Keeping your horse fit and healthy
Keeping your horse fit and healthy can be hard work, but it’s all part of an incredibly rewarding process.
By taking care of them you'll ensure they can remain active for years to come - and it's a great excuse to spend a day in the paddock with them! Take a look at our advice below for some tips on keeping them in good shape.
Exercising your horse is an important part of looking after them - it's also one of the most fun parts! Regular riding helps build your horse's muscles, while the exercise will keep them happy and calm throughout the day. Aim to exercise for 30 minutes to an hour each day, with one or two rest days a week depending on their ability. Avoid exercising them for more than six days in a row, as they will get tired out!
You'll need to warm up and cool down, just like humans do when we exercise. Start by walking your horse around in large circles, turning occasionally to help stretch the neck muscles; then break into a trot and finally a canter. The length of each section will need to be in accordance with your horse's fitness and an equine expert will be able to assess your individual horse. Ensure you do these same actions in reverse to warm down at the end of your session.
After any activity your horse will need to be groomed - take a look at our comprehensive guide to grooming your horse here.
Checking your horse's health should become a matter of routine, making it easy to spot when there may be problems which need addressing. Generally speaking, your horse should naturally be alert and inquisitive, with steady breath and a good level of responsiveness.
There are a number of day-to-day actions you can carry out to ensure your horse's on-going health. One of the most important checks to carry out after exercising or training your horse is on their feet. Lameness usually originates here, so it's important to make daily checks - look for impacted stones or thorns; splits and cracks in the hoof; loose or twisted shoes; or abnormal colouring or smells. You should also have your horse's hooves trimmed and balanced every four to six weeks. Check your horse's temperature by taking it at the same time over a period of days to find their normal resting temperature. This is useful to know in case your horse falls ill.
You should also ensure that your horse receives the correct vaccinations, most notably for tetanus and influenza. Your local vet will be able to talk you through the correct times for your horse, but usually the first should be when they are around three months old. If you're purchasing an older horse, it's important to try to get their vaccination records, if possible, to help you keep them protected - this should be in their passport.
You can ensure that your horse maintains their health by making sure they have a good diet - you can read more about feeding your horse here. It's also important to make sure they get plenty of exercise and spend lots of time outdoors, as this is far more natural for them than being in stables and will ensure they remain happy and active even when you are not around.