We’ve compiled a list of essential daily welfare checks for both your horse and their environment.
Essential Checks for your Horse:
Check for injuries and signs of ill health. A thorough check every day is a great way to ensure your horse hasn’t sustained any injuries and that he’s feeling well in himself.
Check/provide food and water. Whether your horse is kept on a grass diet or needs supplementary feeding, his food and forage should be clean and fresh and of an appropriate energy level for his type, age, workload and temperament. Grazing should be managed carefully for good doers, especially in Spring and Summer.
Observe your horse while you’re at the yard/field. Is he showing normal behaviour and demeanour for him?
Grooming isn’t essential every day. However, it is a good opportunity to thoroughly check over your horse for any heat, swelling, small injuries, and to strengthen your relationship with him.
Pick out feet at least once daily. This is a good opportunity to check that feet are in good condition.
Rugs, fly control and daily medication. If your horses wears a rug, or you need to administer medication or topical treatments, you’ll need to do this daily. Rugs can slip and can cause nasty injuries or get damaged if they don’t fit the horse well. Horses wearing rugs should be checked more often if possible, ideally (use a buddy system to support this if you can).
Shelter. As the weather warms up, it’s important to use grazing areas that have some shade during hot weather.
Signs of Good Horse Health:
- Horse is alert and interested in its surroundings.
- Horse is eating and drinking normally.
- Horse is passing urine (pale yellow) and faeces (should break when it hits the floor) in normal amounts.
- There are no obvious signs of discomfort, distress, sweating, pacing etc.
- There is no discharge from the eyes, nose or bum.
- Coat should be glossy and lying flat against the body, not dull and staring, and the skin should be supple.
- There is no abnormal swelling or heat on the body.
- Horse is able to stand evenly on all four legs.
- Mucous membranes should be salmon pink in colour.
- Skin recoil (dehydration test) should only take a couple of seconds.
- Horse shows normal Vital Signs: Temperature, Pulse Rate and Respiration Rate (TPR).
- Capillary refill test – pressing your thumb against the horse’s gum, when you remove it the colour should return almost immediately as the capillaries refill with blood.
Essential Checks for your Horse’s Environment:
Make sure boundaries, fencing and gates are secure and free from damage. Your horse needs a safe environment where he can’t injure himself on poorly maintained fencing or escape onto roads. It’s a good idea to check fencing every day especially where grazing borders roads. Keep gates locked when you’re not around to help deter thieves.
Don’t feed the horses! Try to make it clear to passers by that they shouldn’t feed your horse anything, even though they may mean well. More people are at home or exercising close to home at the moment and this may lead to an increase in passers by who may not know that some foods can be harmful to horses.
Appropriate grazing levels. Many horse owners are allowing their horses more turnout during Covid-19 restrictions. It’s important to monitor grass levels and make sure the available grazing is right for your individual horse. Strip grazing may be an option for good doers but some may still need supplementary hay until later in the year.