Almost all horse injuries and illnesses (excluding sports
injuries and mistreatment) are due to a small number of mistakes
in the way horses are kept and treated. Here are the top 10
tips to avoiding these errors and protecting your horse's
health (in rough order of importance, beginning with the most
Start with a healthy horse
Our number one tip is to make sure when getting a new horse
that it is healthy to begin with. There are a lot of horses
which are cheap, or even free, because they have health issues;
avoid them as you are likely to spend more in veterinary costs
and tears than you will save on the purchase price. Also,
beware of sellers passing off a sick horse as a healthy one.
Before buying a horse, put it through a thorough health check
(see our website for guidance).
Food type and quality
Try to feed the horse as natural a diet as possible. This
should be grass whenever possible, otherwise hay. There are
cases when a horse may need other types of horse feed (e.g.
an old horse with dental issues, a weak horse that needs extra
energy), but for a healthy horse a natural diet is best for
its physical health and mental wellbeing.
Aside from the type of food, one needs to ensure that it
is of good quality. In particular, a horse should NEVER be
given food that has mold or fungus (visible by sight or smell).
If food becomes damp or wet, it should be used immediately
or disposed of, since food that has gone off can cause a variety
of illnesses such as colic or laminitis (founder).
It is advisable that the horse has a mineral stone and salt
lick, to compensate for any elements which may be missing
from its food.
Natural environment (pasture & herd)
Just as a horse should have natural food, it should spend
as much time as possible in a natural environment. The two
most important parts of this is that it should be on pasture
as much as possible and that it should be part of a herd (i.e.
with other horses or horse equivalents). Time on pasture gives
the horse a natural diet (grass), a natural feeding regime
(many small feeds throughout the day rather than a couple
large and short feeds), exercise and mental stimulation. Being
with other horses gives a sense of safety (horses have a very
strong herd instinct) and the social interactions gives it
A horse which spends much of its day in this type of environment
is not only happier, but is far less likely to develop bad
habits (e.g. cribbing) due to stress or boredom. Horses which
are kept in a natural environment also tend to be physically
Especially if a horse spends a lot of time in its stall,
the stall environment should be healthy. It should have enough
ventilation that there is not a build up of ammonia (the harsh
burning smell which is produced when bacteria break down horse
urine on the stall floor). It should be big enough that the
horse has a bit of room to move, say 4 yards by 4. It should
have clean and suitable bedding. In particular, bedding which
has gone off (mold or fungus) should never be used.
The pasture should be free of any items which could injure
One of the most common causes of serious horse injuries is
inappropriate fencing wire. One should never use barbed wire,
as it can puncture the horse, resulting not only in injuries
(which can be fatal if it happens to hit a main artery) but
also abscesses and other serious infections. One should not
use high tension wire, since if it breaks and tangles around
a horse's leg, it can cut through flesh and tendon down to
the bone. If one uses wire, it should be a type which breaks
before causing serious injury and should probably be under
electrical current to discourage horses from pushing against
If one is using a field which has not been previously cleaned,
every bit of it should be closely examined for items which
could injure a horse and such items removed. I've seen enough
horses seriously injured from being put on an old farming
field which had bits of fencing wire or pieces of machinery
lying about. Likewise, holes (e.g. from burrowing animals)
can result in a broken leg so should be filled in promptly.
Similarly, broken branches or other objects lying around can
result in injuries (especially if the horses are spooked at
night, when they may not see the objects and consequently
run into them).
There are a number of poisonous plants, which can make a
horse ill or even kill it. Learn what types of plants are
on your horse's pasture and check if any of them are poisonous
to horses. Most horses will avoid the majority of poisonous
plants (unless there is nothing else to eat) so if you see
a type of plant which the horses are not eating, one should
in particular check that it is safe.
Preventative routine medical
An ounce of prevention is better than a pound of cure. One
should worm a horse regularly, give it the required inoculations,
and have a regular (e.g. once a year) dental check. Worming
requirements depend partly on where you live (parasite types
and severity vary by region). Likewise the inoculations which
should be given depend not only on the local areas (what diseases
are present) but also on how you use the horse (e.g. if it
is transported off your property and comes into contact with
strange horses). Consequently, one should discuss requirements
with a local veterinarian.
Watch and regularly inspect the horse
Horses, like people, will naturally become ill occasionally
and may suffer accidents from time to time. In most cases,
one starts with a minor problem which is easily (and inexpensively)
treated if spotted early, but may become a major issue if
One should watch a horse each day, and preferably twice a
day, even if it is just for a few minutes. Learn what is normal
behavior for that particular horse (e.g. running about or
quietly grazing) and if there is a change to its normal behavior
one needs to inspect the horse more closely. In particular,
any signs of the horse appearing unwell (e.g. head hanging,
inactive, stopped eating) or unhappy should be checked and
monitored until the cause is found and corrected, with veterinary
assistance if the situation becomes worse or is already serious.
Certain illness (e.g. impaction colic, laminitis) can often
be treated successfully if done so promptly, whereas waiting
less than a day after the first visible symptoms can result
in a maimed or dead horse. Regular observation and prompt
treatment are the key to so many illnesses.
One should clean and examine the sole of the hooves each
day. In part this is to remove stones, ice chunks or other
items which can damage a hoof. However, an equally important
part of this daily routine is that it enables one to spot
hoof issues early. Likewise, regular grooming is important
not only because a clean horse looks better but also because
it provides an opportunity to closely examine all parts of
the horse for injuries or other abnormalities.
Horses should have shelter from excessive cold, rain or wind.
A simple shelter, open on one side facing away from the prevailing
wind, can greatly increases the horse's comfort. Alternatively,
when the weather is very bad, it may be necessary to remove
the horses from pasture and paddock and put them into their
The amount of shelter a horse requires depends on the local
environment (how extreme the temperature gets locally) but
also on the horse. A strong and healthy horse, which is neither
very old or very young, will be much more resistant to weather
extremes. Likewise, certain breeds (especially if they have
a long coat, which has not been trimmed or had the coat oils
removed by frequent washing) are more resistant than others.
One needs to provide a level of shelter which is appropriate
to the individual horse and the current weather. One should
also consider a horse rug for horses which are very old, very
young, sick, weak or prone to illness. One may also consider
a fly sheet which not only increases the horses comfort but
also reduces the risk of sweet itch, eye infections (if a
fly mask is used) and other illnesses which can be transmitted
by biting or blood sucking insects.
Consider breed and individual requirements
Each breed has its own special requirements. For examples,
many breeds are prone to laminitis and consequently should
have only limited access to spring grass. Other breeds may
have specific issues and require special treatment (e.g. many
Appaloosa are night blind and consequently are more likely
to run into fencing if left out at night). Learning about
your breed's strengths and weaknesses from a medical perspective
will allow you to respond accordingly.
Likewise, each horse is an individual. Some are more weather
resistant than others. Some are more prone to colic or other
illnesses. As you watch and live with your horse, learn about
its special needs and treat it accordingly. For example, if
it is allergic to dust, one may need to soak its hay in water
or buy low dust feed. If it looks unhappy and uncomfortable
in cold weather, one should consider taking it under shelter
or providing it with a rug, as you may be looking at an early
warning for a potential illness (e.g. cold induced colic or
a cold induced lung infection). Taking account of your horse's
medical history and behavior as part of your horse management
program will help keep it healthy and happy.
Continue to learn
Nobody knows everything about horses and everyone started
out knowing nothing. However, if you educate yourself and
continue to learn, you will be able to take better care of
your horse, avoiding problems when possible and otherwise
treating them promptly and correctly.
Author Resource:-> The above is an excerpt from http://www.wowhorses.com/healthy-horse-top-10.html
which was written by Dr. Doug Stewart based on his research.