to observe when they are displaying negative signs of behavior.
8. Registering With a Vet
Unlike owning other animals, when you register your horse with a vet they will usually visit your premises when needed. This is a much more practical solution as opposed to taking your horse to the vet due to the size of the animal.
All horse owners must register with a vet. When you purchase your horse it might be the case that you can use the same vet as the previous owner. Alternatively, you may wish to find one who lives closer to you.
Either way, you need to make sure that you register your horse with a vet so that any health problems can be addressed as soon as they arise.
Over time, your horse will need to see the vet for a number of reasons (including, but not limited to):
- Health issues
- Dental care
If you don’t register and an emergency situation occurs it will be very difficult to get the help you need without having to spend a lot of money.
As a result, make sure you register as soon as you have the opportunity to do so. If you leave it too late, this will only cost you more money in the long run when health issues become apparent.
Equally as important as registering with a vet, you also need to make sure you get equine insurance in place straight away.
Insurance will help with vet bills and third party incidents, as well as protect yourself from the financial costs of illness and injuries to your horse and theft too.
You should purchasing horse insurance for:
- Vets bills
- Liability of your horse
- Injuries and accidents
- Loss of use
- Trailers and horseboxes
In the unfortunate event where your horse dies and you don’t have insurance in place, you won’t receive any financial support. Whilst this will be a difficult and sensitive situation to overcome, it will be harder to deal with if the support isn’t available.
It’s down to you as a responsible owner to make sure that you have sufficient insurance in place that relates to your circumstances. For example, if you wish to engage in riding then you will need rider insurance.
Liability insurance is also advised as well to protect you if your horse takes a fall and damages property or hurts someone else.
It’s highly likely that you will need to make a claim at some point during your horse’s lifetime. Ultimately, you never know when an unfortunate event will happen and as vet bills can quickly spiral out of control, you need to be prepared by getting horse insurance.
Keeping your horse’s health in check is hugely important and therefore you need to ensure that their teeth are cared for properly.
Regulations are in operation to stop unqualified professionals carrying out dentistry procedures. So, make sure you use either a qualified vet or a dedicated equine dentist specialist.
Whilst healthcare bills may be expensive, don’t fall into the trap of choosing a low-cost vet or equine dentist. These should be treated with suspicion as you don’t want to end up with a poor and unprofessional job being carried out
This is why horse insurance is so important. As such, you won’t compromise on the health of your horse.
If you are seeking a registered equine dental technician then always ask for a recommendation from previous owners, friends who own horses, or search for well-known and reputable providers online.
Your horse’s teeth will usually need rasping on a yearly basis, although older horses will need to be checked every six months.
Once you have found a vet or equine dentist, you can ask them for advice on how often you should make appointments for the type of horse you have.
Ideally, your horse should be vetted before it’s purchased. Even if you know where the horse has come from or the previous owners, it’s better to be safe than sorry.
The vetting process will involve an inspection of the horse’s health. This means that you can determine if any problems need addressing right away or if there are any to watch out for in the future.
The full vetting process can take up to 2 hours, but it’s worth doing to avoid any issues further down the line. During this time and adhering to the British Veterinary Association guidelines, your horse will be checked and examined in five stages, where the following are monitored:
1) Skin, heart, lungs, legs, teeth, and feet
2) Walk and trot and assessment of movement
3) Ridden exercise, trot and canter
4) Strenuous workout, eyes
5) Second trot and flexion tests
So that you can determine if there are any short or long-term health issues to look out for, it’s advised to get your horse vetted.
To provide protection against diseases and infection, your horse needs to have the required vaccinations.
When you collect your new horse, check with the existing owner which injections they have had. If they are missing some or haven’t had specific ones before, speak to your vet as soon as possible.
The following vaccinations will prevent your horse from becoming ill and catching disease or infection.
Every two years
Every six months
Horses that have been out in areas where strangles has developed
Boosters ever four to six months depending on the amount of risk
During pregnancy (months eight, nine and ten)
Equine Herpes Virus (EHV)
During pregnancy (months five, seven and nine). Every six months for other horses.
Equine Viral Arteritis (EVA)
Every six months with a blood test
Foals can start receiving vaccinations from around four months of age. Always seek advice from your vet before you arrange an appointment.
Horses involved in show jumping will need to have specific vaccinations at regular intervals. Again, in this instance check the requirements with your vet.
13. Infections and Symptoms
If you suspect your horse is suffering from a particular illness, you should address this straight away. This will ensure that your horse regains solid health and continues to live a happy life.
To help you identify if your horse is suffering from an infection, disease or illness, we have listed the ones to look out for, as well as their tell-tale signs and symptoms. If at any point you believe that your horse is suffering from any of these, seek veterinary advice immediately.
Protrusion of the third eyelid, stiff neck, muscle stiffness resulting in a ‘sawhorse’ stance
Dry cough, fever, watery nasal discharge, loss of appetite, signs of depression, weakness
Yellow nasal discharge, fever, swollen lymph nodes beneath the jaws
Loss of appetite, signs of depression, difficulty swallowing, aggressive behaviour, convulsions
Watery diarrhoea, loss of appetite, signs of depression
Pawing or scrapping the ground, restlessness, flank watching (moving the head to look at the abdomen)
As parasitic worms can affect your horse’s health, it’s important to adopt a regular worming programme.
Worms can cause irreversible damage to a horse’s organs and cause colic too. Therefore, a strict regime should be carried out to prevent illness.
To avoid drug resistance, you must provide a dosage that matches your horse’s body weight. Choose the correct horse wormer based on this and then give your horse the correct dose at the right time.
Worming should be completed at least twice a year. If your horse ends up with tapeworm then it will cost you more to resolve than the initial price of horse wormers. As the old saying goes, prevention is better than cure, so make sure you stick to a strict worming programme.
If at any point you are unsure of what to do, or which horse wormers to purchase, speak to your vet and they can assist you. A little action early on will prevent a bigger problem later on in the horse’s life.
15. Using a Farrier
A farrier is an expert in the field of equine hoof care. This skill involves trimming and balancing the hooves of a horse, as well as fixing shoes too. The experience is painless for the horse, although if yours shows signs of distress then there may be something wrong with its hoof.
Horses that regularly move on hard surfaces will require horseshoes to preserve their hooves and stop wear and tear. The same rule applies if you will be riding your horse and especially if you will be taking to the road or gravel surfaces.
As an average, your horse’s hooves should be trimmed every six to eight weeks by a farrier.
This will stop them wearing down and also protects them from the exposure to hard surfaces. Some horses will also require a special kind of shoe if they have any foot or leg problems.
If your horse is already wearing shoes, then it may need to be shod every four to six months depending on the natural growth of the hoof wall. Your horse should not be shod too often as this can cause them pain, as well as damage the surrounding walls.
Get in contact with a farrier if you notice any of the following:
- A slight bulge where the hoof is growing above the ‘original hoof’
- Colour variation on the hoof
- Any sign of broken walls or damaged hooves
If you are unsure as to whether your horse needs to see a farrier then you should seek further advice from fellow horse owners, stable staff or the farrier directly.
16. Food and Diet
Feeding your horse on a regular basis is a fundamental aspect of caring for your new animal. For horses, consuming a regular and consistent diet will help aid their development and maintain good health.
What can you feed your horse?
First of all, enabling your horse to trickle feed on forage, such as hay, will help with their digestive system. Without this aspect of their diet, your horse could suffer from problems such as gastric ulcers and dental issues as well.
Chewing on hay will help keep your horse’s teeth smooth and can also maintain PH levels in their gut.
Your horse should eat around one to two percent of its own body weight in forage on a daily basis. However, if they are grazing for long periods in the field then they won’t need as much. During the winter give your horse additional hay to supplement pasture grazing.
Grain is also great for your horse. If you want to feed them grain, do so in small portions and on a regular basis. If you give them too much grain during one feed, it will be much harder to digest.
The major factors for deciding what to feed your horse are their weight and the amount of work they do. For example, if they take part in events they will need to consume more slow release energy foods. If at any time their routine changes then you need to adjust their diet accordingly.
Changing rations needs to be done gradually. If there is a dramatic shift in the amount you feed your horse this may lead to colic and other health problems.
You can also feed your horse the following:
- Compound feeds
- Crushed barley
- Crushed corn (maize)
- Sunflower seeds
- Wheat germ
Horse feeds, treats and supplements can be purchased from a pet supplies store, along with the above-listed foods.
Feed your horse twice a day. You may wish to feed them once if they are out in the field all day grazing. Also, make sure they have constant access to water in the stables and in the fields too. Water can be placed in large buckets or troughs and there should be enough water for the number of horses you own or are looking after.
Feeding and exercise
If you are going to ride your horse then wait an hour after their feed. If your routine is going to be more intense, then leave it around three hours. Riding too soon will mean that your horse’s lungs have less room to function to optimum effect. Furthermore, gut movement can slow down and lead to colic.
Once you have completed your ride, let the horse cool down and ensure that their breathing rate returns back to normal. You may also want to wipe them down using a sweat scrapper as mentioned in .
Maintaining a routine
Your horse will thrive on a routine and this means sticking to a tight feeding schedule. Meals need to arrive at the same time each day, even during the weekend.
Small changes in times won’t cause problems, although substantial differences will have a negative impact. Stick to a regular diet and your horse will take the nutrients and energy they need.
17. Final Thoughts
Within this guide, we’ve outlined some of the key areas you need to consider when it comes to owning a new horse. Looking after an animal of this nature is a huge commitment, so make sure you are ready before you bring your horse back to their new home.
Remember that as their owner it’s your responsibility to care for them and provide them with sufficient living conditions. If you offer them love, care, and regular attention, then you will spend many happy years together.
18. References and Resources
- The British Horse Society, Advice On Buying and Owning a Horse:
- About.com, What basic equipment do I need to feed, handle, ride or drive my horse? -
- Equestrian Life, How do you introduce a child to a horse?:
- Keeping Kids Safe Around Horse:
- Animal Friends, Why Do I Need Equine Insurance:
- Money Super Market, Horse insurance cover:
- British Veterinary Association:
- Equine Vet, Frequently Asked Questions:
- Doctors Foster and Smith, Common Infectious Diseases:
- 10. About.com, Learn About Rotavirus:
- 11. RVC, Vetstream, Colic – a serious belly ache:
- 12. The British Horse Society, Advice on Worm Control:
- 13. The Humane Society, The Rules of Feeding Your Horse: