Horses – environment
Housing requirements for horses.
Fences, gateways, gates and all facilities used to secure horses must be constructed with horses’ behavioural traits in mind and maintained to reduce the risk of injury and attack by predators.
Horses may be housed or kept in intensive conditions provided the following conditions are met:
- Each stable must be minimum of 3.5 x 3.5 metres with a minimum height of 2.5 metres.
- Yards should be a minimum of 5 x 5 metres with some form of shelter.
- The diet composition and quantities of feed must be recorded.
- Where horses are kept on hard dirt or concrete floors, bedding must be provided to avoid leg problems and abrasion when lying down.
- Feed bins should be on the floor and cleaned regularly.
- Faeces and urine accumulations must be removed daily from stables and yards.
- Natural or artificial lighting can be provided.
- Opportunities for appropriate exercise must be provided at least once daily however more often is recommended.
- Air must be of acceptable quality with respect to dust, chemicals and smells.
All horses must be observed standing and moving during daily inspections.
Horses are grazing animals and require a large area in which they can move around and graze constantly if they are to reach optimum health. In the wild, a horse with undefined boundaries will graze for 16 hours and walk up to 20 kilometres per day. A domesticated horse kept at pasture will require at least one hectare of pasture. Feed supplementation may still be required in summer and winter when pasture quality and quantity is reduced. Feed supplementation should always be provided in feed bins placed on the ground to mimic a natural grazing posture.
Horses stabled, or kept in space restricted yards for long periods, will require regular daily exercise or access to a grazing area for a period of time each day. Stabled horses will also require very regular feeding in order to maintain optimum digestive health. Because of their small stomach size and natural tendency to graze for long periods, horses can develop serious gastrointestinal problems, such as gastric ulcers (EGUS), laminitis or insulin resistance without constant or very regular access to food. Stereotypic behaviours related to boredom, lack of constant feed and restricted movement are also common in stabled horses. These include weaving, windsucking, crib-biting, box walking and aggression.
Due to a horse’s strong herd instinct, they should never be kept in isolation and should always be able to see another horse where they are paddocked. If a horse is yarded or tied up for a long period of time it is recommended to keep another horse in sight to reduce stress levels and risk of injury to both horse and handler.
Post and rail fencing constructed of timber, steel piping or steel posts is preferred at least 1.45m high. Fencing must be very visible to horses. White caps or white sight wires are recommended. Barbed wire, prefabricated fencing and high tensile wire should not be used as this can cause severe injury to horses. Where steel posts and star pickets are used, plastic protective caps should always be used to prevent horses cutting or impaling themselves. Electric fence standoffs on fences are recommended as a way of teaching horses to respect fences, minimising damage to fences and preventing horses from playing or fighting over fences. Any fence that is electrified must be clearly sign-posted to warn of electricity.
Horses can cope with temperature extremes provided they have adequate access to water supply and shelter. All horses require access to shade and shelter. Older horses, young horses, horses previously stabled or recently clipped and horses in poor body condition may require rugging in wet and cold conditions. During winter months and wet periods it is normal practice to rug horses however unless conditions are extreme this is not completely necessary if horses have been exposed to this weather before. Shelter can be provided in the form of a tree line, large trees or a purpose built shelter or stable.
Natural light is recommended however some trainers/breeders will use artificial light for regulation of the oestrus cycle and hair growth in show horses. This is rarely necessary in a school situation.
Bedding soiled by urine and manure should be removed from stables and shelters at least once a day. In small paddocks or yards manure should be removed regularly. Removal of manure is also recommended to reduce the risk of intestinal worms.
Stable bedding should be deep enough to prevent injuries. It is recommended to bank bedding against stable walls to reduce the risk of casting. Any suitable absorbent material such as rice hulls, straw or wood shavings is suitable provided the horse does not eat it.