Last Updated on February 25, 2022 by Allison Price
If you are like me, your holiday wish list for horses includes a new pair boots (Petries please! You might also want to get some new boots with super sticky silicone seats, or a new pickup or tractor (Santa! ).
Although I might argue my gelding is mortified by my scuffed-beyond-repair tall boots, I must admit those sorts things really aren’t for our horses, are they?
The Horse interviewed a few of our most trusted sources and regular contributors to find out what horses want from Saint Nick. Here are their suggestions for holiday lists for horses:
1. High Quality Forage
Clair Thunes PhD, Summit Equine Nutrition, Sacramento, California offers a simple gift that horses will appreciate in cold climates: Quality Forage.
She says that approximately 60% of the digestive tract volume is dedicated for the digestion and fermentation. You can make your horse happy by keeping the hindgut bacteria happy.
2. Take a Break
You don’t have to feel guilty about your riding schedule being disrupted by the holiday season. Carey Williams, PhD is an equine extension specialist at Rutgers University in New Brunswick. She says that a vacation might be the best gift you could give your horse. She says, “Your horse deserves a little bit more downtime and some vacation too!” “Many people don’t give their horses any time off.”
Vacations can be taken from riding entirely or from the normal training program. Williams states that horses need a break from riding, but also a mental one. For example, if your goal is to be a dressage rider take a week off and ride only three days per week, instead of six. Or take your horse on a few trails.
3. They need a human to care for them forever
Nettie Liburt MS, PhD PAS of Liburt Equine Nutritional Consulting in Smithtown, New York, says, “A human to take care of them forever!” She says that not all horses are so lucky, but it is the best gift anyone can give horses, especially seniors who are no longer able to ride but are still able to decorate our pastures with ornaments.
4. To learn a new trick
Sue McDonnell, PhD is an expert in equine behavior at the University of Pennsylvania’s New Bolton Center in Kennett Square. “Horses seem to really enjoy being taught a trick with all positive reinforcement,” she says. You will be surprised at how fast and easy it is to train your horse to perform a trick if you follow the prompts. Each increment of progress can be achieved by either brisk scratching the withers or small treats paired with a verbal cue. These techniques can be used to train horses for any task. Simple target training is a great example of a practical and enjoyable method. This approach to horse handling is not new. However, it has become more popular in many places around the world and is the future of animal training and care.
McDonnell suggests learning more about positive training at On-target-training.com or the International Society of Equitation Science website. She says that positive training skills will be beneficial to your horse because they create a positive attitude for work and handling.
5. Safe Feed Storage
Florida Equine Veterinary Services in Clermont offers Erin Denney Jones, DVM, a simple gift to help protect your horse from any kind of binging or other animal-spread diseases like equine prozoal myeloencephalitis or leptospirosis which can contaminate your feed.
She says, “Buy a container or build a box to keep your horse’s feed safe so that critters can’t get in it, and especially so your horse doesn’t get into the feed if ever he gets loose and enters the feed room.”
Secure lids on trash cans and heavy-duty rubber totes work well. Consider purchasing feed bins with locking lids, or putting a lock on the door to your feed room.
6. A Paddock that is Mud-Free
Alayne Blickle, of Horses for Clean Water in Nampa (Idaho), was able to answer the question “What do horses really want for Christmas?” Her suggested gift may require some additional work, at least for the first time. She recommends a mud-free paddock.
Although images of horses galloping through snowy fields are common on Christmas cards, mud and water can be more common when horses are exposed to cold and precipitation. Both mud and snow pose safety and health risks to horses, including thrush, scratches and slip and fall.
Blickle states that “no horse likes to spend time in the mud.” Blickle says that horses try to avoid it. By diverting rainwater away from high-traffic areas, gutters and downspouts can reduce mud. A footing system of some kind (usually a type of crushed rock, coarse washed sandy) will keep horses up and off the soil. It will also prevent erosion. Implementing a daily manure management program that removes manure every day. 50 pounds of manure daily is 50 pounds of fine organic matter, which absorbs moisture and makes more mud every day.
A tractor is a great tool for moving sand and dirt, and makes it much easier to remove mud. In the spirit of giving your horse what it really wants,