Horse Question


10 Years
Nov 12, 2009
White plains
For a long time I have been reading the threads on horses. I have been thinking of getting a horse. I take getting any animal a life long commitment. So I do a lot of studying on the animal before making the commitment. It seems from a lot of posts, the horses stomach is a direct line to health. I have read many warnings about over grazing.Yet all the horses around me are in large fields of grass. They have the ability of eating all day long.Is free pasture really dangerous for a horse?
If the horse has been pastured, there are several things to keep in mind.

If your pasture is lush, it will be very rich, you would need to limit feeding time each day until he can be safely grazed 24/7.

If the pasture is cropped very low, it will be an adjustment for the horse from lush pasture to less than ideal pasture but most of the time they will be ok. I've had horses taken from lush pasture to less than ideal pasture with good feed without any problems. just keep an eye on how they are doing.

If he was stalled, and you want to pasture him, limit exposure time to pasture and back to stall but get longer each day.

If you have a horse that would just PIG out and making your grass gone really fast in a short amount of pasture ( I had one QH that would MOW the 1/4 pasture less than a day, she was a real PIG!), a grazing muzzle will help.

All in all, I prefer pastured horses than stalled horses, less vices and less problems. And easy on your hay budget.
Yep, colic is your worst enemy and it can come from too much green grass. On the other hand you can do everything right and your horse can simply roll and twist thier gut or stepin a hole and break a leg. Horses are fickle, expensive and prone to health issues. For what it is worth it says not to multiply horses in the Bible. (Iwonder about this sometimes).
Usually just a fenced in field is not the lush grass that causes colic and founder. There are weeds, some edible, some not, the grass is typically coarser and not as dense. Wild horses eat coarser, lower quality stuff than do animals like cattle (wild aurochs when alive usually ate newer growth). Further risk of colic can be reduced by limiting grain or by not feeding it is.
Its a big difference between KY thoroughbred pastures vs our cattle pastures LOL!

I dont know why horses have to poop in the best spots of clover areas and go for the tough grasses....they must have liked the taste of them.
If you want a horse i say go to someone in the industry to help you, so maybe find a reputable barn in your area to take lessons at and help around the barn, that's the best way to learn. It's alot of WORK and MONEY! Money is a big thing.
I was raised on a horse farm it kept us in thepoor house also.

LOL! I didn't know that. If my sis had been a god fearing gal she could have saved herself a large fortune!!!
As always, 'it depends'.
How to start taking good care of your horse:

1. Before you first get your horse, get a good solid book on health, feeding, management and caring for your horse and read it carefully. The Merck veterinary manual is a good choice, but can also be read online. Many veterinarians give free talks on horse nutrition and care.

2. Learn to take pulse, respiration and heart rate. You will need a stethoscope and a watch or stop watch that allows you to count seconds.

3. Learn what a horse's normal gum color is

4. Spend time volunteering around horses at a therapeutic riding center or horse rescue or vet's - get familiar with horse habits and behavior.

5. Learn that having a horse is expensive, that there are times when you need to have the vet come to your farm and treat your horse. Plan for veterinary expenses and save up an emergency fund before you get your horse.

5a. Learn about costs of horse care - yearly shots, worming, typical emergency calls such as colics and laminitis.

6. Don't believe everything you read on the internet. Ask your vet questions. Do not be suckered in by cheap quack cures and crazy claims made for feeds, supplements and various remedies. There is no regulation of that sort of thing, and it is completely out of control.

7. Do not fall for old treatments that are dangerous and may harm your horse.

8. Choose an appropriate, experienced veterinarian for your horse. S/he should specialize in horses and be experienced in the area of concern. S/he should not be pressuring you to buy specific feeds or other products.

9. Keep horses up to date on vaccinations and worming (infectious diseases and worm damage can also be a cause of laminitis and colic)
Aside from injuries, there are two major threats to horses' health.

1.) Colic - pain in the gut due to blockage, gas, or a twist of the gut

2.) Laminitis or Founder - 'fever in the feet'. Often happens when a change in diet disrupts blood flow to the feet.

These problems are caused by changes in diet, exercise, and mistakes in management.

Signs and symptoms given below are typical and common ones only -

Laminitis (inflamation in the feet) or Founder:

Small pony breeds and overweight horses are very vulnerable to laminitis, but any horse, donkey or mule can get laminitis. This can permanently damage their feet, even cripple or kill them. Eating too much grass or grain (oats, corn, etc) can cause laminitis. Horses often founder when:

1. They break into the feed room and over eat grain or other concentrated feeds
2. They over eat on grass, especially lush grass
3. They get ahold of moldy or poisonous feed

There are other causes; these are common ones.


1. Trying to get weight off the front feet such as by standing with the hind feet set down further forward, or lying down
2. Feet may feel warmer than normal
3. changes in pulse, respiration, heart rate
4. sweating
5. Seems disinterested in things happening around him, dull, preoccupied
6. changes in color of gums

other symptoms are possible, these are common ones.


Colic is caused by bad feed that packs into a mass, ferments and causes gas, etc. A horse cannot vomit or burp to release pressure on its guts.

Colic often occurs when:

1. The diet suddenly changes in type or quantity
2. The horse does not drink enough water, so there is a dry mass of feed blocking the normal flow of food in the gut

There are other causes; these are common ones.


1. Looking back at the flanks, rolling, lying down repeatedly, straining and stretching to urinate but passing little or no urine, other changes in behavior or habits
2. Sweating
3. Changes in pulse, respiration, heart rate
4. Changes in color of gums
5. Preoccupied, disinterested in surroundings.

Signs of severe colic:

1. Pain stops and later comes back; periods of quiet and periods of violent thrashing and struggle
2. Signs of shock - cold, patchy sweat, dull, unresponsive behavior
3. Any colic can be life threatening or severe - signs are not necessarily obvious

Other symptoms are possible

People often ask - so how did wild horses ever survive if horses are so delicate? -

The simple answer is that wild horses very often die from the same causes as domestic horses.

1. Wild horses were less at risk for digestive problems like these because their feed was so sparse and poor in quality
2. Wild horses often did starve to death, though
3. When their feed did change drastically, wild horses often did die of colic or laminitis
Why these conditions affect horses-

Management of horses often involves over-eating, feed changes, and larger quantities at each meal.

Horses have a small stomach and very long intestines that have many narrow turns and bends. Horses cannot vomit or burp to relieve gas or pressure.

Horses are designed to eat small amounts of food throughout the day, not 1 or 2 big meals.

Horses are designed to eat an unchanging diet.

Horses are not the best at digesting rich feeds full of carbohydrates and sugars.

Modern pasture grasses are designed for fast weight gain in cattle and at certain times of year, is very high in carbs and sugars.
What to do if you suspect Colic

1. Take pulse, respiration and heart beat
2. Check gum color in the mouth (gums are normally a rather pale pink - they should not be bright pink, reddish, white or blue-ish)
2. Do not allow the horse to eat any grain, concentrates, supplements, beet pulp, pellets, etc. Do not give any home remedies, no matter how highly recommended.
3. Walk the horse for one hour and retake pulse, respiration and heart rate
4. Call your vet for further instructions if horse is still in distress
What you can do to prevent laminitis and colic -

1. Follow basic horse feeding guidelines - always provide water, keep amounts of grain/concentrates low and feed 1.5-2% body weight in hay
1a. Keep in mind that bagged feeds often recommend amounts that would make most horses too fat
1b. Keep in mind that most adult horses get light exercise and may become overweight/sick when fed more than they need for the exercise they get.
2. Make any changes of diet/feed slowly over the period of a week or two
3. Make sure horses are drinking plenty of water especially in very cold or hot weather
4. Learn to select hay that is not too fine and is not too coarse, learn to recognize good horse hay
5. Plan on buying hay each winter and whenever else your pasture gets sparse
6. Learn to 'score' body condition and avoid getting horses too thin or too fat
7. Provide consistent, frequent and reasonable exercise on appropriate surfaces - do not suddenly change the amount of exercise the horse gets.
8. Do not feed grain/concentrates within 2 hrs before or after exercise
9. Do not give very hot exhausted horses large quantities of cold water to drink - try bathing and sips of water to cool and rehydrate. Try not to let horses get very hot and exhausted - working at a slower speed and drinking small amounts of water all along is better.
10. When transporting horses, stop frequently and be sure horses have enough water and are eating hay. 8 hrs before long transports, horses can be fed a bran mash with some oil in it to lessen the risk of colic.
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