All over America, people keep their horses in very different ways. In the east, horses tend to live in stables and in fields. In the west, most horses live in sandy pens and small corrals. Where sort of home does your favorite horse have? If he's lucky, he'll have a roomy stable and a grassy field, and he'll enjoy plenty of time outdoors in the fresh air and sunshine.
Horses are happiest when they spend lots of time outdoors. Keeping them in a stable 24 hours a day is an unnatural way for them to live. This is particularly true if your horse is a hardy, mixed breed with a shaggy, warm coat. He may be happy to live outdoors all of the time, providing he gets plenty of food and hay. If you have a purebred horse, such as an Arabian or a Thoroughbred, with a fine, thin coat, he may need to be stabled at night if it gets cold. Otherwise, he may lose weight or become sick from being kept outside in cold weather.
But, no matter how your horse lives, it's important that his home is safe. Lots of accidents happen in fields or in the stable because owners don't pay attention to potential hazards. Let's find out how you can make your horse's home as safe as possible.
1. If your horse spends time in a field, walk around it once a week to check that the fences are sturdy and solid. Make sure there are no breaks in the fence where your horse can squeeze through. Check that all wire is pulled tightly and not looped on the ground, ready to cut your horse's legs.
2. Pick up any garbage that has floated into the field. Plastic bags can get caught on a horse's legs or on his head. Cans and bottles can cut and hurt him.
3. Check the water trough to make sure it is clean and the water is fresh. Scrub it out if it is dirty.
4. Look around for poisonous plants, like nettles or thistles. Ask your county agricultural extension office for a list of plants you need to destroy.
1. Try to use a stable that is big enough for your pony or horse. If it is too small, he or she could lie down and get cast (stuck and unable to rise.) Horses should have stables that are 12 feet by 12 feet. Ponies need at least 10 feet by 10 feet.
2. Make sure your horse has plenty of bedding. At least a foot or more. Too little bedding can give your horse sores on his hocks when he gets up after lying down.
3. Check that there are no electrical outlets, wires or switches in or near the stall. Horses like to nibble on things!
4. Hang haynets and hayracks up high so your horse can't get his legs caught in them.
5. Hang buckets and troughs at your horse's shoulder level. Don't leave them on the ground where he can trip on them.
6. Make sure windows are covered with bars so your horse won't cut himself on broken glass.
7. Always keep a fire extinguisher in the barn, and replace it with a new one once a year.
8. The stable door should have two bolts on the outside - one at the top and one at the bottom that the horse cannot reach.
1. Check that your horse's pen is big enough for him. It should be at least 12 feet by 24 feet. He needs to be able to walk around and lie down comfortably. Only one horse should live in a pen.
2. Make sure the pen has enough bedding. Hard dirt is not good enough. Put shavings or a special cedar bed down for your horse so he won't get nasty sores onhis hocks.
3. Take a close look at the metal bars of the pen. If there are any sharp edges or loose bars, ask an adult to fix them for you.
4. If there are several pens, the bars should be high enough (about five feet) that horses cannot bite or kick each other easily.
5. The pen should have some shelter, a roof or shed that protects the horse from rain or the hot sun.