Riding isn’t always an option and sometimes, just sometimes, you wake in the night and wonder if your horse still has four legs and is breathing. Maybe even swooning over you and wondering where you are…
Thanks to guest writer and BHS Coach, Verena Bower or, as you may know her – Girl About The Yard, below are eight checks that she does, now subconsciously, to make sure that she can fall back to sleep again after that panic wake up. And because of course, she likes to think that she is an all-round good horse owner!
Firstly it is important to spend some time observing your horse or pony and getting to know what is ‘normal’ for them so that you can better identify when things aren’t so normal or perhaps when your horse is having an ‘off day’.
As humans, we all get good and bad days; it doesn’t really make sense as to when or why this might strike. Thankfully, horses are slightly less complicated so, how they behave in their mood can dictate what might be going on underneath the skin.
Is your horse looking fresh and bouncy – it might be because of the grass
Is your horse looking sad and lonely – did you change their field companions recently?
Moods can dictate how they feel; monitor this and get professional help if you are worried about it.
2. Cuts and scrapes
The textbook says grooming every day is vital; this not only helps the blood flow but also helps as the owner to know how the horse is getting on with cuts and bruises. If you don’t have time, or are just checking that your horse is still breathing, make sure that you look over their full body and see how they’re getting on
A fresh deep cut could get much worse without a bit of TLC and a small scratch could be nothing. Use your common sense when you see it and react accordingly.
Have the seasons changed recently? Is the summer grass coming through, think about what your horse looks like, is it all in proportion? Should you change the feeds to being much less because the grass has lots of goodness in?
Remember, they can’t check their own weight, so you are both their scales and their good health monitor.
Strip grazing, or taking them off the grass for a few hours, is a good way of cutting back on their eating time. If you do bring them in, don’t give them hay – that completely defeats the object of bringing them in…
4. Coat shine
Is their coat shining? Do they look radiant? If not, have a look at their mood or what you’ve done with their routine. Shine = happy pony!
Can you feel heat in their hooves, at the tip that hits the grass? This can be a sign of laminitis, the answer is, reduce what they eat. Strip grazing or taking them off the grass entirely can help this.
Do they need to be shod? Do they look flat footed? It can help to book in a regular shoeing appointment so you can always keep on top of them.
Check what your horse is excreting; is it super green? Is it runny? Is it in good ball sizes? These are all good indications of what is going on inside the body. Runny means high fibre and fresh grass, good ball sizes means good news, all is happy.
Also check if your horse is not pooing the regular amount – whatever is normal for them – this could be a sign that they need a little more love and attention.
Take a poo sample to the vet, they will check for worms, this helps with keeping your costs down and avoiding your horse becoming immune to wormers.
Make sure that your horse has access to fresh water every day. If you are on an automatic water trough, consider putting fish in the trough! Sounds crazy but, they will clean out the algae for you! Saves on yard job later in the year.!
In the hotter weather, keeping an eye on water levels and access is even more important. Your horse will likely be drinking more to stay hydrated. Consider electrolytes after exercise in the summer, or introducing salt to your horse’s diet to encourage more drinking.
8. The weather app
I recommend having a few of these to check, they’re all quite hit and miss, but very helpful knowing for advanced planning – you might need to put another water bucket out or when your horse might need some time out of the sunshine!
There is no such thing as bad weather, simply the wrong clothing!
After a few times of checking this list, they will become second nature. If you have a few horses that you are in charge of, it can be super helpful to write a diary so everyone on the yard knows what is going on. It would be annoying for poor Barry to look good on Monday and then have very runny poo the following Monday when you check and no one could track when it started.
Happy checking! You can keep up to date with Verena on Instagram here.