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For Equine Vets Everywhere

Horse At Grass

A field should be well fenced with a reliable water supply. Mature horses require a minimum of one to one and a half acres of grass, as overcrowding may lead to competition for food, water and space. During the winter months, or very dry periods, supplementary feed will be required. Hay alone may not be sufficient and, if fed, must be supplied so as to avoid trampling into the mud. Horses should be checked twice daily and the grass availability and water supply should be monitored. During the spring and early autumn, keep an eye out for signs of laminitis, especially in ponies. Monitor bodyweight with a weighband. Provide restricted grazing for those animals prone to becoming overweight or who have had laminitis before.

Fencing and gateways

Fencing should ideally be post and rail and be high enough to prevent horses from escaping. Other alternatives include a single top rail with posts and tight plain wire fence strands underneath. Barbed wire fencing should be avoided as it causes injury. Also avoid sheep wire, as horses get caught in it. Use electric tape to keep horses away from barbed and sheep wire. Gateways should be securely fastened and padlocked if near a road.

Water Supply

Horses should have access to a clean supply of water throughout the day, preferably from self-filling water troughs. Buckets and other watertight containers are also an option, although a lot of work. Water troughs and containers must be cleaned regularly to prevent the build-up of algae. Old bathtubs are not acceptable as they are dangerous. During the winter, water containers often ice up, so they must be checked frequently during cold weather to ensure that the horse can reach water.

Shelter

Shelter should be provided to shield horses from wind, rain and snow during the winter months and to provide shade and protection from flies during the summer months.

Pasture Management

Field Division

Ideally, your field should be divided up to allow sections to be rested while others are grazed to avoid over-grazing

Dung

Dung should be removed twice a week, all year round, to aid worm control.

Wet Ground

If your field is very wet, stable or yard your horse to prevent mud fever (a bacterial skin infection). Symptoms of mud fever include inflamed skin and cracked heels. The legs and sometimes the belly are affected. Left untreated, legs may become permanently filled.

Weeds - including ragwort

Fields should be kept clear of weeds, particularly ragwort. Ragwort grows from June onwards and can grow to between 30–100cm high. The stems are woody and red near the base and the dark green stem leaves are irregular and ragged around the edge with dense yellow flowers. Ragwort is one of the most common causes of poisoning in horses and cattle and symptoms include loss of appetite, condition and constipation. During its latter stages, ragwort poisoning can cause horses to stagger and it can result in digestive disorders, irreversible liver damage and death. Ragwort can be controlled by pulling the roots out of the soil, and burning the plants. In general, all weeds can be controlled by herbicides.