What many people don’t understand about horse riding, is just how precious the bond is between a horse and their rider. This is an almost ‘symbiotic’ relationship, which sees you teaming up with a beautiful animal in order to feel truly liberated and free. You will spend a lot of time with your horse and you will have some great moments together, and as such you’ll find yourself becoming great friends and caring for them a lot.
As such, you will want to ensure that your horse is as happy and healthy as possible – even when you’re not around to be with them. The thought of leaving your horse at the end of the day and them suffering in silence is the stuff of nightmares for most riders and owners, so read on to find out some of the ways you can keep your companion happy and well.
What Makes a Horse Happy?
The first thing to ask yourself is what makes a horse happy? Of course the answer is different than it would be for humans in many ways: your horse isn’t looking to find fulfillment at work, and doesn’t get much pleasure from TV. Rather, the most important things for a horse’s happiness are freedom, activity and health. If your horse is healthy and if they get lots of attention and interaction, then they will generally be content.
Essentially then, you need to prioritize keeping your horse fit and healthy as far as possible. This means making sure that they eat a good diet that will help them to fend off colds, and it means making sure that they are warm and dry when they are in their stable.
Making sure your horse is eating the right diet means spending a little more on feed and making sure that they are getting enough. Keep track of your horse’s weight and feel underneath the rib cage for signs that they might be getting thinner. Your aim is to feed your horse the amount they need with regards to the amount of exercise they are getting and the amount they burn off. In winter an added layer of fat is no bad thing and they will burn more calories, so you need to increase their intake of food slightly. Horses also need a lot of fiber: in the wild they chew 15,000 times a day so make sure that they get enough while they are in your care.
Grooming your horse daily is also important, and you should look out for any other signs of illness or problems so you can act fast. Finally, make sure to clean your horse’s hooves regularly, and to make sure that the tack is comfortable, clean, and well fitted.
Keeping your horse warm and dry is also very important. And in particular, what’s especially important is that you don’t let their stable become damp or moldy. Horses are more resilient to the cold than we are thanks to their thick coat, so don’t shut all the windows thinking you’re doing them a favor: you’ll just create moisture and that’s much more harmful. Likewise, horses don’t need blankets laid over them in winter: actually this will only make them colder because it will flatten their hair and prevent it from doing its job.
Keeping their stable clean is also very important. It’s not fun, but you need to do it to avoid parasites and other problems.
Your relationship with your horse means as much to your horse as it does to you, so make sure that you spend quality time with them to avoid boredom and loneliness.
Horses like to spend quiet time as well as riding – so don’t make everything about riding. Sometimes it’s nice just to hang out and this will help to keep them happy. Horses also like routine and regularity, so it’s useful if you can try and keep play time and feeding time consistent.
Letting your horse spend some time with other horses is also very good for them, and if you can’t do that then providing them with some toys to play with when you’re not around can help. How would you like to be stuck in an empty room for hours?
Today’s featured writer, Joshua Bing, is a freelancer. One of his clients, Saddleworld Dural, is an online store that brings to you exclusive brands such as Anky, Pessoa, Trainers Saddles, Fleck Whips and Heritage Performance Riding Gloves. Joshua is passionate about woodworking and on weekends, he practices making his own furniture.
NOTE from Joni: Horses love food and one good way to interact with them and train them is with clicker training with healthy treats.