Blog By Nikki Alvin-Smith
When it comes to horse ownership folks are often caught between budget dilemmas and tussles with time management. Here are the top five things to gift your horse, and yourself, to make the very best of your horse ownership experience by improving your horse's mental and physical health.
1. Freedom Of Movement Makes Life Better
For a creature of such size with a genetic predisposition to roam and graze, the horse presents a challenge in modern day methods for horse keeping where space is at a premium. Provision of the opportunity for the horse to move around his domain as freely as possible is a gift worth giving.
Not only will a horse be healthier both mentally and physically, but life as a horse owner will also be less onerous. A horse stabled for 23 hours a day can be harder to handle and ride. The best fix for a rambunctious horse is often simply turnout time.
This simple drug-free approach can save much training time and training issues.
Horses with arthritis will do better with turnout and we all know horses love fresh air. Let’s face it, whether you pick up manure from the stall, or pick paddocks periodically to keep the worm population under control, it really doesn’t matter where you spend your time cleaning up.
Think about adding a run-in shed to a pasture for year round use of the field and when implementing barn design choose stalls with outdoor access so that the horses can come in and out as they please.
When it comes to good horse keeping it is almost essential that a stall is available for use in case of emergency medical care, neighbor’s firework events or catastrophic weather events such as hurricanes where equines’ major injuries come from flying debris.
Gift you and your horse a stall space that offers your horse security and space to turn around and lay down. The stable should also offer good ventilation and be light. Both sunlight and good airflow minimize pathogens and provide a comfortable environment where horse care can be provided.
The stable space should be secure with kickboards to cover any metal walls for safety. Doors and walls should be an appropriate height to prevent an excited horse making a jump for it and dividing walls between stalls similarly structured so horses cannot intimidate their neighbors.
3. Become A Horse Foodie
It is cheaper to buy good food for your horse than lesser quality rations as you actually need to feed less quantity and it will benefit the health of your horse and may even diminish the number of vet visits needed in the future due to nutritional imbalances in the horse’s diet. There is little point in purchasing top quality provisions of grain and hay and then storing or feeding them in an inadequate manner.
For example, hay is probably a huge chunk of your horse keeping budget. Your horse deserves hay that isn’t muddied or manured. Buy good hay and keep it that way! To minimize waste when feeding outside consider purchasing a hay feeder. According to studies by the University of Minnesota, utilizing an equine hay feeder can save up to 30% of hay wastage whether using large and small size bales. As cows and horses are not similar in either conformation or nature, use a feeder specifically designed for horses to help ensure their safety utilizing it and always remove halters to prevent the horse becoming hung-up on a feeder.
Store your hay appropriately under cover from rain and snow, and protect it from dampness in the ground by storing it on pallets. The provision of a hay loft space or designated hay stall in your barn build, or the addition of a storage shed can save you money as you can buy hay and store it when it is being marketed at its cheapest, which is during hay season.
Buying good quality hay can save you money on the need to purchase additional supplements for your horse.
When buying supplements choose carefully. All supplements are not created equal and many are full of fillers and while dosage wise may appear cheaper are actually less effective.
Similarly when it comes to grain supplies storage is important. Provide rodent protected storage for the grain and keep supplies fresh by rotation.
4. Good Education
If you give your horse the gift of a good education, then he will be easy to handle and ride and will always better understand the demands of life with humans. Train the horse to happily trailer load and travel, stand when mounted, how to tie, and move forward off the leg and be obedient under saddle all matter when it comes to his quality of life. If there ever comes a need for the horse to move home and find a new owner his chances are much better if he has a job to do and knows how to do it successfully and is happy to oblige.
When it comes to taking lessons riders are often taunted by their non-horsey friends:
“Why are you still taking lessons? Haven’t you learned how to ride by now?”
As a horse owner there is always more to learn. Find a good trainer that is kind to work with and can supply you with sincere knowledge to progress your riding talents to where you want them to be.
5. Take Time Out
The amount of time a horse owner can find to ride in any 24-hour period is often stretched to the limit due to the demands of earning a living doing something else to afford their horse habit, and family commitments that necessarily take preference over time at the barn.
Spending quality time with your horse is more important than quality, and for folks that board their horses off property the commute can eat into the time available to spend with their equine partners. Motivation to ride can be aided by mapping out a regular schedule to ride with a barn buddy, using time earlier in the day rather than later as both mood and focus of the horse owner isn’t distracted by other daily dilemmas that might have arisen making it a more productive time spend for both horse and rider.
For barn owners choice of barn building materials that are low maintenance and that are properly carpenter crafted will minimize time spent making repairs, repainting and renovating. Smart horse barn design and proper site placement can go a long way to maximizing the time available to spend with horses.
In conclusion, give you and your horse the gifts that matter. They are more important than the latest fancy saddle or shiny boots!