Agricultural Issues - Raising Horses

horses in a pasture

The ideal horse is one that produces a maximum amount of work for a minimum amount of feed and care. As a rule of thumb, an all-purpose, medium-sized horse that is not on a pasture needs about half a bale of hay and 5 pounds of grain per day. More if it's in foal or if it's working hard. A medium-sized horse should weigh close to half a ton and measure 13-16 hands (52-64 inches) at the shoulder. And you don't want anything to do with a half-ton animal that doesn't respect or obey you. Even then, the best-trained, well-adapted, hard-working horse will act up occasionally.

The horse's sex has everything to do with its disposition. Female (mare), male (stallion) and former male (gelding) are the three sexes they come in. If you've never dealt with horses before, get an older, well-trained gelding. Geldings are the most manageable because they aren't thinking about and smelling the mares across the field. Stallions require constant attention because of their sexual aggressiveness. Mares are reasonably easy to manage but they do have that time of year, every year. Finding the right horse, though, can take lots of time.

A three-sided structure with a simple roof will work for a barn. The stall should measure at least 120 square feet with a dry floor and a ten foot ceiling. Figure out how much hay and bedding storage you'll need and where to put it but, usually, feed and tack rooms tend to be about 6x10 feet in size.

A fenced-in paddock of about 600 square feet allows the horse to get outside every day but a couple acres of pasture is much better. One acre per horse is the usual minimum. Two acres divided in half allows you to alternate pastures, promoting taller grass growth and reducing worming problems.

A lot of folks think 2-strand electric fencing is best, until a horse finds a way to get through the fence or gets itself entangled in it. Traditional three-rail wooden fences work better, as does woven wire topped by a single rail to keep the horse from leaning on the wire (and breaking it).

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