All horses must receive immediate veterinary attention when they are sick or injured. In most cases unnecessary pain, injury and disease can be prevented through good husbandry, regular visits to a veterinarian and addressing any issues the veterinarian raises.
Did you know that there is a special law protecting animals?
This law is called the Animal Welfare Act. The Animal Welfare Act says that animals in your care must be provided with an environment and care that meets their five welfare needs.
These welfare needs are five important conditions that need to be met for animals to be healthy and happy. These five welfare needs are called the Five Freedoms.
One of these Freedoms is: Freedom from Pain, Injury or Disease. In this section, you will learn about this freedom and how you can make sure your horse has the right care, husbandry, and medical care to be free from pain, injury or disease.
Just like you have a family doctor that you see when you are unwell, your horse will need their own doctor too - a veterinarian is an animal doctor. It’s a good idea for your family to decide on the veterinarian they plan on using before you get your horse. Not all veterinary clinics specialise in horses, so it is important you find a veterinarian that is experienced at treating horses. Vets that specialise in horses will usually come to where your horse is, rather than you having to transport your horse to a veterinary clinic.
Once you get a new horse, your family should have him/her seen by your chosen veterinarian straight away for a check-up and to administer any preventative treatments or medication that may be required. Your veterinarian should also be able to give you lots of tips and advice for properly caring for your horse and helping him/her to settle in. Make sure you ask the veterinarian any questions you have about caring for your horse.
Cleaning hooves is an important part of basic horse care. With the help of an adult, you should clean your horse’s hooves daily, as well as before and after riding to avoid the hooves being bruised from rocks or debris that may get stuck in the hoof.
Regularly cleaning and checking over your horse’s hooves can also help you identify any problems early, such as odour, bruising, cracking, or loose shoes; if you do notice an issue with your horse’s hooves, ask your parent or caregiver to contact your horse’s veterinarian or farrier to determine the proper steps to take to fix the problem before it becomes a whole lot worse.
Horses have four toes which are covered in hard hooves. Your horse’s hooves will grow over time, much like your toenails, so you will need to keep them trimmed regularly so they don’t overgrow! If horse’s hooves are left to grow too long, they can cause major problems. Your horse will have difficulty and pain walking, and sometimes hoof problems can lead to very bad foot infections.
Your horse’s hooves will need to be trimmed with special tools. It is best to let a farrier trim your horse’s hooves. Farriers specialise in caring for hooves, especially those of horses. They are able to keep the hooves in good condition and check for any signs of hoof disease or other ill-health. They also watch for potential lameness issues, fixing issues before a more serious problem occurs.
A good tip is that if you begin having your horse’s hooves trimmed when he/she is still young, this will make it easier for the horse to become used to.
Your horse’s hooves also need to be inspected often to make sure they are healthy and in good shape. You need to check that your horse is not limping and that his/her hooves are not cracked or swollen, and check that they do not have any stones or other items stuck in their hooves. If your horse has hooves which are not taken care of, he/she can become lame; this a condition in which movement is painful, often making an animal walk unevenly or unwilling to walk.
Foot rot is a condition in which the hooves of your horse can get badly infected. This is caused by standing on ground which is too wet. To prevent this disease, your horse’s living area should be kept dry and it is important to make sure that the land where your horse it kept is not too wet for your horse.
If your horse is on wet ground, do not leave him/her there for too long or problems will develop. Special horse shoes can be fitted to your horse’s feet which help to protect his/her hooves. Ask your horse’s farrier about providing your horse with horse shoes and see if he or she thinks it is necessary.
Your horse will need some regular preventative treatments to make sure he/she does not become ill.
This is one of the best ways to make sure you keep your horse free from pain, injury and disease. Vaccinations protect horses against diseases that can cause illness and death.
There is a range of different vaccines available for horses; your veterinarian will be able to tell you what vaccines are recommended for your horse, based on the individual horse and his/her home and lifestyle. Horses also need to be given medication regularly to protect them against worms, lice and other parasites such as mites.
Your veterinarian will be able to provide the special medication for this and will show an adult how to give it to your horse.
Horses have teeth that keep growing and growing! When your horse eats and chews his/her food, the teeth slowly become worn and ground down. However, this can happen unevenly, and cause problems or horses can even break teeth. Your horse's teeth should be checked regularly to make sure there are no problems that need to be addressed.
You should have a veterinarian, or a reputable veterinary dentist check your horse's teeth every 6 months or so. A veterinarian or a reputable veterinary dentist will able to check if your horse's teeth are in good shape and can do any dental work that might need doing.
If your horse develops problems with his/her teeth, it can lead to your horse being in a lot of pain and getting sick as a result of not wanting to eat or drink. Look out for any of the following signs that your horse might have a dental problem:
Grooming your horse will help increase the bond between you and your horse, and will also give you a chance to look over your horse for any signs of illness, injuries or pain.
Your horse’s hair will grow long and thick, which means it is likely going to get dirty from time to time - because of this, your horse will need to be groomed regularly. With the help of an adult, you can do this by brushing your horse. Using special horse brushes, you start by brushing the side of your horse’s body. Make sure to brush in the direction that the hair grows. This will comb out any mud and dust that might be on your horse’s hair.
You can then brush the mane and tail also. If your horse’s hair gets too long or he/she gets too hot, you can get special clippers that can be used to give your horse a haircut. This is called clipping your horse. Not all horses need to be clipped, but it is a good idea if you live in a hot area and your horse does a lot of exercises. Horses that keep their long thick coats in summer and do a lot of exercises are going to get very hot under a warm coat! Always get an adult to clip your horse.
When you first get your new horse, it is best to let an adult groom the horse for the first few times. Remember, when your horse first arrives at his/her new home he/she will probably be a bit scared and unsure and could act nervously. For this reason, it is best if an adult is the only one touching the horse for the first few days until he/she settles in. Horses are very strong animals and you could get injured very badly if your horse accidentally hurts you out of fear.
Colic is a term used to describe when horses have pain in the abdomen. Colic can be caused by a range of things such as parasites, dirty hay or water, eating too much pasture, or changing food sources too fast.
Unfortunately, horses can experience colic quite commonly. Sometimes colic can be very mild, and other times it can be life threatening for your horse. It is best to see a veterinarian whenever you suspect your horse may be suffering from colic.
To reduce the risk of your horse getting colic you can:
Horses who have colic will act like they are in pain, making distressed noises and often kicking at their bellies. They often also want to lie down for long periods of time and are reluctant to get up. They may also roll and paw at the ground a lot. If you think your horse has colic, tell an adult and have them call a veterinarian immediately.
If you suspect your horse might be sick, the veterinarian should be called right away. Horses are normally alert, curious and quite social. A horse that is feeling ill can show the following signs:
Male companion horses should generally be castrated so that there aren’t more foals (baby horses) born, who might not be able to find loving homes.
Castrating male horses can also help to manage their behaviour; sometimes stallions (male horses that have not been castrated) can be difficult to handle.