Horses are big animals that come with big responsibility. You need a wide range of products to care for your horse properly, even if you board it out. Here is a list of the essentials for everyone who owns an equine, regardless of whether you keep it on your own property or at a boarding barn.
A horse needs regular grooming, both to keep its coat and hooves healthy and to help you increase your bond with the animal.
Most horses enjoy being brushed, and picking their hooves reinforces the good behavior of letting you pick up and hold their feet. At a minimum, you need the following for grooming:
- A hoof pick to clean debris out of the frogs of your horse's hooves.
- A curry comb or hard plastic brush to get debris off the horse's coat.
- A soft brush, which feels good to your horse and brings out the shine in its coat.
- A shedding blade to help your horse get rid of its thick winter coat in the spring time.
The tack you need for riding depends somewhat on the style you choose. When I was young and carefree, I rode my first horse with a bareback pad and only used a saddle for shows, but most riders do prefer a saddle (including me, now that I'm much older and wiser). Here are the tack essentials:
- A halter. This is the most basic, essential piece of tack because it allows you to handle and restrain your horse before you put on the bridle and after you take it off.
- A saddle in the style you prefer, whether it be English, Western, or Saddleseat. There are some variations within the major saddle types, like jumping or dressage saddles for English riders or roping saddles for Western enthusiasts who also like that sport, but most riders can get by with a good, all-purpose type.
- An appropriate saddle pad for your saddle type. You can get everything from a very plain standard pad to pricey orthopedic varieties. Myself, I like a pad with pockets in which to stow small items like a little bottle of fly repellent, a spare hoof pick, and a water bottle.
- A bridle and bit. The exact type of bit (or bosal or hackmore if you ride bitless) depends on what works best for your horse.
If you keep your horse at home, you must add grain or pelleted feed and good quality hay to the list of essentials, and the animal needs access to a clean water supply. You can adjust your equine's food intake accordingly if you have a good pasture where you can allow it to graze.
Here are some items that are technically optional, but as a horse owner, I consider them necessities in my tack trunk:
Fly Control Products
Flies are a problem in virtually every part of the country. Some locations only have problems at certain times of the year, but I live in an area where warm year-'round temperatures mean they torment my horse for all 12 months. I always have a couple of bottles of a good fly spray on hand, as well as Swat brand fly repellant ointment since my horse is prone to cuts and bug bites.
I always brandish a fly whisk when I'm out on the trails.
My area goes through rainy seasons that make the horses prone to thrush and dry spells where a hoof moisturizer is a necessity. I keep remedies for both dry and thrushy feet on hand at all times.
Horses are prone to cuts, scrapes, and other minor injuries that don't need veterinary attention but that do need some help. I find that first aid preparations in powder form work best because they dry up any blood. If you want to be completely prepared for emergencies, keep an animal first aid kit around the barn.
Horse treats can be as simple as carrots or as elaborate as purchased goodies. I vary between the two for my horse, and I always give him ample rewards when I catch him out in the pasture. I don't want to have to struggle to catch him before a ride.
By giving him goodies every time I go out to get him, I've built up a positive association with getting caught.
If your horse gets bored in its stall, you can get a combination toy and treat dispenser like the Jolly Ball treat combo.
There are plenty of other products that make horse ownership easy, but these are the bare bones basics needed by everyone who owns an equine.