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Welcome to the Equestrian Outreach Equine Maintenance PagePony At Wash Rack

Equine Maintenance Overview


As outlined within this web site the fundamentals of a successful horse human relationship education, observation and routines. Getting into the habit of observing your horse’s condition on a regular basis is a productive routine. You will soon be able to spot early signs of illness, injuries or unproductive behaviors. It is also a powerful bonding experience that horses and owners relish.

Daily 5 Minute Checkup Routine

Every time you feed or handle your horse it is best to make a 5-minute check on his overall health: 

  1. Is your horse alert and bright eyed?
  2. Does your horse’s behavior seem normal?
  3. Does your horse have a shiny coat?
  4. Does your horse eat and drink?
  5. Any discharge from the eyes or nose?
  6. Any cuts or abnormal swelling on legs or other parts of body?
  7. Does your horse limp or head bob when it walks?
  8. Do your horse’s feet look good?
  9. Is you horse eating all of its food?

The Horse Fitness Inspection Check List (4 Times a Year)

This evaluation is based on a daily observation of your horses habits, it takes about 10 minutes and is an assessment which is not meant to replace an annual Vet check. (Click here for a list of local Vets)
Required Items: Stethoscope, watch, horse safe rectal thermometer with some lubricant such as petroleum jelly.

  1. Make a note of the mood of your horse where are its ears?
    1. Movement back and forth is an indication of an alert healthy horse.
    2. If they are pinned back it means they are mad, not feeling well or unhappy.
  2. Your horse’s coat; does it have a nice glossy look to it and is the hair is lying flat on their body?
    1. If the coat is nice and glossy, this is a good sign that their diet is satisfactory.
    2. If the coat isn't nice and glossy, your horse’s diet may be lacking some essential vitamins and minerals.
    3. If the hair is raised up this is a sign that your horse is stressed, afraid and or anxious.
  3. When you run your hand over their body, is their skin is loose and supple moving easily over the underlying bones?
    1. If you can feel and see the bones, chances are your horse is malnourished.
    2. If you find the skin fixed, it may be overweight.
    3. Use the conditioning chart to evaluate your horses conditioning. (Click here to see Equine Body Condition Chart)
  4. Based on the results of body conditioning chart:
    1. If they fall between 5 and 7, they are within the normal conditioning range.
    2. Below 5 and they need more feed to gain weight.
    3. Above 7 and they have too much weight and need to have their feed cut back and or exercise.
    4. What is your horses weight? (Click here to see equine weight Instructions).
  5. Are your horses eyes are open and bright? When you check under the lids and into the linings of their nostrils, do you find a nice pink color to the tissue?
    1. If the eyes are dull and listless there may me an infection or some other form of discomfort your horse may be experiencing.
    2. If the tissue isn't nice and pink there's a concern for adequate blood supply and blood flow.
  6. When your horse is at rest, does it appear to be overheated or sweating? (Not recommended in hot weather).
    1. This is a symptom that your horse is in distress.
  7. Is your horse eating and chewing normally?
    1. If you see a change in their normal routine you should take notice.
    2. This could be the hint of bad things to come. (Remember horses do best with routines)..
  8. Is your horse behaving normally?
    1. If you see a change in their normal routine you should take notice.
    2. This could be the hint of bad things to come. (Remember horses do best with routines)
  9. Are your horse’s legs are smooth, cool with no swelling?
    1. Bruising or other injury will cause the injured area to heat up.
    2. Bruising or other injury will cause swollen areas.
  10. A horse resting one of their hind legs is normal.
    1. Resting a front leg is not normal for most horses.
    2. This may indicate an injury.
  11. Another indication of a sprain or injury can be noticed when they move.
    1. It is important to see a smooth, natural gait that does not favor any one leg.
    2. Head bobbing while moving is an indication of injury.
  12. Internal injuries may be noticed during urination.
    1. Urine is light yellow or colorless and fairly thick.
    2. If its bright yellow, you need to make sure they have enough water.
    3. They should be urinating several times a day.
    4. The stream should be steady and fairly strong.
    5. Repeated, failed attempts to urinate are a sign of a urinary blockage.
  13. Healthy horses defecate 4 or 5 times per day.
  14. The color of the manure will vary based on what they are eating; variations are to be expected.
  15. Fresh manure has a strong odor.
    1. It but should not have an offensive odor
    2. It should be balled up and relatively firm.
    3. Loosely packed manure is an indication of a digestive disturbance.
    4. Dry, tightly packed manure indicates insufficient water intake.
    5. Repeated failed attempts to defecate is an indication of a blockage.
    6. To test manure for sand do the following:
      1. Use a clear glass or plastic bottle (1 pint)
      2. Half fill it with water.
      3. Place a small amount (teaspoon) of fresh manure in the jar cover and shake vigiorously.
      4. Watch as the matter settles and note how much sand settles more than 2 or 3% of the volume indicates the onset of sand colic.
  16. When your horse is at rest and relaxed, their breathing rate should be between 8-12 breaths a minute.
    1. This is a general number as it also depends on the fitness of the horse.
    2. It becomes an issue when it is grossly higher or lower.
    3. The same holds true for their heart rate.
    4. Their pulse should be 36-42 beats per minute.
  17. Temperature (which is taken rectally) is 38 degree Celsius or 100-101 Fahrenheit.

Exercise

Exercise your horse regularly. If you cannot ride him, he must at least be able to go outside.    If he is used to regular work and for some reason you cannot ride him, it is best to cut his regular amount of grain. (Click here for more information)

Shots

Your horse will need routine shots (These shots can vary based on your location so check with your Vet.), here is a guideline to what your horse will need:
Annual –West Nile Virus, Rabies, Tetanus, Eastern & Western Encephalomyelitis, Equine Infectious Anemia (Coggins’ Disease), Botulism and Strangles.
Twice per year – Potomac fever, and depending on your location, your vet may recommend it more often.
Every 8 weeks – rhino/flu is given to younger horses and horses traveling often (i.e. competition horses).


Worming

Worm regularly every 6 – 8 weeks with paste wormer.:  Common paste wormers are Ivermectin, Panacur, and Strongid.  The vet will vary the type of wormer used. (Click here for more information)

Feet

Trim Hooves Regularly: every time then horse is shod.
Shoe Regularly: every 4 – 6 weeks, depending on the horse.  Some horses may go without shoes, but if your horse will be ridden regularly, it is best to have at least front shoes.  You and your farrier will decide what is best after you have both gotten to know the horse.
Cleaning Hooves (daily): Use a hoof pick and brush to remove any material stuck to your horses feet.
Dry Weather: Dry weather causes cracks in the hoof wall which can lead to lameness if left uncorrected. Keep the hooves coated with a moisturizing hoof treatment.
Wet Weather: Hooves that are continually wet develop diseases such as white line disease which causes a separation at the hoof wall.

Dental Care

(Dental examination and treatment is best left to professionals)
( Click here for a list of Equine Dentists)
A horse's teeth grow continuously throughout its life and can develop uneven wear patterns. Most common are sharp edges on the sides of the molars which may cause problems when eating or being ridden. For this reason a horse or pony needs to have its teeth checked by a veterinarian or qualified equine dentist at least once a year. If there are problems, any points, unevenness or rough areas can be ground down with a rasp until they are smooth. This process is known as "floating".
Basic floating can be accomplished by the practitioner pulling the end of horse's tongue out the side of the mouth, having an assistant hold the tongue while the teeth are rasped. The horse will not bite its own tongue, and will often tolerate the floating process if held closely and kept in a confined area where it cannot move. When complex dental work is required or if a horse strenuously objects to the procedure, sedation is used.