Housing, Hoof & Teeth
Housing, Rest and Exercise Contrary to what you may have heard, straight stalls are not necessarily worse than box stalls if the horses are together, and spend most of their day outside. Horses isolated in box stalls can develop behavioral problems from lack of companionship, exercise, and mental stimulation. Whenever possible, horses should be outside with other horses every day.
Horses can go into a light sleep with their legs “locked” so that it takes very little effort to remain standing. In order to achieve deep (REM or “dreaming”) sleep, a horse must lie flat. It is not known how much or how often a horse needs to do this, but do take note of any changes in your horse’s sleeping patterns.
Horses were born to move. In the wild they may walk many miles in a day, sometimes trot, but rarely gallop unless they have to. Daily opportunity to exercise is a must, but if you are building up your horse’s strength and conditioning, follow a sensible plan and do it gradually.
Extreme Weather Precautions Unless it is very wet and windy, horses tolerate cold much better than heat and humidity. If they can’t sweat, they can’t get rid of heat buildup in their bodies. If the sum of the temperature in degrees Fahrenheit and the relative humidity in percentage is over 130, you should be cautious about exercising your horse. If it is over 150, you should probably rest in the shade, and if it is over 180, most horses should not work at all.
Hoof Care Hooves should be trimmed every six to eight weeks for horses whose feet do not get adequate natural wear. Despite tradition, most horses don’t need shoes if their hooves are given the opportunity to strengthen naturally. In fact, some hoof problems are directly related to shoeing. However, changes should not be made suddenly or without expert guidance. Finding a veterinarian or farrier willing to discuss all the options may be hard, but worthwhile. In any case, neglecting the feet can be disastrous for the horse.
Teeth Horses’ teeth grow continuously. Uneven wear can lead to sharp points and edges that cause pain and difficulty chewing. A horse’s teeth should be checked once or twice a year and “floated” (to make them smoother) by a veterinarian or well-trained equine dentist as needed. Dental problems, from painful points to rotting teeth, may cause difficulty chewing or “quidding,” which occurs when food falls out of the mouth. Other signs of dental disease may include foul breath, undigested hay in the stools, or discomfort from the bit or noseband. Dental disease can lead to choke, colic, and weight loss.