Horses can be used for transportation, racing, showing, or just plain pleasure riding, but they can live 35 years or more and will need a commitment from the owner to provide for their needs 365 days a year, in good weather and bad. Before purchasing one, make sure youâ€™re realistic about your ability to afford essential care and demands on your time.
A minimum of 30 minutes of exercise, at least three to four times a week along with plenty of turnout time in a paddock or pasture is recommended, and especially beneficial, for young, growing horses. An average-size horse will eat about 20 pounds of food a day and drink at least eight gallons of water. Because their stomachs are small, horses graze throughout the day and should have hay or pasture grass available, with additional grain twice a day.
They also need access to a dry, comfortable shelter to protect them from rain, wind and snow. If a barn isnâ€™t available, the minimum shelter should be a well-constructed, three-sided shed. Besides these essentials, horses need to be groomed, and their stalls need to be cleaned.
Horses are an investment, and routine vaccinations and a parasite control program are important to good health. If youâ€™re thinking about purchasing an equine companion, consider that the purchase price may be less than the ongoing expense of routine horse care, including vaccinations, deworming, dental care and blacksmith services.
They need regular hoof care to prevent foot and leg problems. Young horses may need to be seen by a blacksmith more often than adult horses, but most need their hooves trimmed at least once or twice a year based on wear and growth. If a horse is showing signs of lameness, the problem typically is an injury to the foot, said Dr. Greg Roadruck from Orrville Veterinary Clinic. The most common cause of lameness is when theyâ€™ve stepped on a sharp stone or nail and itâ€™s made a hole in the foot that has become infected and inflamed.
Routine equine dentistry is another expense that is a vital part of a horseâ€™s health. Mature horses need a thorough dental exam at least once a year for maintenance work, but young horses and geriatric horses should have their teeth examined at least twice a year.
Their teeth grow constantly, and if they arenâ€™t hitting together equally as they grind their food, one side of the tooth grows to a point and can cut their tongue or cheek. The uneven teeth are floated (ground down) with a rasp, file or power float. Owners need to check their horsesâ€™ teeth, particularly if theyâ€™re throwing their feed around, because as they chew it can cause pain, Dr. Roadruck explained.
While horses that are around a lot of horses need more vaccinations than a horse thatâ€™s kept alone, spring and fall vaccinations are standard practice for all responsible horse owners and are an inexpensive way to ensure a horseâ€™s long-term health.
â€œVaccinations are like an insurance policy,â€ Dr. Roadruck commented. A good vaccination program is very inexpensive compared to the treatment of the disease once the horse is infected.
Fall also is an important time to have horses wormed for tapeworm and bots, an egg laid by flies, he advised. Tapeworms can cause colic, impactions and gastro-intestinal ulcers if left untreated. Horses are constantly exposed to intestinal worms from the pasture they graze on, but a worming regimen can vary greatly depending on if you have one horse on 100 acres or 100 horses on one acre, he kidded. It depends on how contaminated their environment is, but most horses are wormed three to four times a year.
Everybody is trying to save a little money, Dr. Roadruck said.
The Orrville Veterinary Clinic drive-in Equine Express Center is something new being offered to the community to provide affordable, preventive care for horses. Owners can trailer their horse(s) to the clinic for vaccinations, Coggins testing, dental exams, lameness exams, parasite control, reproductive services, radiographs and routine castrations.
â€œItâ€™s good for us because it saves us gasoline costs and driving time, and its good for the clients because they donâ€™t have to pay the call fee but still get low cost/ high quality care for their horses. The Equine Express is meant for routine preventative care rather than for sick animals that can be diagnosed but will probably need further care.
For more information on the new Equine Express Care, call the Orrville Veterinary Clinic at 800-221-1547.
Barnosky can be reached via e-mail at petlady@road
runner.com or by writing The Gazette, 885 W. Liberty St., Medina, 44256.