Horse and Pony Ownership & Responsibility Part 2

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Horse and Pony Ownership & Responsibility Part 2

If you decide to keep your horse in a field, you will still need to provide the horse with some form of shelter from the elements, particularly as the weather is getting more extreme with heavy snow falls, cold spells to heavy rain and heat waves

A shelter shed should be built in the corner of a field with its back to the prevailing wind and easily accessible for feeding. It should be positioned so that a horse cannot get trapped between it and the boundary fence

A shed, which is open fronted, will also lessen the possibility of one horse being cornered and injured by another. Also don’t remove the cobwebs as they act as a useful and free trap for flies

You may not see your horses using the shelter that much in the winter, but in the summer they provide great protection from flies

Your horse should always have access to clean fresh water

If a stream runs through the field make sure that the approach to the water is not steep or likely to cause injury to the horse. Also the water should be free flowing and not stagnant

If there is no stream in the field then you need to supply water to the field. A large trough or old bathtubs with smooth edges are ideal. They should be checked and cleaned regularly at the very least twice a day, more in hot weather and any ice taken out during cold weather

Feeding

The rules to good feeding are as follows:

Clean fresh water must be available at all times

Feed little and often (for their size horses have very small stomachs)

Feed according to work, temperament and condition – if you have a big cob he may need a higher energy feed then your thoroughbred

Also the sick horse will be on a different feed to the healthy horse. Like us humans, each horse is different so you need to change your feeds to suit each horse

Keep to the same feeding hours each day

Do not work hard immediately after feeding – take your horse out of the field at the very least ½ hour before riding him, depending on the work he is about to do

Feed adequate roughage – grass, hay, chaff or bran

Introduce changes to feed gradually – horses have sensitive digestive systems if you change their diet too quickly they can get colic and other illness

Feed clean, good quality forage – you would not eat bread covered in mould, so don’t give mouldy feed to your horse

Feed something succulent every day – depending on your horse, this can mean grass or a carrot

If the field has not got enough grass for the horses or they are doing hard work, you will need to supplement their grass diet with hay and what are called ‘hard feeds’. These are oats, barley, pony cubes, mixes etc

In order to give your horse the correct hard feeds you should talk to your supplier about the right diet for your horse taking into account the amount of work the horse is expected to do each day, the type of horse you have and the condition he is in

Rugging Your Horse

Most native breeds of horse, like the Irish draught and Welsh cob, will not need rugs. If the horse is fit and healthy, his own coat will keep him comfortable and warm, but if he has been clipped, or if his coat is very fine and he is groomed regularly then you will need to put a rug on to protect him from the cold

This is why the grass kept horse should not be groomed on a regular basis. You should check for any cuts, bumps or bruises on a daily basis, but only give him a light groom such as cleaning the feet and removing heavy mud and sweat marks

This will allow the horse to maintain the natural oil balance in his coat and reduce the need to use a rug. If your horse does need to be rugged there are hundreds of rugs available for outdoor use, they need to fit properly and be checked on a regular basis to ensure sores have not occurred. After a wet muddy winter it may be necessary to have the rug washed and re-proofed to ensure its waterproof

In the interests of safety and comfort, a horse’s rug should be of a suitable type and correctly fitted. A rug that slips, has been on too long without being reset or does not fit correctly from the outset, will rub the horse and cause discomfort

Checking The Fit Of a Rug

The size of rug required is calculated by measuring along the side of the horse, from the middle of the chest to the point of the buttock

how to measure for a horse rug

How To Measure For A Horse Rug

Rugs are sized in increments of three inches (approximately 7.5cm) and standard sizes range from four feet (122cm) to seven feet six inches (229cm)

Horses vary in both size and shape – the depth of their girth or neck and size of their shoulder can all affect how a rug fits

The cut of the different rugs can also vary, enabling the most appropriately shaped rug to be selected to suit an individual horse

A rug should fit well around the horse’s shoulder and around the base of the neck

The front of the rug, when it is fastened, should not be able to slip back and down below the point of the shoulder

The rug should fit comfortably over the top of the neck in front of the horse’s wither, and should not be able to slip backwards down the horse’s spine

The horse should be able to move freely and be able to lie down and roll without the rug slipping or causing restriction. An especially broad horse may require a size larger than measured

All fastenings should be secure and measures taken to prevent them from coming undone

In addition to chest straps, rugs are fastened either by cross-surcingles (straps which cross from one side to the other underneath the horse’s belly), by a pair of hindleg straps (that pass between and around the hindleg), or a combination of both

There should be a clear hand’s width between the horse’s belly and the surcingle, and leg straps should be similarly adjusted to allow a hand-width between the strap and the horse’s thigh on both sides

The leg straps should also be looped through each other to prevent rubbing, enabling them to work together and prevent the rug from slipping.

Rugs should be cleaned and dried regularly, with outdoor rugs also being maintained in a waterproof condition

Straps, buckles and stitching should be inspected regularly for signs of damage and any necessary repairs made immediately

Using Horse And Pony Tack

Tack is a term used to describe the bridle, saddle and accessories worn by a horse

There are numerous types and makes of saddles and bridles. It is essential that any tack used should be suitable for the purpose intended and fitted correctly

Damaged and ill-fitting tack can affect the horse’s comfort(causing behavioural problems when ridden) and may result in serious injuries to horse and rider

Buying second-hand can be cost effective but ensure items are in good condition paying particular attention to straps, buckles etc

The Bridle

Bridles may be made of leather, webbing or synthetic material, and are secured by stitching, buckles and billets

They are available in four main sizes (Shetland, pony, cob and full) and are fully adjustable. They normally have standard cavesson nose band which can be changed to a different style if required

To Check The Fit Of A Bridle:

The headpiece, which forms the main part of the bridle (in combination with the cheek pieces), should lie comfortably behind the horse’s poll

The brow band should rest across the horse’s forehead (preventing the headpiece from slipping backwards), with a clearance of two finger widths to prevent the headpiece from pinching the ears

It should be possible to place two fingers under the cavesson nose band if this is correctly fastened

The cheek pieces should be buckled equally and should allow the bit to lie comfortably in the mouth, creating only a slight wrinkle at the corner of the lips

The bit should lie flat in the horse’s mouth, with approximately one centimetre of clearance on either side of the mouth

The Bit
The bit forms the mouthpiece of the bridle and is one of the means by which a rider, via the reins, communicates with and directs the horse

There are many different types of bit, which can be classified into five types according to their mode of action. In very general terms these five are:

Snaffle
Double
Gag
Pelham
Bitless – A contradiction as no bit is used

Snaffle bits are the mildest and should be the most commonly used

Other types of bit are generally more severe and need an experienced and knowledgeable rider to use correctly

The bit must be of the correct size and fit to ensure it works correctly and is comfortable for the horse

Bits are available (in increments of 0.5cm) in sizes ranging from 9cm (3ins) to 15cm (6ins)

Bit sizes are measured along the length of the bar between the inner edges of each bit ring, when the bit is laid flat

The size and shape of the mouth varies from horse to horse and, together with other factors such as age and schooling needs to be taken into consideration when selecting a suitable bit for an individual horse

The action and strength of a bit may be altered or increased by the application of a different style of nose band, the type and fit of which will influence the degree of pressure on the nose

The Saddle

It is vitally important a saddle is both well fitting and positioned correctly on the horse’s back

A qualified saddle fitter should carry out fitting, although every rider should be able to position a saddle correctly for use and be able to identify signs that a saddle no longer fits and requires attention

If the horse’s shape alters, as a result of weight gain or muscle development, the fit of the saddle will need to be checked

How to correctly position a well-fitting saddle:

The saddle should be placed on the back, over the wither, and then slid backwards into its natural resting place.

Check that the saddle is balanced and level and not tipping backwards or forwards. There should be a broad-bearing surface, with the weight distributed evenly along the horse’s back

No part of the saddle should make contact with the spine or wither. The gullet of the saddle should be approximately 6.5cm wide along its full length – there should be a similar clearance between the front of the saddle and the top of the horse’s wither

The position of the point of the saddle tree should sit behind the horse’s shoulder blade, so that it does not restrict the horse’s normal movement. The tree-arches and points should not dig into the horse’s shoulder

The back saddle should not sit too far along the back (as the horse is not designed to take weight on its lumber region) and no further back than the start of the last rib

Ideally, the rider should use a mounting block, or get a leg-up when mounting, to avoid twisting the saddle and affecting its position or straining the horse’s back

When the horse is being ridden, the saddle should not move significantly in any direction and should remain well fitting and balanced

The Girth

Girths are a vital piece of tack, attaching the saddle to the horse and helping maintain its position

They are available in many shapes, types and sizes to suit a range of different saddles

Essentially, a girth should be broad and smooth, fitting comfortably around the horse’s breast

Most general purpose saddles have three girth straps and it is correct to attach the girth to the first and third of these on each side

A correctly fastened girth should rest approximately one hand’s width behind the horse’s elbows

Saddle Cloths, Numnahs and Pads

Saddle cloths and numnahs are used to keep the underside of the saddle clean and to minimise saddle slip

If they are too thick or allowed to crease up under the saddle, they can alter the fit of an otherwise well-fitting saddle

They should not be used in an attempt to improve the fit of an ill-fitting saddle

Undue pressure can be placed on the horse’s withers and spine if a saddle cloth or numnah is not pulled up fully into the gullet. Pads are often used to alter the fit of a saddle

If such measures are necessary long-term, then the saddle clearly does not fit and a new, well-fitting replacement should be obtained

Influence Of The Rider

A bit is only as kind as the manner in which it is applied

A rider with hard hands, who constantly pulls or jerks the reins, can cause soreness, bruising and a great deal of discomfort to the horse’s mouth. In the wrong hands, any bit, irrespective of its severity, can cause a great deal of pain and distress to a horse

Placing a more severe bit in a horse’s mouth, to increase control and therefore enable a forward-going horse to be ridden by a less experienced rider, is a recipe for disaster. In such circumstances, the horse is being forcibly prevented from going forward, and instead may go sideways, backwards or even rear upright, with potentially serious consequences

When mounted, the rider must sit centrally and correctly in the saddle, thereby distributing their weight evenly. A correctly fitting saddle will help the rider to adopt the optimum position, allowing for the correct application of leg and seat aids, as well as ensuring maximum security

However, a poor rider who sits badly (crookedly or tipping forwards or backwards) can have a detrimental effect on the horse’s balance and put pressure on the animal’s back

An uncomfortable or poorly fitting saddle may be evident in the way a horse moves and reacts when the saddle is used. For example, the horse may become reluctant to move forward, and may start hollowing or hunching its back or even buck

A rider should be observant of any changes in a horse’s physical appearance and behaviour that may indicate that a saddle no longer fits comfortably. The advice of a qualified saddle fitter should be sought

Grooming Your Horse

You don’t need to have all the latest products and gadgets to keep your horse clean and happy. A few basic pieces will be sufficient

The necessary things you should have are:

Hoof pick – absolute must have, if your horse can’t walk, you can’t ride him

Curry comb – either plastic or rubber, this is very good for lifting dirt off the coat, massaging the muscles and cleaning the body brush

Body brush – removes the dust and scurf from the coat, mane and tail

Water brush – for use with your bucket of water to remove heavy mud and stains

Sponge or cloth – for cleaning eyes, nose and muzzle and dock

Shoeing A Horse

Remember, ‘No Foot – No Horse’

Depending on your horse and the type of work he does your horse will need to see the farrier between 4 and 8 weeks, and they will also be able to tell you how you should look after their feet and whether or not they need shoes. You should talk to your farrier about the best practice for your horse or pony.

There is now a growing trend towards keeping your horse barefoot, this warrants the services of an experienced hoof trimmer and may be a service that your local farrier also provides

There are alternatives to shoes, which help protect your horse’s feet, being barefoot is not suitable for every horse so seek advice

Your farrier will also be able to help and advise if your horse has laminitis or other hoof related injuries / ailments

Laminitis is a very serious condition, which can cause severe lameness and deformity in the horses hoof.

There is no one cause for laminitis and there is no cure – but it can be controlled and prevented. Every horse is different, so while one horse in a herd may develop the condition it does not mean all the horses will

Some causes of Laminitis are too much rich feed, not enough exercise, standing still on hard ground all the time, pregnancy

Laminitis is the inflammation and swelling of the sensitive areas in the horses hoof around the bone and behind the hoof wall. The level of discomfort would be something akin to you putting on and wearing 24/7 a pair of shoes a size to small for you – causing your foot to be pressed into the narrower area with no room for movement

If you suspect your horse has laminitis contact your vet immediately, followed by your farrier as he may need to remove or re-adjust the shoes on the horse to help relieve the discomfort

Bad shoeing can also lead to laminitis, so make sure your farrier is fully qualified

Dentist

Just as you should go the dentist once a year for a check up so should your horse. Horse’s teeth need to be seen to on an annual basis

Due to the nature of a horse’s diet and the way they eat, horses teeth can develop very sharp edges which will result in discomfort for the horse and in turn for you as the rider / handler

Looking After a Sick or Injured Horse

With the best intentions in the world, we cannot always prevent our horses and ponies from being sick or getting injured. We can reduce the risks but sometimes these things just happen. And when they do happen – the important thing is not to panic and not to leave the horse in pain

To help reduce the chances of your horse getting Equine Flu or Tetanus you should have him vaccinated once a year and keep clear records of the injections on his passport

A big problem facing a herd of horses is worms. To prevent your horse getting ill from an infestation of worms you should worm your horse on a regular basis – approximately every 6 – 8 weeks

Talk to your local vet to confirm the type of worming dose to give your horse throughout the year. Different types of worms appear at different times of the year and no one product is effective against them all

If your horse is sick or injured contact your vet straight away – it does not matter the time of day or night. Depending on the severity of the injury / sickness the vet may tell you what to do over the phone or he may call out

If you suspect your horse to have colic, contact your vet immediately. Colic is a very serious condition. The symptoms of colic include laying down and getting back up again repeatedly, the horse looking at their quarters (bum and back legs), stamping the ground, swishing of their tail, unable to go to the toilet though they keep trying

The horse may not present himself to you with all these symptoms – he may only show one or two, but you should be able to recognise in your own horse through constant handling when he is not feeling well

If your horse has an injury or illness, don’t keep riding the horse, unless the vet gives the all clear. Give your horse a couple of days rest and then start back with gentle walking in hand before sitting up on him and taking him for gentle hacks as this will give him time to recover before being put back into heavy work

Going Away on Holiday

If you are going away on holiday have a friend or experienced person look after your horse while you are away

Leave them the contact numbers of your vet and farrier and also any special diet requirements your horse is currently on

This Article On Keeping And Owning A Horse Has Been Compiled By Tamsyn Lewis With The Aid Of ‘The Manual Of Horsemanship’, Published By The Pony Club

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