6 Tips for Making Your New Horse Feel at Home
Buying your first horse or adding a new one to your herd can be pretty exciting. Nothing can compare to the feeling of elation and satisfaction of bringing home a pony or another steed.
However, these happy emotions can quickly fly away if you are not prepared to deal with the difficulties of bringing home a new horse. Since your new companion animal is suddenly uprooted from his familiar environment, he will be under stress and feel anxious.
Preparing well for the arrival of your new horse can make a huge difference in how well and quickly he will acclimatise to the new environment.
If you want to help your new horse adjust to and feel comfortable in his new home quickly, and at the same time, reduce your anxieties, follow these tips:
1. Stock up on supplies.
Before your new horse arrives, make sure you have the essentials ready. Stock up on hay or if you have a pasture, ensure there is abundant healthy grass for your animal companion. However, be mindful too much rich grass can make a horse ill.
Also, buy additional feed and water buckets for your horse. Have a source of clean, fresh water available at all times.
Check your supply of horse healthcare products as well. You will do well to have enough shampoo and conditioner, insect repellent, insecticide, and other essentials.
Make sure your new animal companion also has his own head collar and lead rope, saddle and bridle. His grooming kit should include a body brush, water brush, mane comb, rubber curry comb, water brush, hoof pick, oil, and sponges. All of which should be new, and kept separate from other horses.
If you have not replenished your first aid kit lately, check which supplies you need. You should have plenty of bandages, gauze pads, cotton wool, thermometer antibiotic spray, and an extra pair of scissors and tweezers.
2. Stick to your horse’s current diet.
During your horse’s first few weeks in your home, it would be best to keep his current feed. If you want to change it, do it slowly to avoid upsetting his tummy.
Your horse may also not like his new feed or take some time to get used to it, so change it gradually to ensure he still eats something without a sudden change to his digestive system.
Also, ask the current owner if the horse has been kept on pasture. If not, introduce your new animal companion to grass slowly. A quick switch from hay to pasture grass can cause problems, such as diarrhoea, colic and laminitis.
Don’t forget to ask the owner if the horse is used to a certain kind of hay. Buy a few bales of this and change it to another type gradually if you want to.
Lastly, make sure you have a sufficient stock of salt in the form of a lick since horses need sodium for proper muscle contraction, protein digestion, and conduction of nerve impulses.
3. Prepare the stable.
Your horse needs a comfortable place to stay and sleep. As such, take the time to check the stable and his stall before he arrives.
Ensure your horse’s bedding is ready and that hay and water are handy. Be mindful of the type of bedding the horse is use to. Ask the horse’s previous owner if there is any bedding you should steer clear from.
If you are getting a horse for the first time, inspect the stall walls, doors, fences, gates, and the grounds for any hazards that can injure your him or her.
Ensure all the fences are sturdy and in good condition since a nervous horse can jump over a stall door and escape through a fence or jump a gate. You can’t expect your new animal companion to behave properly during his first several days in his new home.
Because of this, you have to do everything to keep him safe in your home.
4. Work on your bond with your new horse.
It can take a horse one week to several months to get used to their new home. Fortunately, there are some techniques that can help you speed up the process.
One of these strategies is grooming your horse correctly and regularly.
Grooming is a safe, slow activity that all horses enjoy and find pleasant. When you do this regularly, your new animal companion will realise that you are a kind owner and will care for him an so your bond will build naturally, over time.
When grooming your horse, tie him securely in an area where he can have a view of what is going on around him. This could be the wash area or the open door of the stable.
Use gentle strokes when combing your horse. Also, be careful about brushing or scratching around flanks and bellies since some horses are sensitive around these areas.
5. Slowly introduce your horse to his new herd.
If you have other horses, avoid letting your new animal companion near them first. Since they are unfamiliar with each other, you might have a horse fight erupt suddenly.
Have your new horse see the rest from a distance first. Give him time to get used to his new home and his new herd. Thought should be given to isolation of any new horse to a yard due to the risk of equine influenza and other diseases.
After a few weeks or so, you can let your new horse get nearer to the others, but they should still be separated by a fence.
Once the animals are familiar with each other and have become complacent, consider placing your new arrival with one or two other horses first. Choose the least aggressive members of the herd to minimise any problems that may still arise.
During the next couple of days, let your new arrival mingle with one or two more horses. Be on the lookout for any signs of aggression. If you spot one, try to remove your new animal companion as soon as possible.
Also, always keep a lookout for injuries and lameness and lethargic or sulking herd members.
6. Be patient.
Lastly, like humans and other pets, horses have a body system, brain, and personality similar to ours. As such, they may feel the same emotions as you when you are suddenly thrust into a new environment.
Your new horse will feel nervous, afraid, and even agitated when you first bring him home. Give him time to settle down and adjust to his new home before riding and putting him through any test.
Avoid getting impatient with your new horse. Continue treating him gently and with kindness. When you are consistent with your behaviour, your animal companion will start trusting you.
In due time, your new horse will be your perfect riding companion and a valuable addition to your herd.
Whether you are getting your first horse or adding one to your herd, make sure you know an equestrian shop in Dubai where you can get all the supplies you need to take great care of your new animal companion.
Farah Al-Khojai is the Managing Partner of Pet’s Delight. A passionate entrepreneur, Farah holds a Bsc in Government from the London School of Economics. She is always on the lookout for new opportunities to develop and grow the pet and equestrian retail and wholesale market in the UAE and beyond, and is proud to be at the helm of the first and the largest pet care provider in the market representing world-class brands including Orijen, Applaws, Hunter, Savic, Flamingo, Ruffwear and Rogz.