The Necessary Extras
In addition to the daily chores you must undertake to keep your horse happy and healthy (see “The Daily Essentials”), your routine will also include less frequent—but no less important—tasks. These include providing him with ridden exercise, grooming him thoroughly, caring for his hooves and overall health, and maintaining your tack.
Exercising your horse regularly is crucial for his health and well-being. In addition to turning him out daily, providing him with ridden exercise is also important. During the colder months, try to ride him at least once a week. Use caution when conditions are icy—your horse’s safety should be your number-one priority. When riding during the warmer months, keep him hydrated with fresh water. Also, cool him down properly and rinse him off with lukewarm water and a sponge after each warm-weather riding session.
You will need to supplement your daily grooming routine with other occasional tasks, such as bathing, trimming, and clipping your horse.
To bathe your horse, gather a long hose attached to a spigot or several buckets of lukewarm water; shampoo; a large sponge; a curry comb or grooming mitt; a sweat scraper; a mane comb; and a couple of towels. In a bucket, dilute the shampoo with water and work it into the coat with your curry comb/grooming mitt. Then rinse him thoroughly and use the sweat scraper to remove excess water from his coat. Finally, use the towels to dry him off, and finish by combing out his mane.
Don’t bathe your horse too often or you risk drying out his coat and hooves.
If your horse must have a thinned and shortened mane for a sporting event, you will have to hand-pluck the hairs. This is uncomfortable for a horse, so do it after he has exercised on a warm day, when his pores are open. Never pull a big bunch of hairs at once; do just a little bit at a time to make the process less painful.
When the weather begins to get colder, horses grow a long and fuzzy winter coat to keep them warm. However, if you exercise your horse and he works up a sweat, his thick coat will take a while to dry and he may consequently catch a chill. To prevent this, you can clip either the entire coat or targeted areas using heavy-duty electric clippers.
Annual dental care is a must for your horse. A horse’s teeth never stop growing, and because of the way they come together when he chews, they develop sharp edges that can become painful. A veterinarian or certified equine dental technician can “float” the teeth, or smooth the rough edges away.
In additional to dental care, schedule your horse with your veterinarian for regular physical checkups. She will also administer his annual vaccinations, issue any necessary health certificates, and make emergency calls should the need arise.
A horse’s hooves grow constantly throughout his lifetime, which means that you’ll need to employ the services of a farrier, or blacksmith. She will trim and balance his hooves and shoe him every four to six weeks. Regular hoof care performed by a qualified farrier will keep your horse’s hooves from growing too long or wearing unevenly.
Cleaning your tack, or saddlery, will keep it looking good, increase its life span, and make your horse more comfortable when being ridden. Wipe it with a damp cloth after a ride, and give it a more thorough weekly cleaning. Store tack in a cool, dry place to prevent it from cracking.