Day 2 activities for slt champ camp

So, you have a horse or pony, or are dreaming of getting a horse or pony. Did you know that on average a horse's lifespan is 25 - 30 years? And now you're wondering, "How do I keep my horse as healthy as possible?". A good start is daily grooming - that means you have hands and eyes on your horse every day, and you'll be better able to spot anything out of the ordinary. Besides that, here's a brief overview of the different facets to horse care.

Start your second day of camp with a good overview of horse health from American Veterinary Medical Association

Horse Health 101

  • 1. A moving horse is a health(ier) horse.

    Horses are designed to be moving - in the wild, they can move up to 40 miles in one day! They travel for grazing areas, for water, and for social interaction. This is why regular movement, whether self-directed during turnout, or exercise in hand or under saddle, is important.

    This movement will vary - strolling while grazing, zooming around while playing - and contributes to healthy intestinal flora, flexible joints, sturdy hooves and a healthy musculoskeletal system.

    If your horse doesn't have access to pasture time, it's even more important that you help him stay moving and fit. Just like people, horses don't like to be stuck inside either. You can always get your horse moving in the form of riding, but hand walking and grazing can do much for a horse's physical and mental health.

  • 2. Clean water is essential - really!

    A horse needs 8 to 10 gallons of water a day - and, depending on workload and climate, it can be even higher. Many horses are very picky about their water and won't drink unless both the water and the bucket are fresh and clean, so be sure to regularly scrub buckets and tanks, especially during warmer weather when algae can develop quickly. Use of a tank heater or heated bucket can keep your horse drinking in colder climates.

    Inadequate water intake can cause dehydration and colic - it's far easier, safer and cheaper to keep those buckets clean!

  • 3. Choose high quality hay and grain (when necessary).

    As grazing animals, the foundation of any good horse diet is quality hay and grass. You want to feed as good of hay as you can find, and as much of it as your horse can eat without becoming too fat (assuming they don't have any health issues). Since horses are grazing animals, they should eat 1 to 2 percent of their body weight in hay per day.

    Grazing on free-choice hay keeps stomach acids at bay, which can reduce the risk of ulcers and vices, such as cribbing, and helps them mentally as well as physically.

    If your horse cannot maintain condition on hay alone, whether because of their workload or because they're a harder keeper, choose a quality feed. Quality feeds are higher in nutrients and although they may cost more, you generally feed less of them compared to a lower tier feed.

  • 4. Follow a regular vaccination schedule, as recommended by your veterinarian.

    Humans need doctors and horses need veterinarians! Vets help maintain your horses' health both for regular checkups and core vaccines, as well as in case of an emergency.

    Vaccine schedules are dependent on many factors: age of horse, area it lives in, how often the horses he or she encounters changes (especially for horses that travel to horse shows or live in barns with many different horses). That is why it is important to have a good relationship with your vet - they can provide guidance as to what vaccines your horse should have, and how often. Your veterinarian also gets to know your horse's personality and can help uncover any ailments or injuries they may sustain.

  • 5. Schedule regular farrier visits.

    No foot, no horse, or so the adage says. And it's right! Horses typically need their feet tended to every six to eight weeks, though it can vary either way by a couple of weeks. How often a horse sees their farrier depends on several factors, including whether they are shod or barefoot, what type of terrain they live on, and what their workload is.

    A good relationship with your farrier is vital to your horse's soundness, health, and performance. Daily hoof picking will help you recognize any issues early on, as well as keep rocks, mud, and debris out of the hoof, which will reduce the chance of thrush, a hoof infection.

  • 6. Your horse's teeth need tending, too - find a horse dentist!

    Horses teeth continue growing throughout most of their life. Many factors contribute to wear, which could be uneven and detrimental - such as conformation, type of feed given, positioning as they eat their feed, and more. Horses should have their teeth checked annually, at a minimum. Younger horses, older horses or horses with issues may need twice-yearly care.

    A dentist visit will consist of a thorough exam with a speculum - which keeps the horse's mouth open so the dentist can see - and floating, or grinding, of the teeth where necessary. A good dentist will keep the mouth and teeth in balance so that your horse can eat comfortably and efficiently, and that comfort can translate to better performance under saddle, too.

  • 7. Pests are an issue - both internal and external:

    Pests are more than a nuisance - they can be detrimental to your horse's health. They can be internal - worms! - or external - flies! - and they can do everything from make your horse crazy to making him sick.

    Flies and other biting insects not only can stress your horse out and make him miserable but can carry disease as well. A good fly control program starts with manure management and can include fly sprays, masks, sheets and boots, as well as newer feed-through fly control supplements.

    Intestinal parasites can be managed with a deworming program. It's best to work with your vet, who can perform exams to determine when to administer and what dewormer to use in order to target your horse's specific parasite load. Worms are a serious issue that can cause poor utilization of feed, and even colic episodes.

  • 8. Create a safe environment, as much as possible:

    There's a long-standing joke amongst horse people that horses are accident magnets, and it's kind of true, mainly because horses are flight animals - they have fantastic hearing and eyesight and are easily startled. Pair that with their size and strength, and sometimes accidents happen. You'll never be able to prevent every accident but ensuring your horse's environment is as safe as possible will allow you to avoid some, and will give you peace of mind, too.

    It's a great idea to regularly inspect your horse's stall and/or pasture, keeping an eye out for litter, hay strings, and other items that shouldn't be eaten, for fear of colic. Also look for poisonous plants and unsafe sections of fence. Check the stall for loose boards, nails or any other sharp or protruding objects that can snag blankets or skin.

Vocabulary List

Barefoot: A horse that has no shoes.

Colic: A general term used to describe abdominal pain in a horse, which can be caused by a variety of situations, such as gas, obstruction, displacement, parasites, tumors, or entrapment.

Conformation: The way a horse is put together, the correctness of bone structure, musculature, and body proportions.

Cribbing: A stable vice where a horse grabs a solid object, like a stall door or fence, arches its neck, and flexes the lower neck muscles to retract their larynx, which allows a rush of air that causes the typical grunting noise.

Dehydration: Occurs when there is excessive loss of water in the horse's body. This can be caused by strenuous exercise or diarrhea. The loss of water and electrolytes like sodium, chloride, and potassium, can lead to kidney failure if the horse isn't rehydrated promptly.

Deworming: Administration of dewormers assist the horse's immune system in keeping the intestinal population of worms under control, which is important for horse health. Worms can cause colic, poor coat, and malnutrition.

Floating: The process of gently filing away sharp edges or hooks of a horse's teeth to maintain a smooth, level surface.

Hard Keeper: A horse that is naturally prone to be thin and can lose weight quickly or have difficulty gaining weight.

In Hand: A horse being asked to perform while being led, not under tack.

Intestinal Flora: The symbiotic bacteria that occurs naturally in the intestine. They are important for digestive and overall health.

Musculoskeletal System: The bones of the horse, plus the cartilages, ligaments, and other connective tissues that stabilize or connect the bones.

Shod: A horse that has shoes affixed to its feet, instead of remaining barefoot.

Supplements: Anything fed to a horse besides forage and grain to provide additional nutrients, like vitamins, minerals, extra protein, or energy, that may be lacking in the diet.

Turnout: Free time a horse spends outside their stall. Turnout can be group, paired, or individual.

Under Saddle: A horse being asked to perform while wearing tack and carrying a rider.

Keeping your horse healthy is a lot like keeping yourself healthy - regular movement, healthy eating habits, good healthcare, safe environment, and a lot of love!

activity: Healthy Horse Crossword Puzzle

Challenge yourself with a crossword to familiarize yourself with everything you learned today about healthy horses. All of the answers can be found in today's activities!



Spend some time curled up with a great horse book! Check out our reading list ideas here

Have you visited our Kids Corner? Check out additional fun activities here

Want to learn even more about the healthy horses? Check out these additional resources:

Learn about the signs of a healthy horse from the American Association of Equine Practitioners: Learn Now

Read a story about a visit from an equine dentist by Martha Stewart: Read Now

Watch a video about equine anatomy from International Museum of the Horse: Visit the Exhibit Now

Find out what types of plant are toxic for horses from Penn State University: Explore Now

Learn about different types of equine diseases from Iowa State University: Learn Now

Listen to Equine Veterinarians talk about their job from American Association of Equine Practitioners: Watch Now

Learn more about colic, a common horse ailment, from Horse Illustrated: Read Now

Check out the unique horse clipping designs by the horse barber, from CNN: Watch Now

Learn about common horse ailments from Blue Cross for Pets: Learn Now

Watch a video about the special nutrition needs for thoroughbreds from Kentucky Derby Museum Derby Academy: Watch Now

Bonus! Learn how to draw a horse galloping: Visit the Exhibit Now

  • Published:
  • Updated: 7/13/2020: 8:04:57 PM ET
By Continuing to use our site, you consent to our use of cookies to improve your experience. Learn more