Minimum Health Care Requirements Important Phone Numbers
It is best to have a horse expert and veterinarian help you with these decisions.
Know what breed of horse you want.
Know what age of horse you are seeking
The temperament of the horse you want is very important
Know your experience (riding) level and what you plan to do.
Know the horse's experience (training) level and whether it has any training in your chosen activity.
Find out about the horse's overall health including vaccination, worming, and hoof care histories.
Find out about any past illnesses and/or injuries (and look for lumps and scars - a seller may not be 100% truthful, sad to say).
Ask the owner for a 30-day trial period to be sure that you and the horse are a good match and to be certain that there are no medical or behavioral problems that may have been concealed when you first visited the horse.
Before ownership, you may want to consider leasing a horse first to make sure that purchasing a horse is the correct decision. You may also want to examine the option of boarding the horse.
Legalities: By Colorado law a brand inspection certificate is needed as proof of ownership at the time of sale. Also, a brand inspection certificate is needed if the horse is transported more than 75 miles from home or if it is leaving the state.
Space and Shelter: Horses need a large area for exercise such as a corral or pasture. They also need natural or man-made shelter from the elements (both hot and cold). This can vary from a protective stand of trees to a 3-sided shed to a complete stable with box stalls. A man-made shelter should be clean and well-ventilated with no drafts. Minimum space requirements for a box stall are: 10-12 ft. wide X 10-12 ft. deep X at least 8 feet high. The door should be 4 ft. wide X 8 ft. high.
Fencing: Whether using a traditional board fence, a rail fence, or electric wire fencing (wide ribbon wire is best), the most important thing is that the fence must be VISIBLE to the horse. This keeps the horse from becoming tangled in the fence or from running through the fence and onto the highway. Electric fencing should only be used as an interior fence and never as a major exterior fence. Barbed wire is NOT RECOMMENDED for horse pasture fencing. Click here for a good guide to fencing.
Manure: You must have a plan for manure disposal or use. You may want to start a composting project to convert manure and yard waste into organic fertilizer. You will also need a plan to control flies and other insects.
Feeding: An average saddle horse that weighs 1,000 pounds will eat approximately 17 to 22 pounds of feed per day (total ration). The total ration is a combination of hay, grain and pasture. Salt should always be available to the horse. See below for more information on feeding your horse.
Pasture: The major component of a horse's diet is good forage, such as hay (see below for information about hay) or pasture. A horse weighing 1000 pounds will eat about 500 pounds of forage every month. Another way of thinking about it is that the average horse will eat 1.5-2.0% of its body weight per day in forage! This is not an exact science -- you should monitor your horse's body condition and increase or decrease its feed intake accordingly. How much land will you need to feed one horse for one year?
If this is the only source of forage, your horse will need about 28 acres of dryland (non-irrigated) pasture a year. To keep pasture grass healthy, DO NOT let the horse overgraze the land so that grass will no longer grow. Overgrazed dryland pasture may never recover.
Irrigated pastures with adequate moisture will grow more forage than dryland pasture so less acreage is needed. The amount of land needed for one horse ranges from 3/4 to 1 1/4 acres. The horse will not eat grass that has been trampled or has manure on it. Overgrazing will also damage irrigated pastures. For good quality regrowth, leave about 1/3 of the grass uneaten. Manage your pasture as a crop by soil testing, fertilizing, clipping weeds and managing manure.
CAUTION: Before turning a horse out to pasture for the first time you must condition it to a change in diet. Turning the horse out on green lush pasture is DANGEROUS and can result in sickness or death. Start out slowly by letting the horse graze for a few minutes each day and gradually increase to a few hours each day.
No work = No grain
____ Number of days to feed hay x 20 pounds hay per day/____
pounds per bale = # bales needed.
Quick facts about hay:
Hay that is cut pre-bloom (before seed heads or flowers appear)are higher in protein and energy (calories) than later cuttings. Horses only need 10-12% protein in their feed. Second and pre-bloom alfalfa hay averages 18-24% protein which is more than the horse needs. This hay may also be more expensive.
Hay for horses must be mold and dust free
Weeds have limited nutritional value. Weed seeds can be passed through the manure and infest your pasture. Buy hay that is free of weeds as some weeds are poisonous to horses.
It is critical to develop a partnership with a veterinarian prior to an emergency situation. This can be done by consulting your veterinarian for your horse's routine and preventive health care.
Internal Parasite Control:
Colorado Veterinary Medical Association
American Association of Equine Practitioners
Rocky Mountain Farriers Association
Colorado Horse Council
Colorado State Brand Inspection Office
Colorado State County Extension Agent and/or 4-H Youth
Colorado State Equine Extension Specialist
Information courtesy of Colorado State University Cooperative Extension and the Colorado Horse Development Board.