After having been around horses just about every day for the past four years, I can say that there are certain skills that every horse owner needs to have, in order to be successful as an equestrian.
Some of these skills are necessary to keep your horse safe and happy, and others are important to ensure you don’t get hurt by doing something wrong.
Let’s take a look at the 5 essential skills that every horse owner needs.
Recognize a sick horse
Horses get sick. Some of them get sick more often than others, and because you won’t know your horse’s exact history, there is no way of telling. But being able to quickly recognize a sick horse can mean the difference between life and death, or at the very least, between a small vet bill vs a large vet bill.
This comes with experience and I wouldn’t be able to tell you all of the different illnesses or ways to tell if your horse is sick. Suffice it to say that if your horse is not acting right, not eating, not drinking, laying down and not getting up, or has a really high temperature — you probably should call your vet.
Trust me on this, because we just had a massive horse vet bill after emergently bringing our big guy to the University of Tennessee’s equestrian hospital.
He almost died and because our local vet treated him wrong, they couldn’t even figure out what was wrong with him. On the plus side, it seems as though he is fully recovered.
Take horse temp
A moment ago I told you that it’s imperative to know if your horse is sick and that one of the ways you can tell is by taking his temperature. Our thoroughbred’s temp got up to 105, which is way too high.
Making matters worse, the banamine wasn’t really helping to lower his temp, and we made the mistake of not bringing him to the hospital at the request of our former veterinarian.
It’s absolutely essential to be able to take your horse’s temperature. It may be gross, more on this below, but it is necessary.
What is the normal temp for a horse?
Normal horse temp is between 99 – 101 degrees Fahrenheit (some vets say 101.5).
We were monitoring it a couple of times each day before we finally took him to the hospital.
How do you take a horse’s temp?
The best way to take a horse’s temp is rectal with a digital thermometer.
I’ve never done it before because the horse is my daughter’s and she was able to get it done. Not that I wasn’t willing, because I was.
Another good skill is being able to recognize that your horse is hurt.
It’s not always easy to tell, because sometimes horses are quirky or are just responding to their environment. For example, it can be hard to tell if a horse is limping on his front if he’s walking through thick mud.
It may look like it, but once he’s out of the mud you can tell that he’s fine.
We had a friend once who jumped a horse with a broken leg. We could all tell that he was off, but she jumped him anyway because she made the trip, and then found out that he was badly hurt.
There are a number of reasons why a horse may be lame, and there are different levels of lameness. Most of the time when a horse is lame it’s because there is something wrong with him physically. He might be in pain, or at the very least be unable to move correctly.
If you suspect that your horse is lame pull your phone out and record a video of him doing whatever it is. If you have a good relationship with your vet they may be willing to take a look at the video and decide if he needs to be seen or not.
A lot of vets are willing to look at a video you send them before charging you.
It’s essential to know what a lame horse looks like, so you don’t hurt him further on accident.
Next, read up on how our horse went lame because of bad farrier work.
Distinguish between abuse and normal training
I debated on not putting this one in here, but figured at the end of the day there are some things that need to be said because we’ve seen some pretty terrible things.
Without calling anyone in particular out, the older ways of doing things with horses are now sometimes considered to be out of date. Some of those methods are downright abusive to the animal.
Horses feel pain and have fear just like any other animal. If you are with a trainer that seems to be employing methods of training that seem to be inhumane, they probably are.
For example, if you don’t think it’d feel good to have your head tied in a position where you couldn’t eat or drink, it’s probably considered animal abuse.
If you see someone repeatedly hitting a horse in the head with a water bucket, you shouldn’t be surprised if the horse develops some fear of buckets.
By the way, these are all things that we’ve witnessed.
Lead a horse
There are some basic skills that you must be able to do right away if you’re going to own a horse.
It is a basic skill to be able to put a halter and lead rope on a horse and lead him around. It’s kind of like walking a big dog, but a lot more intimidating. After all, this is a 1,000 lb or so animal.
If you are afraid of the horse he may sense it and take advantage of you. These animals are a lot smarter than many people give them credit for. He will know if you’re scared.
To start, I’d recommend learning how to do it with someone who is a lot more experienced than you are, as well as using a more experienced horse. Then, once you’ve mastered that, go on to your own horse — still having help.
There are a lot of skills that you need to have in order to be successful as a horse owner. This list will get you started, and if you need help, always find an instructor to give you a hand.