Before you bring home your horse, consider this checklist to be sure youâ€™re really ready:
- Shelter: Some horses require more shelter than others. This depends on your climate, their health, their age and their breeding. In general, a three-sided shelter that acts as a wind-break is adequate for most horses. If the shelter has a concrete floor, youâ€™ll need to be sure itâ€™s well-bedded (see below) or you can line the floor with rubber mats.
- Safe, sturdy fencing: Barbed-wire fencing is not recommended for horses, as this can cause serious injuries if they were to become tangled in it. Read â€śFarm Fencingâ€ť by Carol Ekarius for details about fencing options.
- Turnout area for adequate exercise.
- Clean, constant water access: Whether you have a creek in the field, an automatic waterer or good, old-fashioned water buckets, constant access to drinking water is important for horse health.
- Quality, mold-free hay or year-round access to forage. Read â€śGrazing the Surfaceâ€ť for information on managing your pasture.
- Supplemental grain: The majority of a horseâ€™s nutritional needs should be provided by forage, but some horses require grain to supplement their diets.
- Halter: Youâ€™d better get an extra halter, because itâ€™s likely to break or get lost at the least convenient time. If you plan to leave the halter on your horse while heâ€™s unattended, be sure itâ€™s made of leather or has a leather break-away strap. A horse can be injured if its halter gets caught on something in the field.
- Lead rope: Have an extra of these, too.
- Wheelbarrow and pitchfork: You know what these are for, and horses have a way of making a lot of it.
- Bedding: If your horse is going to spend a lot of time in the shelter, youâ€™ll want to bed it with wood shavings, straw or other bedding materials to absorb waste and provide a cushion.
- A basic first-aid kit: This should include a thermometer, a stethoscope, a hoof pick, bandage scissors, tweezers, a pocket knife, a flashlight, sterile saline solution, povidone-iodine solution, rubber gloves, triple-antibiotic ointment, non-steroidal eye ointment, oil-based lubricant, sterile absorbent pads, gauze roll, self-adhesive wrap, duct tape, instant cold packs, non-steriodal anti-inflammatory drugs in paste form, your veterinarianâ€™s contact information, and an equine first-aid book. Your veterinarian can recommend additional items and instruct you on how to use these properly. Store this in a mouse-proof container in an easy-to-access place.
- A good relationship with a veterinarian who works on horses: You should get to know him now, before you need him in an emergency situation.
- A good relationship with a farrier: Horsesâ€™ feet need routine care. A general recommendation is to have their feet trimmed every four to eight weeks, depending on how fast they grow and what the horse is used for.
- Transportation for your horse or a good relationship with someone who is able to transport your horse in an emergency: Sometimes horse injuries or illnesses require a visit to the veterinary hospital, and you want to be sure you have a way to get him there if needed.
If this is your first horse-owning experience, check in with your veterinarian or your county extension agent to be sure your farm is ready to go before your horse arrives.