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How to Keep a Horse Healthy and Safe on Your Farm

Woman caring for a horse in a stable

Whether you have a horse for pleasure, to generate revenue, or to breed and market, its well-being is likely a primary concern. While equine insurance can be an important safeguard, you should also take steps to keep your horse healthy and safe.

Fencing finesse

Successful livestock farming requires ongoing fence maintenance to help keep horses and other animals safe and secure. When establishing new pastures or exercise areas with fencing, choose locations free from potential hazards. Try to keep horses separated from septic systems, chemical storage areas and equipment clutter. Be sensitive to fragile or dangerous landscape features, such as wetlands, sinkholes, and ravines.

When choosing fencing, safety is paramount, but you should also consider terrain, budget, aesthetics, and maintenance. Avoid barbed wire, which can easily entrap a horse and cause extensive injuries, or mesh fencing with openings larger than three inches, as hoofs can be trapped in anything bigger. Consider making any fence you do select a minimum of 4 ½ feet tall with the bottom only 6–8 inches off the ground. This will help prevent foals from rolling out and discourage horses from sticking their heads under the fence to graze. Environmental challenges

Farming with horses creates specific environmental issues that can endanger your animals and your livelihood.

While manure maintenance may include application of horse manure to nearby fields, too much applied at the wrong time or improper handling of the manure can release unwanted pollutants into the air, ground or nearby water, causing illness for animals and humans alike. Buildup of manure can create harmful gases and odors, leading to health issues and possible community complaints.

If you fail to manage your pastures and trails, allowing them to become bare and vulnerable to heavy horse hoof traffic, runoff during rains can carry sediment, fertilizer, horse food, manure, bedding and other pollutants into nearby soil or ground water.

You may want to consider these options to help improve possible environmental outcomes:

  • Rotational grazing, which can improve pasture health, soil quality, horse health and production costs
  • Grazing muzzles to reduce a horse’s pasture intake up to 30%
  • New hayfeeders designed to minimize feed waste and litter
  • Diets and supplements lower in nitrogen and phosphorus to lessen their subsequent transfer into the horse’s manure

Weather conditions

Depending on your location, weather patterns could present some challenges.

Horses that have the opportunity to acclimate to cold weather actually prefer being outside but still need access to shelter. Provide warm water (45° to 65° F), remembering that horses need more water during the winter (versus summer months, when pastures contain 60% to 80% moisture). Feed extra hay during extreme cold, add blanketing to clipped horses, and continue with regular hoof care and health assessments.

To combat heat, make sure horses have adequate shade, easy access to fresh water and plenty of ventilation in their stable. Use sunscreen to protect pink skin from sunburn. Use repellants and clean out manure to reduce flies and midges. Reduce your horse’s workload, increase cool-down periods, and try to avoid travel and exercise in the heat of the day.

Poison control

 Just like children, animals might not distinguish between good and bad materials. If it smells or looks intriguing, they could ingest it. Toxic plants, such as yew, red maple and moldy corn, can be fatal to horses, while access to herbicides, gasoline, rat poison or crushed blister beetles in their hay can make them seriously ill and can also be fatal. If your horse shows any signs of poisoning (including weight loss, diarrhea, salivation or loss of appetite), contact an equine veterinarian and check the horse’s access to any of these common culprits.

Knowing how to keep an animal healthy is crucial for anyone who owns horses for personal or commercial use. While insurance can help provide some protection, your horses depend on you for quality care and a proactive approach to their safety in all settings and conditions.

Westfield Insurance can help

Whether you looking for the right insurance for your whole farm or simply coverage for your horse(s), Westfield’s farm and agriculture insurance can reduce your exposure to financial loss. Contact a Westfield Insurance agent for more information on protecting the value of your horse(s).