Tack n' Talk

Online Equestrian Resource

“Set Fair the Stable”

sunhallt   I have had some requests to write an article on general horse care. This is a huge topic and much broader than the scope of  this blog entry. The number of ways horses are kept, fed, housed, turned out and worked vary almost as much as our own lives.

  I thought the best idea might be to run through my own stable routine and then suggest some resources for your own research.
Much of the information will vary depending on where you live, climate , what you do with your horses and funds available but there a few things common to all the care of equines that need to be addressed.

  I have a stable of 9 to 14 horses depending on who is home , who is showing etc. At the moment 2 are my own and the rest boarders. Most of these horse do dressage and or are pleasure horses , a few compete and one is retired. they run the breed gamut from Hannovarian to Appoloosa and from large pony size to 17.3 hands.

  My routine begins at 8.30 with hay and water for all and grain for a few who are working more or are older and need supplements. As I do the morning feed I check each horse , primarily to see signs of anyone having been cast overnight or anyone who might be off their feed indicating possible colic or fever as mine are a greedy bunch and anyone not eating has a reason.Most of our horses are on a mixture of timothy and aflafa hay ( always very clean , well cured and no mould.)

  When I am satisified all are well I begin doing the stalls.Some horses are turned out during stable rounds and some into the arena. One horse has severe allergies and so turnout is limited to the arena as he is even allergic to several common weeds found in the paddocks and can have a bout of hives lasting weeks and requiring prednisone to control them.

   Most of the horses are bedded on soft wood shavings(hard wood being toxic to horses ) and a few on straw. Actually I was trained on straw and so find it makes it a very clean , bright bed and for me easier to clean. Practical reasons ie. removal etc. have made shavings our main bedding here.Many people prefer the plastic shavings forks but I like the weight of a metal fork and have one regular 4 prong for straw and one multi pronged one for shavings. If a horse is very wet and messy I add 2 cups of “Stable Boy” to the bottom of the stall before adding new bedding as it neutralizes the ammonia and helps keep the floor drier.During stall duties and while turning out I check horses for any new cuts, scrapes, bumps , bruises , coughs, nasal discharge , sheath or other swellings , heat in the feet and general look of coat , eye , gums and attitude and deal with these as needed.

   Another flake or two( depending on weight requirements) is fed when the horses come back in ( our area is very humid and buggy this time of year and most days an hour’s turnout and they are at the door wanting back in.)While doing the stalls I check the water buckets which easily become filled with hay scraps and slime and dump , scrubbing out if needed and refill. Fresh access to clean water is an absolute essential for horses and often in summer they easily will drink four to five /five gallon pails /day. I also check to make sure each horse has not finished their salt or mineral licks which hang on the wall and make a point to see there are no loose nails or sharp objects (metal come loose , splintered boards etc.) in any of the stalls.After the stalls are done I hang up all the implements and sweep the aisles since debris and forks etc. in the aisle can cause real damage to a person and or horse.I am extremely lucky in that two of my boarders volunteer mornings four days a week and help me with chores. I can’t imagine how I would get by seven days a week without the respite from the heavy work that they contribute.My husband hoists big hay loads into the loft  periodically but his engineering job keeps him away from the stable for the most part.I do enlist his help for building maintenance etc. as I am  known to be quite dangerous with handyman tools :).

   Normally I then have a lesson or two and after that feed a flake again , top up water buckets  and open all doors and windows, turning on fans as per the weather.

 The bulk of lessons are in the aternoon and evening so around 3.30 after a break and my own ride I flake and water again and turn out another horse or two if they had not been out yet that day. I am careful to turn out in pairs or groups only horses who are not going to play too rough or hurt each other. I soak the hay cubes and beet pulp that are part of the evening grain feed and usually drag the ring or do some cobbwebbing till the students are ready. After lessons I have learned to come in for a coffee and grab a bite to eat. I used to night feed after the last lesson but found the horses began “lobbying” for feed as soon as my voice changed to “cooling out” mode during the last lesson :). If  the horses have been down the drive to the outdoor ring or hacking  I always have the riders check their hooves for stones when back to the barn.At night feed  around 9.30 pm.I check again that all the horses seem hungry and happy, that the water buckets are filled again and that all the stall doors are secure and again windows and doors according to weather.During lessons and turnout I fly spray the horses  applying by hand to face and ears. I prefer “Wipe” as it seems to work best here , for the most part the fans keep flies in the stalls to a minimum.

     We have the farrier come to trim and or reset/shoe every five to six weeks in summer when hoof growth is faster and every six to eight weeks during the winter.We have the vet come in April for vaccinations, teeth floating , (sheath cleaning we generally do ourselves  every few months and sponge the area when grooming) and whatever else needs examining. and luckily do not usually require the vet  very often on an emergency basis. One reason for this I believe is that I feed small amounts often , mimicking grazing and therefore limit the number of colic cases we seem to get here.I do feed grain but not huge amounts as I think forage and fodder should comprise the bulk of a horse’s feed.

    We worm the horses in Spring and Fall and in between once or twice. We used to have them tube wormed but the pastes have become so effective we no longer need to do that.I make sure to rotate the brand of paste wormer used to discourage any resistance being built up.

   Regards blanketing , a vet once told me , horses are better off without and in a perfect world I would agree, however with stable kept and several older arthritic  and or clipped horses they seem to appreciate the warmth of blankets. We have light weight fall blankets for after the first frost and heavier ones in the hard freeze months starting around Christmas.For horses living out I do think the Weathabeeta brand of waterproof, ripproof rugs are an added kindness, particularily if the horse is alone and cannot share body heat with other horses. Cold is not really a problem for horses but dampness, wind and drafts can be. Good ventilation is essential and we have rubber mats on the stall floor for insulation and to stop slipping.

   That’s basically my routine and seems to work well since most horses at Sunhall tend to live well into their thirties.

 I would highly suggest keeping a copy of “Hayes Veterinary Notes” on hand for reference and determining if a vet call is needed. I also find  “The British Horse Society Pony Club Manual ” very thorough on animal husbandry and day to day issues  you may have. I do keep banamine , mineral oil, pressure bandages , syringes, epsom salts , antihistamine powder and boracic acic (eye wash ), rubbing alcohol, a  disinfectant, cotton packing, rectal thermometer , iodine, poutice clay and vet wrap on hand in the medicine cabinet.

  I hope you find this very general overview helpful and keep in mind as I said any stable’s routine must adapt to geography , climate and work requirements of the horses living there.If you have any more specific questions feel free to post  them and I will do my best to give you a helpful reply.

   The number one consideration I believe contributes to the overall optimum physical and mental health of equines is a Steady Routine they can Count on ,this makes for a program that meets their  physical and emotional needs.    Happy Horsekeeping 🙂  Libby Keenan


1 Comment»

  Wanda wrote @

I really enjoyed reading Libby Keenan’s overview of maintenance of the horse stable. It definitely gave me some pointers and I will be adding them to my daily care at the barn. Thanks Larissa and Libby, I really appreciate your dedication and time that you give to help others.


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