Where to keep your horse
The first thing you need to think about when looking after horses is where they are going to live. Do you have enough land at home to keep a horse? If not, ‘boarding’ your horse at a stable is your only option.
Boarding at a stable
There are many benefits of keeping your horse at a stable. It allows it to socialise more with other horses and humans, and you will get to be part of a community with experts and other equine lovers.
However, keeping your horse at a stable doesn’t mean you won’t have to work hard. Your horse will need daily visits and you will be solely responsible for its wellbeing.
Keeping your horse at home
If you have land and would like to keep your horse at home, building a stable or suitable shelter is vital, so that your horse can escape the elements. In a country like the UK, where the weather can be harsh, it’s important that your horse has somewhere to go when needed.
The stable should:
- be well ventilated, but not draughty
- be free from sharp objects or anything a horse can injure themselves on
- be tall enough that the horse doesn’t knock its head
- be wide enough that the horse can walk around and sit down
- have extra space for bedding, hay and food
- be mucked out (cleaned) every day.
You should follow all of the above points if you are boarding your horse at a stable too.
Providing a good night’s sleep
Horses can sleep standing up, but they sleep better when lying down. This requires adequate bedding in the stable so they can be comfortable, and this should be kept clean to avoid potential health issues.
The inexpensive option is straw. While it is warm and comfortable, it needs more maintenance as it can contain fungal spores. It helps to keep the straw dry and covered. Wood shavings are a better, but more expensive, option as they are more hygienic. It’s important to check what types of wood shaving are appropriate for horses, as some can be toxic.
Mucking out a stable
You’ll need to clean out the stable every day to prevent any hygiene issues with your horse. You must:
- remove any droppings from the bedding, using a shovel and wheelbarrow
- dispose of the droppings far away, so they cannot be smelled from the stable
- disinfect the floor and wait for it to dry
- refill the stable with clean, fresh bedding
- clean doorways and alleys to dispose of excess muck.
Your horse will also need a paddock – a safe space that is big enough for exercise and grazing. A paddock should always be fenced, ideally with wooden or electric materials. There should be no sharp edges, gaps or elements where horses are able to injure themselves. The fencing should also be high enough so that the horse cannot jump over it.
You might initially have to plant your pasture if it isn’t currently sufficient for grazing. It’s important to plant the right grass, which can differ depending on the climate and time of year. You should ask your local vet for advice.
Your pasture will need to be maintained too. Every day, you should keep an eye out for poisonous plants (ask your vet) and holes in the ground and along fences. Manure should be removed at least once a week. If the pasture is small, it will need to be removed more often.