General Horse Care
Caring For Your Horse

"Even without a rider, I will always be a charger of the gods, but a man without a horse will only be a man."
Horses of the Sun
Robert Vavra

Stable Management
Protective Equipment
Horse Clothing
Medical Care

Stable Management

Horses are stabled so that they may be made fit for particular purposes, like hunting, or one of the competitive disciplines such as show jumping or steeplechasing. Any of those pursuits demand a high standard of fitness and presentation, requirements that are facilitated by the horse being kept in an indoor, or stable, situation.

A horse that lives outdoors and is unclipped may only be worked at slow paces during the winter because of its low-energy feed. During the summer, a competition horse cannot be kept fit unless it is stabled and its grass intake is restricted. If allowed to graze on lush grass, the horse will become fat and soft. If worked in this condition, it would run the risk of damage to limbs and organs.

The essence of effective stable management is keeping horses healthy and happy in an unnatural environment. To achieve this, these procedures must be followed: 1. The horse must be fed regular, small meals that provide vitamins, minerals, proteins and bulk in relation to the restrictions of the digestive system and the amount of energy expended. Bear in mind that the horse has a small stomach in relation to its size. 2. The horse has to be kept clean and the muscles developed and toned by regular grooming. 3. The horse must be provided with a living environment that allows it to feel comfortable and relaxed.

The design and position of the stable must be a prime consideration. The stable must be dry, warm and well ventilated without being drafty. Provisions must be made for effective drainage and the stable should be sited facing toward the sun, if possible, so that it receives the benefit of what sunshine may be available throughout the year. The "inmate" should be able to see its fellow horses and take an interest in what is going on in the yard.

There is no doubt that a box stall, in which the horse is at liberty to move about, is the best form of horse accommodation. It should not measure less than 12' x 10' and the larger the better.

The bed is the most important factor in keeping a horse stabled. The bed contributes to the warmth and comfort of the stall and therefore to the welfare of the horse who occupies it. Maintaining it is one of the more demanding of the stable chores that must be performed regularly.

A bed can be made from wheat straw, shavings or even from shredded paper. It has to be deep enough to induce the horse to lie down safely, without sustaining injuries from contact with the hard floor. Another important object is to provide a warm, dry bed that is absorbent and deodorizing.

Cleanliness is a paramount requirement and leads to a comfortable and stress-free existence. In some stables, it is the practice to clean the beds out everyday. Any slightly damp bedding can be put out to dry and may be used again. The soiled bedding goes in the trash. The bed is then remade with fresh bedding after the floor has been thoroughly washed down and disinfected.

To save time and cut down of the expense, many people use a deep-litter method for making the horse's bed. This involves removing manure regularly and topping up the bed with clean, fresh bedding. The stall is completely cleaned out once a week, once a month or longer.

With the deep-litter method, it is important that the manure is picked up regularly throughout the day, whenever it is necessary to enter the stall, in fact. This practice prevents the horse from trodding the manure into the bed and thus creating more work.

In order to reduce the amount of labor and make the job easier, the possession of a full set of tools is essential. The basic tools are a well-balanced wheelbarrow, a shovel, a pitchfork, and a four-tined fork, a muck slip and/or muck sheet with which to collect manure.

In a box stall, labor can be reduced and the whole operation made significantly more convenient by the provision of certain fittings. Rings are necessary for tying-up and for hanging haynets. A removable manger set in a corner of the box is a sensible way of feeding and it can be taken out to cleaning without trouble. The best way to provide a constant supply of fresh water is by installing self-filling water bowls. These are ideal from the horse's perspective, saves hours of time for the groom or owner and insures that fresh water is always available. Otherwise, water must be provided in a strong, plastic bucket, which must be refilled constantly. Both bucket and water must be clean.

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Protective Equipment

Protective Boots

There are several types of protective boots. Fetlock boots prevent sores on the fronts of the fetlocks; hock boots prevent sores on the outsides of the hocks. All-leather splint boots protect the inside of the lower limb from being injured by the opposite limb; synthetic splint boots with a hard plastic plate protects the inside of the lower limb. Rundown or skid boots protect the ergot/rear fetlock area when a reining, cutting or roping horse stops deep and hard. Two types of bell boots, which encircle the coronary band, protect it from blows when the horse is working or traveling in a trailer. Three types of sport boots offer elastic support to flexor tendons and protection to the inside of the limb. There is also a combination sport boot/bell boot available.

Exercise Wrap

An exercise wrap is designed to support and protect the tendons of a horse's lower limb when he is working during training or when he is playing hard during turnout. The uses and functions of well-applied exercise wraps and support boots are similar. The type of bandage used for an exercise wrap can range from non-stretchy knit cotton that has minimal give, to fluffy, stretch polar fleece, to sport bandages with a moderate amount of elastic. Since exercise wraps are put on quite tight, even though for short periods of time, it is essential that the tension is appropriate, even and smooth.

Be sure when you start unrolling the bandage that you will have the tape ties or hook-and-loop closure on the outside when you are finished, otherwise you will have no way to fasten the wrap. Take care not to begin the bandage on the rear (flexor tendons) or the front (extensor tendons) of the limb because the bandage end could cause the tendons to become sore. Instead, position the bandage end in the middle of the inside or outside of the leg. Start in the middle of the cannon and keep the tension firm and even. Wrap down until you get to the fetlock and then cradle it in a sling. Wrap around the fetlock once more. Bring the bandage upward, so the support forms an "X" at the rear of the fetlock. Wrap upward. Plan to end toward the top. The tapes should be on the outside of the bandage. Tie the cotton tapes in a knot and bow. Secure the bow by tucking the ends underneath the ties. Some people like to place a piece of adhesive tape over the bow.

Stable Wrap

A stable wrap, also called a standing bandage, is somewhat like a wound bandage without the salve, dressing and gauze. It is a piece of quilting that is held in place with a roll bandage. A stable wrap is sometimes used with liniment to reduce swelling and fluid accumulation in the lower limb. The horse's legs are rubbed and wrapped before he is put in the stall at night. A stable wrap should be removed for at least an hour every 12-16 hours.

Start with the edge of the quilt on one side of the leg or the other, not on the front or back of the limb. Unroll the quilt, holding the beginning edge in position. Don't put the starting edge of the quilt over the flexor tendon area or the thick edge might cause the horse some discomfort by morning.

Choose a wider and longer bandage than the exercise wrap. Bandages for stable and shipping wraps are customarily 5" to 6" wide and up to 12' long. Place the end of the bandage underneath the edge of the quilt. Simply unroll your bandage in the same direction you unrolled the quilt. If you did the opposite, you'd be loosening the quilt. As you are working your way back up, keep the tension even and the wraps as symmetrical as possible. When you get to the top, decide where you will place the ties.

Shipping Wrap

A shipping wrap, also called a travel or trailer wrap, is designed to protect a horse during trailering. For a travel wrap, you will need tall quilts that extend from the knee to the coronary band and a wide, long bandage. Start with the edge of the quilt on the inside of the cannon. Wrap the quilt around the leg, keeping it snug and low on the leg. Fasten the hook-and-loop closures that will hold the quilt in place while you begin wrapping. Begin about midway and apply the bandage in the same direction as you did the quilt. Because you are wrapping over a thicker quilt and a longer area, if you are using a 4" x 9' bandage you will have to use it very efficiently or there will not be enough to finish. A 6" x 12' bandage would be better. Wrap down to the coronary band, leaving some quilt extending out the bottom. Wrap back upward. Since the quilts are very thick, you can apply quite a bit of tension as you wrap. If you don't, you will probably find the bandage on the trailer floor. Finish at the top and tie, tucking the ties in. An alternative to traveling wraps is heavy nylon traveling boots. To offer extra protection if a horse were to step up onto the bulbs of the heels with a hind hoof, the bottom of these boots is reinforced with a heavy plastic scuff plate. There are also shipping boots which have Kevlar sewn to the bottom. Kevlar is the material used in bulletproof vests, so it will withstand the abuse from the other hooves.

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Horse Clothing

Measuring Your Horse For A Blanket

Begin by standing the horse squarely. Hold the end of the measuring tape at the center of the horse's chest and measure around the widest part of the shoulder. Continue along the barrel, keeping your tape horizontal. Go around the widest part of the hindquarter to the edge of the tail (or mid-thigh). Keep the measuring tape horizontal. The number of inches indicates what size sheet the horse should wear. If the measurement is an odd number, use the next highest even measurement. Some manufacturers say to measure to the center of the tail. But the difference between mid-thigh and tail center can be as much as 6", which could make a blanket fit great or poorly.

Types Of Horse Clothing

Anti-Sweat Sheet

Made of open-mesh fibers, such as cotton, which tend to wick sweat and cool a horse and also prevent him from sweating. Some anti-sweat sheets double as fly sheets. Solid, synthetic anti-sweat sheets are a new innovation. Use in very hot weather. Not suitable for a turn-out sheet because it usually has no leg straps and can easily slip or be torn.

Fly Sheet

Made of open-mesh materials, such as nylon or polyester, that keep flies from landing and biting. Some models are durable enough for turnout. Use instead of fly spray during times of particularly heavy fly infestations.

Fly Hood

Made of open-mesh material with protection from flies for the eyes and ears as well.

Stable Sheet

Made of light material, such as cotton. Unlined except for shoulder area. Mainly to keep dust and dirt off horse's coat. May or may not have leg straps, but not designed for turnout. Used in stall to keep horse clean.

Turn-Out Sheet

Made of more durable fabrics, such as Cordura, or nylon or cotton canvas. Unlined except for shoulder area. May or may not be water repellent or water resistant. usually has leg straps to prevent sheet from twisting when horse rolls or runs. Used in pens, paddocks, or pastures on horses that are turned out for exercise. May or may not be machine washable; some will need to be hosed and brushed.


Made of wool, wool blends, or polyester fleece. Unfitted style to drape over horse from poll to tail to wick moisture off wet horse and allow him to cool out gradually without becoming chilled. Used on horses after bathing or hard work. Horse must be tied in cross-ties or stall, or the cooler will certainly be damaged.

Stable Blanket

Made of warm yet lightweight materials. Either the blanket is lined with blanket-type material or entire blanket is quilted with polyester batting and lined with nylon. Not designed to be waterproof. Used on stalled horses to keep them warm. Usually suitable for temperatures below 45 degrees or the horse will sweat. Machine washable in a triple-load washing machine.

Turn-Out Blanket

Made of warm very tough, weather-resistant materials. Often the outer shell is waterproof or water resistant. The filling and lining can be of similar materials as the stable blanket. Has leg straps. Used on horses in pens, paddocks, and pastures during cold weather. Might be machine washable but might require hosing and brushing.


Usually designed to go along with stable blanket or turn-out blanket to provide total protection for the neck and head during cold weather. Used on (show) horses that have been body clipped or are kept blanketed year-round.

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References: The Ultimate Horse Book, Elwyn Hartley Edwards; Horse Health Care, Cherry Hill


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