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VACTF Manual: Chapter 6: Animal Care Practices


Female - Mare
Young female - Filly
Male - Stallion
Young male - Colt
Castrated male - Gelding

Basic Animal Care Practices

NOTE: Feed and water requirements will vary considerably depending on the age of the animal, its size, amount of exercise or work that it performs, and physiologic status (e.g. whether pregnant or lactating, climate, etc.)

Remember that The Department of Agriculture must be consulted before any enforcement action is taken involving livestock or poultry (Title 13, Section 354 (3) (a))

  • It is recommended that fresh, clean water be available at all times.

  • Should be fed as follows:
    • A complete hay diet consisting of good quality hay (a 1000 pound horse will eat between 1/2 and 3/4 bale of hay per day; (for pony or small breed, 1/3 bale); As a general guideline, one can estimate a dry matter intake of between 2-3% of body weight for maintenance depending on forage quality.


    • A partial hay diet consisting of a sufficient supply of good hay (1/6 to 1/3 bale), along with either oats, sweet feed, or other grain;


    • A "complete" grain type feed for those horses who cannot eat hay because of health problems, as advised by veterinarian.

  • It is preferable that hay and grain not be thrown on the ground, which could lead to infection/reinfection from parasites, but rather placed in a manger or hay rack, or in case of grain, in a bucket or suitable container. All feed should be rotated and kept dry to avoid mold.

  • Salt blocks are recommended - either white salt or preferably trace mineralized salt (red blocks).

  • Should be provided with shelter that affords them protection from heavy rain, snow, and high wind. The shelter should also provide sufficient shade in the summer. (NOTE: According to Title 13, Section 365 (Shelter of Animals) "... all livestock... must be provided with... adequate natural shelter or a three-sided, roofed building with exposure out of the prevailing wind and of sufficient size to adequately accommodate all livestock maintained out-of-doors...")

  • Stalls can be box stalls (minimum 10' by 10' per horse) or straight or tie stalls (only permits the horse to stay in a straight alignment, that is, it can stand and lie, but cannot turn around.) If confined to a straight stall, daily turnout should be provided. Natural light should be available and horses should not be overcrowded.

Additional recommendations

  • Should be wormed every three months ideally, but minimally in the spring and fall.

  • At a minimum, should be vaccinated for rabies and tetanus on an annual basis; other vaccinations as recommended by veterinarian.

  • Should receive proper hoof care. Hooves require trimming approximately every 8 to 12 weeks. A horse does not always require horse shoes. Shoeing depends on the condition of the horse's feet, the type of work the horse does, the road surface it travels on, and how often it travels. Teeth should be checked annually and floated (filed down) if necessary.

  • Need to "graze" (i.e. have access to grass or hay). Ideally, hay should always be available whether inside or outside. The total time devoted to grazing and chewing hay should amount to approximately 18 hours a day. (This should minimize wood chewing.)

NOTE: See also loose May/June 2000 Animal Sheltering reprint, "Investigating Animal Cruelty: How to Educate, How to Enforce".

Signs of neglect/cruelty - what to look for

Appearance of animal: thin (ribs and vertebrae prominent); halter and other harness or saddle sores (check to see if halter has grown into the horse's head); halter should not be kept on constantly; excessive hoof length (possibly with tips of hooves turned up); a hoof which is spongy on the bottom side and has a foul odor; bite wounds from constant fighting possibly resulting from stallions or overly aggressive animals pastured together or with mares.

Housing Conditions: no fresh water or food available; no shelter; overcrowded; no place to lie down; excessive manure and urine build-up; standing on muddy ground with no dry areas. NOTE: Insufficient manger space for the number of horses can result in a competitive situation which causes the weakest animals to be excluded from the food source.

Behavior: head down and unresponsive; inactive; indifferent to surroundings and visitors; excessively fearful; displays excessive aggression toward other horses; odd standing behavior, such as standing on one forefoot while holding the other forefoot up so that only the toe touches the ground, lying on the ground excessively, standing with weight on hind quarters, resting chin on fence rail to get weight off forefeet can all be signs of lameness, founder or laminitis and indicate the need for veterinary care.

If any of the elements above are present, arrange to have a veterinarian examine animals.

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