Do you dream of owning a horse? Wondering what the daily care of a horse includes? If you want a happy healthy horse it starts with proper daily care which takes time and work every day, 365 days a year.
Depending on what climate you live in and the barn you are at, horse care routines will almost always vary. However there are basics that should be met in a horse’s everyday care for their mental and physical well being.
Horses are not machines, they are animals that have needs and emotions. They take care of us in the saddle and it is our job to make sure they are well looked after.
After you learn about what care a horse should receive on a daily basis, I have a free printable checklist you should grab at the bottom of the post. The checklist is a daily horse care routine for the AM and PM to make barn chores go more quickly, efficiently and so nothing is forgotten.
This checklist is for horses turned outside during the day and, inside at night, routine best used for good weather.
Bear in mind what you actually have to do for your horses daily care will depend on how you keep your horse.
Keeping a horse at home will be different from full boarding a horse. Keeping your horse out on pasture with a run in shed will be different than keeping your horse in a stable and turned out part of the time.
However you will keep your horse, and whether you are the one caring for it or not, you want to make sure it is receiving proper daily care and that the facility is well kept and maintained.
Feed Grain A Minimum Of Twice A Day
Feeding horses is more complicated than it seems and is one of the most important aspects of care for your horse. You need to make sure you are not over or under feeding your horse and never be quick to change grain type or amount.
Not all horses need grain, some horses do fine on quality hay or grass. But most hay and grass does not provide all the horse’s nutritional needs and some horses have faster metabolisms that require more calories to keep on weight.
Horses fed grain should have their ration divided at the very least into 2 rations. However you don’t want to feed a lot of grain in one meal. So if your horse gets a lot of grain it would benefit your horse to divide the ration into 3 even 4 meals.
“DON’T feed more than 11 pounds of grain per day, or 4-5 pounds of grain per feeding or the horse’s colic risk increases sixfold.”
-TheHorse.com (Horse Feeding Basics)
This helps give your horse time to digest the food and helps prevent blockage, colic or even founder (a crippling condition to the horse’s feet). Horses stomachs are small, and digestion works best with small meals often.
Make sure you are feeding your horse the right amount of food. This is something you should discuss with your veterinarian to figure out a good feeding program for your horse.
The amount and type of grain to feed your horse is usually based on:
- Body condition
- Special Needs (Like Cushing’s or a horse that has foundered)
Make sure if the horse was ridden before a grain meal, that the horse waits at least an hour before they are fed their grain.
Supplements For Horse If Needed
Some horses will benefit from daily supplements being added into their grain. There are many different supplements on the market and some are better than others.
It helps to do your research and make sure you are getting a supplement that is actually beneficial to your horse or you’re just wasting money.
Some reasons you may use a supplement for your horse:
- Has arthritis or general stiffness
- Hooves are not as strong and resilient as they should be
- Doesn’t get grain and not getting all the essential nutrients from hay alone
- Needs to gain weight but shouldn’t be getting more grain
- Low on a vitamin or mineral
- Could benefit from help with digestion
- You want to use a daily dewormer instead of paste
- Horse has nervous behaviors
These are just some but not all of the reasons you may supplement your horse. Don’t start off with the supplements when you see a problem, because there may be an underlying issue with and supplements can only help so much.
Example 1: If your horse has a bone chip that you don’t know about and that is why they are stiff. Giving them a supplement to help with the stiffness might help slightly but it is not going to fix the problem and the horse will still be in pain. The bone chip may need to be surgically removed.
Example 2: Say horse horse is not gaining weight. So you decide to put your horse on a weight gaining supplement. But you don’t know that your horse has ulcers, worms and the good bacteria is unbalanced with bad bacteria in the horse’s gut. The underlying issues need to be dealt with first.
Basically what I am saying is evaluate your horse’s overall health and care before using supplements and don’t rely on supplements alone to fix a problem.
Any concerns about your horse, you can always call your vet and ask questions. It usually doesn’t cost money to ask the vet questions.
Feed Horse Hay 3-4 Times Per Day
In nature horses spend most of their time meandering and grazing on grass. Most barns don’t have enough grass for a horse to live off of, which is why horses eat hay.
It is best for a horse to have hay spread out throughout the day so that they always have some roughage to help keep their stomach acids at bay and prevent ulcers.
Hay comes in bales which can weigh forty to over seventy pounds. A bale comes apart in flakes which are about 3-4 inches thick.
You want to make sure your horse is getting enough hay throughout the day. This is figured out along with the grain amount and is best to be discussed with your veterinarian. Be aware there are also different types of hay with different nutritional values.
Grain can be hard on a horse’s empty stomach. So it is always a good practice to give horses about a flake before they get their grain meal.
Always check the flakes for mold and dust. Do not feed hay like this to a horse. It can cause your horse to get sick or a cough.
- Don’t feed hay on the ground in sandy areas because the horses will swallow sand along with the hay and can develop sand colic.
To slow down a speedy hay eater, you can use a slow feeder hay net. Just make sure when you use a hay net it is high enough off the ground the horse cannot get their feet caught in the net.
Keep Horse Free From Competition
This means that a horse is able to get their fair share of food. Competition means that the horse has to essentially ‘fight to survive’ when it comes to the food they eat.
Competition for food especially affects:
- a horse is turned out 24/7 with other horses and don’t have alone time to eat their food.
- if the horse is lower in the pecking order and gets pushed away from food
- If the horse is underweight and not eating enough because the other horses are eating most of the available food
When feeding grain horses should be separated so that they don’t have to compete for it and they are getting the right amount.
You can keep horses free from or at least reduce food competition by:
- Feeding grain in stalls.
- Tying horses up for grain feeding
- Feed bags
- Individual turnout
When feeding hay the piles should be separated enough that all the horses can access the hay and get enough.
If one horse is gorging on the hay and not leaving enough for other horses.
A horse eating most of the food has a few options:
- Turn out with another more dominant horse
- Wear a grazing muzzle
- Turn out alone
- Create several slow hay feeders
Each of those options has pros and cons and you have to figure out which could be best for your situation or if there is another option.
Fresh Water Should Be Available At All Times
A horse should have water available all the time so they can drink whenever they need to.
A horse needs about 8-12 gallons of water every day and sometimes more than that. Not drinking enough water can not only lead to dehydration but also impaction colic (when food is blocking the intestine.)
Horses only like to drink fresh clean water. If the water is not clean they may not drink enough.
In order to clean a dirty water bucket or trough:
- Empty the container.
- Scrub it with a brush.
- Rinse it out.
- Fill with fresh water.
Mineral And Salt Block Available Inside And Out
Salt is especially important in hot weather, but still important throughout the year.
Salt and Minerals come in blocks. The salt block is white and the mineral block is red. They are usually attached to the horse’s stall wall in a salt block holder.
In the paddock you may use a ground salt block holder to keep it off the ground and use a bigger block for all the horses in the paddock to share. A horse should be free to lick as much salt as they want or need.
Horses lacking salt and mineral blocks may not drink enough water and are often seen licking and chewing, wood, trees, dirt and even sometimes manure.
Give Adequate Turnout Time And Space
Horses need time outside to run around, get fresh air, sunlight and to be a horse.
It is super important for their well being. It helps their mental health as well as their physical health. Turnout gives the horse a chance to freely move around and exercise which also lubricates the joints.
Horses with little to no turnout have no way to expend all their extra energy, can be more difficult to ride and handle and may be more stiff from not being able to move around enough.
It is unnatural for a horse to be in a stall. The more turnout time a horse can have the better.
It is also important to make sure there is enough room to allow your horse to gallop. Paddocks are smaller than pastures and are usually too small for a full gallop.
So it is beneficial to the horse to have a pasture with grass to not only have space for your horse to gallop but also be able to have fresh grass in their diet as opposed to just hay.
Word of caution: Never feed a horse grass clippings as they wilt very quickly which can lead to serious colic.
Horse Should Have Companionship
Horses are herd animals and need companionship to be happy. It is ideal for horses to be around other horses.
Sometimes horses may have to be in a paddock by themselves for whatever reason but you want to make sure there are horses nearby they can communicate with.
It is distressing for a horse to be totally alone. They rely on other herd mates to feel watched over and safe.
The best situation is when a horse is turned out with other horses that get along well and there is enough room for all the horses.
Overcrowding is a problem if the horses don’t have adequate space the more dominant horses may get agitated and the more submissive horses will have trouble getting out of the way. It is an equation for horses to get hurt.
A horse in a group even with horses that get along well, will have a pecking order. So keep that in mind if you see a horse pushing another horse around or away from a hay pile. This is normal and natural in a herd.
However if the horses are really aggressive and putting a horse in danger then it may be a good idea to try a different turnout situation with the horses.
In stalls, it is nice for the horses to be able to see each other. Whether it is bars between the stalls or the horse is able to put their head outside the stall and see the other horses.
Just make sure horses next to each other get along well enough that they aren’t kicking the wall at each other or biting at the bars.
Provide Horse Adequate Fly Control
Warm weather brings flies unfortunately and at a horse barn flies are plentiful. They love to pester horses by crawling all over their face and biting their hides even in sensitive areas.
Some flies are ginormous nicknamed B52s and when they bite it is painful. The horses act like they have been stung by a bee and usually kick out or buck.
Some horses are super sensitive to flies and are really bothered, they run around the paddock trying to get away from them, bite at their sides, shake their head, paw, and pace. Other horses are not all that bothered by the flies much at all. Usually, it’s the thicker-skinned horses that aren’t as bothered.
Flies can be a big problem not just as a pest but if the horse ingests the eggs the horse can get worms. Some people like to keep horses on a daily deworming supplement, rotational paste deworming, or others like to have their horses tested on a schedule for worms and treat as needed.
There are some ways to help deal with the fly problem:
- Fly spray is the equivalent to us putting on bug spray when we go out in the woods or somewhere buggy. You want to spray the horses before they get turned out in the morning. If the horses live out 24/7 then you want to spray them at least twice a day.
- Keeping the stalls and the turnout areas clean on a regular basis will reduce the fly population as they breed and lay eggs in the manure.
- Make sure the manure pile is away from the barn and where the horses are turned out
- Fly strips are sticky strips of paper you can hang up around the barn and pasture. When the flies land on the strip they get stuck and eventually die.
- Flytraps are similar to fly strips but they usually can catch a higher volume of flies. The fly smells a good smell they like, then crawls into the trap and gets stuck.
- Fly predators are small flies that a company sells to help reduce horse fly populations. These tiny flies almost seem like gnats, but they don’t bother people or the horses. They eat the larvae of the flies that bother the horses. You sprinkle them over manure piles. They have a whole set of instructions on how to properly do this. I did this at the farm I managed and it did seem to help a bit.
- To help horses feel more comfortable with the annoying flies along with fly spray there is fly clothing. Fly masks or fly fringes, fly sheets, fly leg wraps, and ear nets. Ear nets and fly fringes can be used for riding while the other 3 are for turnout.
Unfortunately, flies aren’t the only problem. Mosquitos and ticks are another bug issue.
“Mosquito-borne diseases such as West Nile virus and Eastern, Western, and Venezuelan encephalomyelitis claim hundreds of horses each year in the United States. In addition to practicing appropriate mosquito-control techniques, have your horses vaccinated,” advised Crandell.
TheHorse (Natural Ways to Protect Horses Against Mosquitoes)
Tick preventative care is important as well. Ticks cause horses to get Lyme disease. Check out this article written by Deb M. Eldredge, DVM Ticks Bite – How to Protect Your Horse against Ticks, which shows you ways to prevent, remove ticks, and deal with tick bites on horses.
Change Blankets According To The Weather
Some horses don’t need to wear blankets because they:
- Are in good weight
- Are not clipped
- Grow a fuzzy coat
- Don’t show signs of being chilled
Horses that do best with blankets:
- Horses hard to keep weight on
- Underweight horses
- Horses with clipped coats
- Horses that seem to get chilled easily
Blankets help horses to conserve calories which would otherwise be expended trying to keep the horse warm, which is why blanketing may help thin or hard keeper horses.
But in general, most horses are fairly well adapted to the cold. I found this article that explains how the horses are adapted to the cold and why horses shouldn’t wear blankets (at soulofahorse.com). Very interesting article!
However each horse is an individual and handles the cold differently, so it really depends on the horse weather to put a blanket on the horse or not.
Some owners will only put a sheet on when it is raining or it is really cold like 10*F or below. But after reading the article at soulofahorse.com I am wondering if it’s best to not do that if the horse is already accustomed to not wearing a blanket.
How to tell a horse is feeling cold:
- Muscle are shivers generate heat to warm body
- Their temperature is below 99.6 degrees Fahrenheit. (37.6 Celcius)
- They are huddling together with other horses.
- Their backs are turned against the wind and they are standing with their head down.
- Horses’ hair stands up on end.
Other ways to help horses stay warm is to feed more hay during cold snaps. The digestion of the hay generates heat in the horse’s body. Also make sure that the horse stays dry or is dried off if they become wet.
If you decide to blanket you must commit to it because the horse will not grow an adequate winter coat. If the horse is clipped they will need blanketing. Blankets must be changed appropriately according to the weather and real feel temperature.
The worst thing for a horse is to overheat. They handle cold better by warming their bodies up than they handle heat and cooling their bodies down.
But another problem with a too warm blanket is that horses can sweat under a blanket and end up getting the chills.
It helps to have a blanketing chart if you choose to blanket your horse. So then you know what blanket the horse should be wearing at what temperature and weather conditions.
Pick Manure Out Of The Paddocks
Picking manure out of paddocks is not usually done every day at most barns. Typically most horse farms will pick out paddocks once a week even less often. But it is a good practice to pick out the paddocks daily.
Less manure means fewer flies. So picking paddocks is a form of fly control as the flies are attracted to the manure and often lay eggs in it.
Not only is it fly control but it also helps to reduce parasites in the horses. The fly larvae are considered worms in the horse’s intestines. The horses can get them from licking Bot fly eggs on their legs or by eating hay or grass near manure.
Muck The Horses Stalls
Horses need a clean stall. They are in their stalls a good bit of the time. The ammonia from the urine is not good for the horses to breathe in and can cause respiratory issues.
It is not good for a horse to be standing in manure and soaked bedding, over time this can cause damage to the hooves, such as thrush a fungal infection that eats away at the horse’s foot, usually residing in or around the frog.
Horses may spend part of their time lying down in their stalls to rest and sleep. You want your horse to be comfortable, not lying in wet dirty bedding, not to mention a horse lying in a dirty stall will not be so fun to clean up.
It is good to bank the bedding and let the stall air out. You can put lime powder or stall powder to deodorize and absorb the wet spots.
I like to sweep the front of the stall back so that most of the shavings stay in the stall rather than get dragged out when the horse is brought out of the stall. Also this helps to keep the hay and shavings separated.
Of course if you have a stall walker good luck a hay net would probably be better than having the hay on the ground where it will get mixed in with the shavings.
Provide Fresh Bedding As Needed
You want enough bedding in the stall that the horse can lie down comfortably and not get bed sores. Generally 3 inches deep is sufficient but some horses may need a deeper bed.
Some horses use up more bedding because they are messier in their stall or if they are bigger horses they produce more manure and urine.
I used pine shavings for my horses and went through about 9-13 bags a month per horse.
Sweep The Barn Aisle
Bringing horses inside and out, giving out hay, mucking stalls and general barn work creates a mess of debris in the aisle. It looks sloppy and unkempt.
Sweeping the aisle is a regular task that must be done on a continual basis to keep the barn looking spiffy.
The barn will most likely need a good sweeping at least twice a day, possibly more with grooming horses and feeding hay or moving hay.
Pick Out And Inspect Horses Hooves
It is a good practice to pick out your horse’s hooves daily. This helps prevent thrush and other bacterial infections. It gives you a chance to look over the horse’s hooves for cracks, rocks that may be wedged in the grooves, loose or missing shoes, soreness, and bruising.
You can decide what time of the day is best for you to pick out your horse’s feet. I would pick out my horses feet when I would work with them or ride. And on days that I didn’t ride I would pick out my horses feet when I turned in for the evening.
Check Over Areas Horse Are Kept In
Everyday you want to make sure that you do a quick look over of the stall and the turnout area your horses get put into. You should be checking for potential hazards because if there is something that can hurt your horse it probably will at some point.
Look for broken boards, sharp items, broken latches, hay nets that have fallen on the ground or anything that is out of place or not as it should be. This will help keep your horse from getting injuries that could have been prevented.
Horse Should Be Brought Inside During Bad Weather
Bad weather includes thunderstorms, hail, heavy rain, extreme cold, extreme winds, blizzards, that kind of weather.
Horses tend to like to stay outside in most weather but in these circumstances, most horses like a shelter from these elements and it is safer for your horse.
At the very least your horse should have a secure outdoor shelter with 3 solid sides facing away from where the wind usually blows.
Check Horse Over For Illness And Injury
One way you can do this is with a quick daily grooming. This can give you a chance to inspect your horse’s body legs and face for any cuts, injuries or skin problems.
When you go to bring your horse in or outside check that your horse is drinking water, eating their food.
Pay attention to your horse’s demeanor, are they acting like themselves or do they seem lethargic? Are they more anxious than normal? Are they sound when you lead them to the barn or the paddock?
Remove Cobwebs And Shavings To Prevent Fires
Spiders are master building and cobwebs can build up fairly quickly around the barn. Often you find them pretty much most places around the barn, the walls, the stall bars, the ceiling, the light bulbs, electrical outlets.
This is a fire hazard because they are pretty flammable. So a spark from the outlet or lightbulb could start a fire.
It is a good idea to just include a quick cobweb routine in the daily barn chores. I would de-cobweb as I mucked stalls. I kept a broom with me and quickly sweep the cobwebs in each stall and around the front of the stall as I went stall to stall.
Free Daily Horse Care Am + Pm Routine Printable
Use this Daily Horse Care Routine Checklist to make sure:
- everything gets done
- you save time
- things are done in an efficient order
I suggest using a clipboard and a hook and just keeping it hung up in the barn. This is great if someone who may be helping out at the barn and doesn’t know the routine.
Of course all barns do their routines differently so this is just an idea and a general guideline.
I hope you find it helpful! I had fun making it.
You can grab it here.
There are other free printables on my site and more to come.