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Caring for the Outdoor Horse
 By Winniefield Park   •   2nd Jul 2016   •   1,219 views   •   0 comments
Caring for the Outdoor Horse

What could be easier than simply turning a horse out into a pasture, and letting it live as close to nature than possible? Wouldn’t that be simpler and easier than keeping a horse in the stable? Being outdoors is actually better than being stabled, mentally and physically. But while keeping a horse outdoors may be simpler and potentially healthier, it doesn’t mean it's a carefree way of keeping a horse. Horses kept outdoors 24X7 still need daily attention, if only to monitor their health.

Feeding and Pasture
Some people might be lucky enough to have pasture year-round that provides all the food a horse needs. Sadly, that isn’t the majority of us. Weather and changing seasons affect the quality and availability of pasture. If you live where snow covers the ground part of the year, your horse will need hay as a substitute. Even dry, hot or wet weather can change the nutritional quality and the quantity of the available pasture. That means adjusting a horse’s feed accordingly.

Even good pasture doesn't always provide every nutrient a horse needs. Selenium and some other trace minerals in particular, can be lacking and that means your horse may need a supplement. And for some horses, good pasture can be too good. If your horse is an easier keeper, leaving it out on lush pasture can lead to obesity related diseases and laminitis. Your horse may need more feed when weather is cold, or when you are riding a lot, and pasture may not be enough. Hard keepers may not thrive outdoors all of the time. Bugs and heat can drive down a horse’s condition. Horses like this may do better stabled at least some of the time so they can eat in peace.

There are times too, when a pasture looks green and lush, but that lushness comes from the weeds that are flourishing, and not the grass. Pastures may need to be over seeded, or reseeded altogether. Rotating horses to other pastures can help grass grow and avoid overgrazing. You probably should clean the manure from your outdoor horse’s pasture, or at least scatter so it breaks down quicker. While you’re checking your pasture, you’ll also want to keep an eye out for debris, particularly if the perimeter is along a roadway, animal burrows, and other hazards that might endanger your horse.

Water
Horses that eat grass all of the time might not need as much water as a stabled horse on hay, but they still need water. Streams and ponds might not be healthy sources of drinking water. You never know what’s flowing into natural water sources upstream. So, natural water has to be monitored or an alternative source of fresh drinking water provided, like a frequently filled trough or an automatic waterer are a necessity, even in frigid weather.

Shelter
Wild horses don’t have stables and sheds to live in. But, they often have choices about where to hide from rough weather that horses kept within fences don’t. And, wild horses aren’t asked to do extra work like carrying a rider, beyond taking care of themselves. So, for your horse’s comfort, an outdoor horse will need some sort of shelter with a roof and walls to block the worst of the wind and rain. A blanket too, might help the outdoor horse weather mother nature’s bad moods.

Even if your horse is an outdoor horse, there may be times, such as during illness or when recovering from an injury that it needs to be kept stabled. Consider how you’ll manage this.

Fences
Fencing of all types needs to be checked regularly. Loose boards, protruding nails and wire can be a hazard. And, weak spots in fencing are an invitation for a pushy horse to escape through.

Veterinary and Farrier Care
Outdoor horses need vet care too. Annual vaccinations should include the core vaccines, and any that your vet recommends for your area, such as West Nile Virus. And, your outdoor horse will need regular farrier care, although if your horse is pastured where it must walk over rough ground, you may find you can stretch the time between trims a small amount.

Grooming
Your outdoor horse may need grooming to remove surface dirt. However, baths in cooler weather may not be a good idea. Bathing strips the oils from your horse’s coat, leaving it without its natural waterproofing. And, daily hoof picking helps you see all is well with your horse’ hooves, whether it is an outdoor or stabled horse. Outdoor horses need to be checked at least twice a day, and a quick grooming during one of those checks allow you to see any small injuries or problems before they become bigger.
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