The Horse's Environment
Horses seem to be simultaneously hardy and delicate. Proper nutrition does more to keep a horse in good health than almost anything else you can do. Well-maintained horses can withstand hot summers or cold winters, and the physical conditions under which they thrive range from cushy box stalls in barns rimmed with stained glass windows to three-sided sheds in rocky pastures. But when things go wrong, they can go wrong in a big way.
Feeding a horse moldy hay can cause colic or long-term respiratory problems. If you don't provide your horse with clean, ice-free water at all times, you have a colic situation waiting to happen. And when horses get caught in barbed wire or snag their halter in a stall, they seem to go for the gold when it comes to bodily damage.
The more you do to prevent horse health problems, the less it will cost the horse in stress and potential lifelong health issues, and the less it will cost you in time and money in the long run. The first step to protecting your horse's health is simple. Make the horse's environment as safe as possible and keep it clean and tidy.
Pick manure from stalls and turnout areas at least once per day, more often if more than two horses are turned out together. Horses that stand in accumulated manure and inhale urine odors are susceptible to hoof diseases, chronic respiratory problems, parasite infestations, and a host of other secondary problems.
Keep turnout areas clear of debris and keep fences in good repair to avoid physical injury to your horse. Fix damaged items — loose fence boards, downed electric fence wire, protruding nails — as soon as you see them. If you don't, your horse will surely find them, likely with devastating consequences. Lock up grain and keep stored hay out of your horse's reach. Close off any areas that aren't safe for a horse to walk in, and keep such areas free of tempting items, such as hay bales, that would lure a horse into that area.
As a horse owner, you are liable for any damages or injuries that your horse may cause to another's person or property. For example, if your horse escapes from his pasture and is involved in a traffic accident, you can be held responsible for the damages. It is wise to purchase equine liability insurance to protect yourself from such financial losses.
Use fencing and equipment designed for horses. Avoid barbed wire, as loose strands tend to snare and entangle a horse's limbs and cause serious lacerations. Gates must have secure or double-locking mechanisms to prevent your horse from escaping. Many horses are quite clever at figuring out how to open gates, especially ones fitted with simple latches that move up and down.