Home is where the heart is. Your horse no doubt feels the same way about his stable as you do about the four walls you inhabit. He loves it because his box, the place where he eats, sleeps and whiles away many hours, makes him feel happy and secure — or at least it should. However, if you are new to horse ownership, you may be unaware that certain things can cause him to become stressed and insecure, while hidden dangers lurk that can lead injury and, on rare occasions, death.
You may think that your new livery yard guarantees value for money, but if your horse is a 17.2hh giant and they are offering him accommodation measuring 2x2m (we might be exaggerating here, but you get the picture), then think again. He will not only struggle to move and turn around, but he could become cast (stuck) when trying to get up. This could all end badly as his legs strike the walls causing cuts, bruises or far worse.
Is his stable positioned so that in windy conditions it feels like Hurricane Frank is within? While good ventilation is essential, especially in warm weather, a box that is too draughty and cold may, in the long term, cause your horse to develop low-grade health problems. Sit in your study when it is a breezy -10 degrees outside, open the window and see what that feels like first hand.
We’ve all seen pictures of unfortunate horses living in places that look like Steptoe’s yard. Just because your livery yard owner lacks space and thinks that your mount will be fine sharing his box with a couple of lawn mowers, a quad bike and 25 bales of moldy straw, he won’t be. Even the most docile of horses needs a space clear of clutter. And that applies to rugs draped over doors, too.
Letting your horse stand in weeks’ worth of urine and dung is just plain cruel. Muck him out daily, replenish the stable with clean, dust-free bedding and don’t stint on the volume or your horse will end up lying on a cold floor. Ideally, if finances allow, install rubber matting. If the urine is pooling on the floor you have a drainage issue so seek advice.
One of the most common mistakes made by new horse owners is to hang a haynet too close to the floor. Your horse’s feet can easily become tangled in its mesh. Bear in mind this might be when he is rolling and his feet are high in the air, so ensure that the net is out of reach. Consider buying one with smaller holes, or think about other means of feeding, such as from the floor — how a horse grazes naturally — possibly via a feeder that prevents wastage.
You no doubt have a circle of friends, and just as you love to socialise, your horse will be happier if he can gaze out of his door and see some friendly equines faces.
A stabled horse won’t be happy if he is left to his own devices for hours on end, so ensure that he has regular turnout and/or work, that you interact with him regularly via grooming and stick to a feeding regime. Use stable toys to prevent boredom.
Ensure that he has access to water at all times.
Don’t smoke in your horse’s stable, check that your yard’s electrics are well maintained, keep fire extinguishers serviced and have an escape plan in place. There have been well documented fatal stable and barn fires and you can never be too vigilant — in the States, Olympic event rider Boyd Martin lost six horses in an horrific fire apparently caused by an electrical fault.