Owning or caring for a horse is a big responsibility. Unlike other four legged friends, a horse is an animal that needs a great deal of time and attention. Owning or looking after a horse is an incredibly rewarding, but long term commitment. There is no one set of guidelines when it comes to caring for a horse, as every situation and animal is different; however as a horse owner, by law, you are expected to care about the welfare of your animal. Whether you are a complete beginner wanting to pick up some top tips, or a professional hoping to add some skills to your repertoire, getting off the yard and back into the classroom is always a good idea.
Why do I need a course?
Sure you know the basics, but if you are thinking of buying your own horse or finding a job in the equine industry you may need to learn a bit more. Like all animals, if they are not looked after correctly, there can be serious consequences.
Living inside is not natural for a horse, although with the right care, they will quickly adapt to stable life. Saying that, it’s vital that a horse gets regular exercise and space to roam and graze with other horses.
When it comes to stable management, a course can help teach you the difference between a straw, wood chip or hemp bed and the pros and cons of each. Stable skills such as mucking out and grooming may seem simple, but are vital to the wellbeing of your animal.
A horse’s diet is another important element of training, as a malnourished or overfed horse will be susceptible to serious health complications. Like humans every diet is different, varying between seasons, size and the amount of exercise each horse has. The bulk of a horses’ diet should be roughage in the form of grass or hay. In the winter months, when a horse may not get turned out as often, they should be given more hay and vice versa. When adding grain to a horses’ diet, it’s imperative to not give put the entire measure in one feed, but instead it should be spread out in smaller feeds throughout the day. It’s important to remember that any changes to a horses’ diet should be done gradually, as sudden differences can lead to conditions such as colic or founder.
Out in the field
It’s not as simple as just chucking your horse into a field and hoping for the best – when turning a horse out you need to ensure it’s going to be safe at all times. Learning how to prepare a field for a horse covers fencing, analysing the risks of flooding and the removal of poisonous plants such as foxglove and ragwort.
When out in the field, a horse will require an area of shelter to protect it from the wind, rain and sun. If you are lucky enough to have a good covering of trees your problems may be solved, if not, you will need to work out where a shelter can be constructed.
What kind of short course could I take?
Depending on your needs, there are plenty of short courses out there to teach you some more specialised horse care skills.
Clipping – If you already work on a yard or own a horse, adding a clipping certificate to your grooming kit is a great way to save money and make some friends!
First aid – A first aid course will cover the theory and practical elements of what to do if an animal in your care is in danger. Would you confidently know how to check a pulse or answer questions on how a horses’ digestive system works? If not, this could be a course to consider.
Breeding – Deciding to breed horses is an exciting decision. Planning to bring a foal to the yard is a big deal though, and might require some extra training. From bringing a mare into foal, to selecting the perfect stallion, there are plenty of courses to give you the skills to have a stress free birth.
Transport – Anyone who has ever tried to get a young horse onto a trailer or into a horse box for the first time will know it’s not always plain sailing. A horse transport course will teach you how to correctly dress a horse, deal with a distressed animal and ensure you are up to date on all aspects of welfare in transportation.
What if I want to work with horses?
If you are looking for a career with horses, qualifications and experience are a must. Some horse care courses will give you an accredited qualification, others will give you the vital yard time needed to get practical understanding. A horse care diploma or yard management qualification is a great stepping stone into other equine based careers, including farriery, grooming, horse training and working as a riding instructor.