Maintaining the health of your horses is no easy task. Not everyone knows intuitively how to best feed and care for equines, and seeking assistance from veterinarians or other professionals can be expensive if you aren’t covered by insurance.
Horses can be fulfilling and beautiful additions to any farm or ranch, but the costs of care can quickly add up without effective and consistent health care and nutrition. Thankfully, horse owners can adopt many day-to-day practices to promote the health and wellness of their animals to avoid costly vet bills.
Knowing the signs of a healthy horse is an important place to start. When horses are at optimal health, they often display the following characteristics:
- Relaxed attitude
- Bright eyes
- Body temperature between 99 and 101.4 degrees Fahrenheit
- Pink gums
- Shiny coat
- Solid, round manure
- Pulse between 25 and 44 beats per minute at rest
- Respiration between 8 to 16 breaths per minute at rest
If you notice your horse does not display one or more of the above characteristics, make sure to monitor the situation closely and call for assistance if it worsens.
The shelter and exercise of horses can impact their general health. The ASPCA states that horses are social animals and thrive when they can roam and interact with other horses. If your horse is stalled and doesn’t have much interaction with other horses, consider increasing time at pasture.
Much like humans, maintaining general check-ups for your horses can help catch any problems before they escalate. For optimal health, horses should be up-to-date on vaccinations, have their teeth filed regularly and be examined once or twice a year. They also require frequent hoof care and regular deworming. As mentioned above, exercise is necessary, and high-quality food is required for good health and to provide fuel for exercise.
Horses require an adequate amount of water, fats, carbohydrates, proteins, vitamins and minerals to maintain complete and total health.
Water is the most important resource, so make sure your animals are able to easily access a clean water supply.
Fats and carbohydrates are the ultimate sources of energy. When horses are growing, exercising or pregnant, you should increase the number of fats and carbs they consume.
Protein is necessary for muscle development and growth. Rutgers University recommends soybean meal and alfalfa as good sources of protein that can be easily added to a horse’s diet. The absence or lack of protein can lead to a rough or coarse coat, weight loss and reduced growth, milk production and performance.
The vitamins necessary for equines include A, D, E, K, C and B complex. Fortunately, these vitamins are often present in green, leafy forages or legumes, which horses consume daily.
Minerals are also required for proper fluid balance, nerve conduction and muscle contraction. Rutgers suggests that if adult horses are consuming fresh green pasture and/or a premixed ration, they will receive proper amounts of minerals in their diet. However, younger horses may need extra calcium and phosphorus. These nutrient classes can be viewed as common guidelines and expectations when analyzing your horse’s current intake.
Importance of Horse Health and Nutrition
Veterinary bills and maintenance costs can be extremely high for treating equine-related injuries and illnesses if you are not covered by insurance. Prevention and vigilance along with proper exercise, shelter, grooming, nutrition and reliable insurance are much easier on owners and horses rather than treating problems after they arise. A consistent and well-rounded health routine will help keep your horses free of disease and ensure them a happier and longer life.