horses in a field

Basic Horse Care And Equipment

Owning or looking after a horse is a huge responsibility, but it needn’t be completely daunting once you have ensured all the basic requirements are in place.

Here I have divided the care into 7 main areas, that cover all the basics points to consider when setting up your horse’s environment;

  1. Forage & Nutrition
  2. Water
  3. Shelter
  4. Turnout
  5. Companionship
  6. Routine horse care
  7. Horse care equipment

The rest of this article will look at each one of the areas in turn and offer some tips and pointers to hopefully get you started and on the right track.

1. Forage & Nutrition

Horses naturally forage for food and most of their nutritional intake comes from grass, haylage or hay. These are all slightly different products and which one works best will depend upon your own horse’s needs. The main things to consider are,

image haybales
“Field With Bales Of Hay” by Stoonn (
  • hay – can be very dry and dusty for horses, especially those that are kept in a stable with poorer ventilation. Some horses need the hay soaked to remove the dust (some horses do it themselves). Nutrition levels are quite low and horses need to eat more of it than of the haylage or grass.
  • haylage – this is grass that has been cut and had molasses added to it, it makes it sweeter and higher in calories therefore the horse needs less of it than hay. Some horses find it too rich and it can cause their stool to become loose as the haylage can scarify their stomachs. Haylage and hay combined can overcome this problem. Most horses find silage (fed to cattle) too rich to eat and shouldn’t really be given this.
  • grass – this can be very rich in sugars especially after a frost or during the fresh growth seasons. Horses often need to be restricted in their access especially if they are good eaters (won’t stop). By using electric tape to mark out grazing strips this can prove an effective way to limit grazing and reduce the risk of lamenitis or colic.


image slow feeding hay net
Slow feeding haynet

One of the problems can be that horses eat their forage too quickly. In order to rectify this a slow feeding hay net such as the one shown can be used.

This has smaller holes and slows the horse’s speed of feeding down.

Tough-1 Slow Feed Hay Bag Black (Amazon link)

Other substances that the horse needs may include some hard feed, this should be balanced against the level of exercise the horse is getting. As a general rule a cool mix with no oats is often best, so that energy is released slowly. I tend to use red mills products and you can read more about their feeds in their blog.


2. Water

It s surprising how much water a horse can actually drink, between 5-10 gallons a day (1-2 buckets). So they should always have access to a fresh clean supply.

The simplest way to monitor how much water the horse is actually drinking is to supply the water in buckets, rather than automatic feeders.

Horses can be quite particular about changes in their water so try and be consistent with the supply, using the same source from either  a tap or harvested rainwater.


3. Access to Shelter

Something that I have learnt over the years is that the shelter needs of horses vary according to their nature and personality. Whilst all horses need some protection from the wind and the rain, there are a range of options that you could use depending on your own individual horse’s needs.

The three most common types of sheltering are;

  • Stable
  • Open Shelter with Turnout
  • Field & Hedges
image stable
Stables can be built of concrete or timber, but horses need plenty of ventilation and protection from strong winds.

The average horse needs a stable that is at least 12 foot by 12 foot, this gives him plenty of movement and provides enough space for food and water to be kept away from toilet areas (although depending on your horse this is not a guarantee).

Field shelters usually have an open side rather than a stable door and can be used for more than one horse, although it is important that horses cannot be trapped inside by a dominating horse.

Many horses can be adequately sheltered by hedges and trees in the field, the field does need to be inspected and cleaned of horse manure regularly.

Fencing should be secure and horses should never be exposed to barbed wire which can cause cuts and damage if they get caught in it.





4. Turnout Areas


2016-02-08 13.46.28
A nice muddy puddle for my mare

Unless a horse needs to be stabled or restricted in its movement for health reasons, most horses need to be turned out and/or exercised every day.

Research has shown that even a hour of turnout improves the horse’s well being and helps to reduce the anxiety of being confined in a stable. In winter it is also an opportunity to remove rugs and allow the horse to roll and stretch itself.

Some horses also like a muddy corner to roll in, or in the case of my older mare a nice muddy pond or very large puddle (It keeps her happy).

Some horses such as my cob don’t like to be stabled at all and have 24 hr turnout which can be harder to manage especially in the wet winters we have here in Ireland. So more creative solutions need to be thought of.


5. Companionship

Horses are herd animals and like companionship and interaction with others. As with most pets the more domesticated they become the wider the variety of their herd – so dogs, humans and other pets can become part of their group.

horses in a field
“Horse In Field” by Stoonn (

This is important because keeping more than one horse might not be an option (or having horses that don’t really like each other!).

If your horse is on its own it is important that it receives attention from you at least a couple of times a day.

Even to see other horses or animals in other fields can improve their well being and reduce a sense of isolation, which in some horses can be seen as negative behaviour.

Examples of stress in horses can include fence walking and pacing, windsucking on fence posts or head swaying in stables.


6. Routine Horse Care

In addition to water, food and shelter there are  number of specialists that need to be involved in looking after your horses (s). These are

  • worming / injections – veterinary clinic
  • dentistry – once or twice a year either a vet or an equine dentist
  • feet – a farrier

Worming needs to be done twice to three times a year depending on your horse. Most vets will examine and test stool samples to determine what the worm count is and whether worming is needed.

Horses feet need to be kept trimmed and are usually shod to protect them, this needs to be done by a farrier usually every 5-8 weeks depending on the speed at which the hoof grows.


7. Horse Care Equipment

Looking after your horse, especially if it is stabled and can’t manage it’s own self care as easily, is a daily routine. In particular grooming your horse needs to be done regularly.

In the winter the horse may need some additional items of equipment that you need such as a waterproof rug for outside and an indoor stable rug (see this article Rugging Up Your Horse For Winter for more information).

In addition to the horse there are certain items that you need in order to be able to manage the stable and cleaning/ feeding routines.

image mucking out fork
Manure Fork Available on Amazon for $30 / €20

These items include;

  • Yard brush
  • Mucking out fork
  • Buckets / trugs
  • Feeding scoop
  • Wheelbarrow
  • Hayrack / container or haynet

A storage facility such as a shed or covered area for storing the hay / haylage and any hard feed, as well as storing your cleaning equipment will make everything easier and keep things from being damaged.

MINTCRAFT 33386 10-Tine Ash Handle Manure/Bed Fork (Amazon link)


This covers all the basic areas for starting to care for your horse, however there are some other articles on this site that provide more information on some of the topics mentioned here.

Further Reading

There are a few other articles for specific types of care for your horse. The first is winter care and the second is if you have recently acquired a neglected or rescue horse, there are some additional things to consider with their routine care. The last article looks specifically at managing pasture and turnout areas during the winter months.

I hope you enjoyed this article and if so please feel free to share it on your social media networks.


Everything You Need to Know About Grooming Your Horse

Grooming is an important part of caring for your horse and so it is worth investing in the time and equipment to make sure that this is done properly.

In this article I have a video which shows the grooming process and at the end of the post I have information on specific grooming tools and their purpose.

Why DO You Groom a Horse?

One of the main reasons why we need to groom a horse is because we want to ride them. This means that they will be wearing tack such as a saddle and bridle which can rub against dirt or loose hair on the body. So even though horses in the wild are never groomed it is the way that we have used them in domestic settings that means this is now important.

Screen Shot 2016-03-20 at 17.20.32

In the wild, horses will rub against trees and roll in order to get rid of loose hair. The mud acts as a natural cleaner.

Domestic grooming is also a beneficial way to bond with your horse and check over your horse’s body for cuts or injuries.

If mud is not removed then saddle sores or girth galls can begin to form, in places where the tack runs against bits of mud or dirt on the body.

The following image taken from illustrates how the skin can be rubbed raw if this is left untreated or not spotted early enough.

horse saddle sores
Saddle sore and scars on a horse’s back. Image Credit::Bob Langrish /Dorling Kindersley /Getty Images


How to Groom a Horse (video)

In the following short video Janice Plourd, courtesy of the How to Horse channel, provides a very useful and educational video on how to groom a horse at her own farm. She takes you through the tools and provides a systematic grooming regime that is easy to watch. This shows how to groom, pick out a hoof and groom delicate parts of the horse.

What The Horse Grooming Tools Actually Do

In grooming there are a number of basic tools that are required, which are described below.

  • Hoof pick – to clean the horse’s hoof and pick out any dirt or stones that may have got trapped in the foot of the horse.
  • Curry comb – to clean dirt out of the horse’s coat. Some horses are more sensitive than others and rather than using a metal or hard curry comb you might need a softer one (or a kit as shown below)
  • Body brush – this is a stiffer brush used over the horse’s body, again some animals can be more sensitive than others and may not like even this brush.
  • Soft brush – used to finish off grooming and sometimes preferred by more sensitive horses as a general grooming brush
  • Mane and Tail Brush – is useful for horses that have thick manes and tails, but thinner ones might need more gentle handling

If a horse is groomed regularly then less effort is obviously required per session. This is important especially for grooming the tail, where there is the risk of pulling out hairs each time it is groomed.


Buying Grooming Equipment

There are lots of options when it comes to purchasing grooming kits and most equine suppliers will have offers on cheap sets. If you are are new to grooming (or your old kit has just seen the end of its days) then buying a matching set of good quality equipment is the best place to start.

Apart from the saddle and bridle a horse doesn’t need that much expensive equipment and so an investment in a decent grooming kit will save money and time in the end. Like any craft tool the better quality it is the easier it is to work with, and with grooming tools you will be using them nearly everyday.

image horse grooming kit
A good quality kit is nicer to work with and will last longer. It is also more durable and can cope better with tough tangles.


Oster Equine Care Series 7-Piece Grooming Kit, Blue

In the Oster kit shown here are the following items;

  • Hoof pick
  • Course curry comb
  • Stiff grooming brush
  • Softer finishing brush
  • Mane and Tail brush
  • Mane and Tail comb

All of these items are also available individually if you just want to add to an existing kit.



Once you have a basic grooming kit you can add anything that you want to support your own style of grooming, for example in the video a grooming mit was used, which was an alternative to using a soft curry comb.

image equine curry mits for grooming Equi Star Rubber Grooming Mitt

In addition to the grooming tools there are plenty of options for shampooing and cleaning products to use on your horse. You only really need a general purpose shampoo (for horses) which is preferable to using ordinary domestic washing up liquid. Another article on this site looks at preparing your horse for a show and explains more about washing and shampooing your horse.

For further information on horse grooming equipment you might be interested in this article.


image horse throw

What Do You Buy The Mother Who Loves Horses?

Although as I write this Mother’s Day is fast approaching here in Europe, this post could also apply for birthdays, christmas and any other occasion that involves thinking of a present.

However it can be a difficult process trying to choose a present for someone, especially when it doesn’t involve an actual horse.

So I have put together a collection of ideas of horsey products that are also nice presents (i.e. not very practical but look good). After all with all the rain and terrible weather we are having it’s nice to have something to look at without getting cold and wet. Another bonus is they don’t cost anything more once bought.

As well as the art shown there are also plenty of other ideas for gifts if you follow the links, these just represent a sample.

Art Work

The first place I was looking was on Amazon, amongst the art work and I came across a few items that could definitely be of interest, such as this horse print on canvas by Home Decor Market. There were also a selection of other prints available all of which were equally stunning but very different in design.

Horse print Home Decor Market

Horse Art Prints On Canvas Animal Painting For Home Decoration,Horse Pattern,19 x 25 inch canvas

Or this magnificent picture which I have to admit I really have taken to. This would look great on any living or bedroom wall (especially mine) but anyone else’s as well.

image by Youkuart


New Year Gift New Year Decorations Canvas Prints ,Sk002 Modern Canvas Wall Art White Horse, Stretched and Framed Ready to Hang, 5 Panels White Horse Canvas Print Photo Canvas Art for Home Decoration



Of course the danger is if you also have daughters who are interested in horses, then there could well be a few in family fights but that’s all part of the fun!

If you are interested in looking at more art samples there are a number of other pages on my website (equineblogireland)  that offer more links to equine art pages, such as the Equine Market Stall and the not quite out of season post Horsey Gift Ideas for Christmas.

Fleeces & Throws

If standard art is not your thing how about a sem-practical piece of art in the form of a horsey throw or rug. These gift ideas are obviously a little more expensive but well worth the money.

image horse throw Elegant Western Gallopping Horse Soft Fleece Throw Blanket – Polyester 63″x73″

Or how about the ultimate in luxury a king size fleece set, this would certainly keep any horse lover warm right through the coldest of winters. And if the cost is a little off-putting at $120 perhaps it could be a combined family present.

image horse fleece blanket




Horse Fever Fleece Blanket – King





These products are all available on Amazon and there are plenty of other ideas if you want to click the links or search for horse art.

The next site only sells art products but it is well worth a visit.

Society 6 Products

The main equine art site that I often mention on this blog site is society 6, a curator site that allows local artists to sell their products in a variety of forms.

As well as promoting local artists society 6 provides the art in a variety of ways including some of the products shown below.

image society 6 horses

Most designs can be bought across a range of products from iPhone covers to cushions.

image society 6 horse art

These designs are all produced by the artist Tanja Reidel and there are also other options such as T-shirts and hoodies as well as computer cases and some rugs and throws.

Other Ideas

If horse art is really not an option and the present has to be more horsey, then here are some more ideas.

  • Riding lessons – yes even the experts need more lessons (especially when it’s raining and the lessons are indoors)
  • Gift vouchers (tack room) – so that the present can be guaranteed to be the right one
  • Gift vouchers for clothing

If possible I would avoid giving money unless you are happy that your special Mother’s Day gift ends up being a few bales of haylage, to cover the last stretch of winter.

Even though it’s getting close to the actual Mother’s Day there are always lots of opportunities to treat your mother. So go ahead and buy something even if it arrives late it will definitely be worth the wait.

A Video Guide to Painting Horses Using Watercolour

Drawing and painting horses is something that may horse lovers enjoy, including myself.

In this article I have explored some of the effects that can be created by using watercolour to paint horses. The video I have included by Selah Works provides an easy to follow step by step painting guide, that breaks down the process so that you can create the following picture.

watercolour picture of a horse
Watch the video below by Selah Works to create this work of art

Watercolour Materials

Before showing you the video I wanted to explain a little bit about the tools you need to work with watercolours, in particular paintbrushes, paints and paper.

A previous article has outlined some of the tools for sketching, which you can read about in How to Draw Horses|Materials. The other materials I will explain a bit more about in the section below.

Watercolour Brushes

A good artist needs good tools (and an amateur artist probably needs better ones). Looking for good quality is not that easy without some guidance. The products I have selected below I chose because they are by well known art brands, were recommended by other artists and are all available on Amazon where you can read additional reviews, or see similar products if these don’t match your own needs.

The first thing to consider is a good brush. For watercolour painting most artists recommend a size 3 or 4 round and a larger flat brush. Anything else is an addition although I also like to have a very fine brush for adding details if doing a pen and watercolour painting.

screenshot artists brushesThese brushes by the Art Supply contain a selection of good quality brushes that can be used with a number of different painting materials, including watercolours. They contain the following;

Superior Quality 14 Piece Artist Brush Set *HandMade *7 Natural Bristle & 6 Synthetic Paint Brushes * Free Pouch *No Shedding *For Oil, Acrylic & Watercolor *One Year Guarantee

They can be purchased directly from Amazon at the link above, and at the time of writing they were reduced from $69 down to $24.99.

Several reviews of the product emphasise the quality of these brushes and a number of the comments are worth reading.

"I highly recommend this great set of high quality brushes for the artist in yourself, for a student, or as a gift." 
(Amazon Fine Art Student)
Watercolour PAINTS & PAPER

In addition to having a good quality set of brushes, watercolour artists need thicker paper and good quality paints as well.

It is always a balance between finding good quality and not paying too much,one of the following notepads received good reviews for water colour work, except for two artists who were used to working with very expensive products. So I have displayed both and can let you choose your own.

The weight for watercolour use should be 300gsm (140 pounds), both of these products are that weight but I think the Arches paper might feel heavier and is slightly better quality. However it depends on your own needs and as most reviewers noted it was still a lovely paper to work with.

The final product to consider is the watercolour paints themselves. There are many standard art sets that provide watercolours, but like everything else going to a site or a store that has a wide choice of materials and taking your time to look for the best quality product within a price you are happy to pay, is really the best option.

Here is one set that I sourced from Winsor and Newton, normally priced at $50 they are on offer (I do love a bargain) at $28. These are a top professional brand and all the reviews were very positive about them, with opinions ranging from art students through to amateur artists

image watercolour paint set

Winsor & Newton Cotman Water Color 12-Tube Set

Click on the link to look at these and other watercolour options available on Amazon (do keep an eye out for bargains and discount prices because the expensive brands on offer can sometimes work out cheaper and certainly better value for your money).

So now you have your materials along with your pencils and a jar of clean water.

Video – Step by Step Guide to Painting a Watercolour Horse

The following video by Selah Works produces the finished picture that I showed you at the beginning. It is speeded up slightly, which makes for an easy to follow guide. I hope you enjoy it as much as I did and get some more ideas for your own original pictures.

Watercolour has its own distinct style and some people find it to be quite a difficult medium to work with. But it is also very flexible and forgiving at the same time and with practice and confidence it can produce some really special paintings.

If you have already produced your own paintings perhaps you might be interested in selling them?

Society 6

One of the sites that I promote on Equine Blog Ireland is an artist / curator site called Society 6.

image Christi Sari horse on iPhone cover
iPhone case by Christi Sari on Society 6

Anyone can register and upload art for sale and each piece of art has a special curator link that can be used on websites or social media, to take people directly to your work.

As well as paintings the site will provide a number of options for using your images such as on mugs, rugs, cushions and many more. You can see some samples of their equine related art in this article on the site Society 6 Art Equine market

If you are interested in either buying or selling original and genuine art work then be sure to check out this site, it has some very interesting pieces and it’s aim is to support real artists. And the art is not restricted to horses there are plenty of other themes to choose from.


Conclusion – Painting Watercolour Horses

Watercolour is not a medium that every artist enjoys using, but that could be said for all types of art. I really enjoy the effects that can be achieved and I like brush work and sketching, so the two go together quite well.

I would love to hear about your own experiences either of using various art and watercolour materials, or of your general experiences of painting horses, so please leave a comment below.

Don’t forget to share this article on social media so that other interested authors can add their voice to the conversation.

Thanks, Marie

How to Draw Horses|Materials

In a previous article I gave a sample of resources and materials such as books and videos that could be used to assist in drawing horses. In this article I have moved onto looking at the actual drawing materials that you need.


How To Draw A Horse Simply

A question that is asked a lot is how do I draw a horse simply and easily. In this video Paul Priestly provides an easy to follow guide to show how to draw a full horse (there is another detailed video on How to Draw Horses by Mark Crilley that shows how to draw a horse’s head)


Starting to Draw Basic Materials

There are numerous materials that you could buy and spend a fortune on, just to get up and going, but int reality the tools you need are simple enough.

  • Pencils
  • Drawing or Sketch Pad
  • Eraser
  • Pencil Sharpener
  • Ruler (some of the drawing videos make use of grids)

After that it really depends on the medium of art that you want to use, is it just sketching or do you want to use watercolours or oils to paint with. Alternatively there are plenty of charcoal and pastel options.


Pencils come in a  variety of types ranging from very soft (B range) through to the very hard (H range). The chart below illustrates what the various pencils look like and show the differences in blackness you can expect to get with each type of pencil.

graphite grading scale
image sourced from

Most of us are familiar with the HB pencil which lies in the middle of this spectrum, however individual pencil companies tend to set their own internal standards for hardness and blackness. So a 2B pencil form one brand may draw slightly darker or lighter than one from another brand. It is one reason to choose a good quality brand and then stay with them as there is a level of consistency in their materials.

 The relative differences between pencils will always be similar so a 3H pencil will be harder than a H pencil, or a 6B will be blacker than a 2B.

Choosing a good quality pencil is important though, since common faults with cheaper pencils are that they don’t sharpen well, and you can end up with difficult to use pencils that are constantly breaking.

The grip of a better quality pencil is often nicer to hold, a bit like writing with a good quality pen over a cheap biro. The better pen provides a more enjoyable experience, and in art the pencil is a tool of the trade not just a writing implement.

Sketch Paper

Once you have your pencils sorted the next stage is a sketch pad. A pad has the advantage of keeping all your material together and can be taken with you on the move. It does depend though how you are going to finish your drawing.

Paper is often described according to weight, using a system of GSM or grammes per square metre, with the lightest 40 gsm for tracing paper and the heavier papers at around 300gsm, which are usually used for painting rather than sketching.

If you are going to use watercolours you need the thicker paper (usually 140 – 300gsm) to prevent the water draining through. If you are planning on using oils these need to be done on their own special canvas.

Other Art Materials

Along with pencils and paper there are some obvious other materials that will be needed, such as erasers and pencil sharpeners. Again look for quality since cheap erasers can leave unsightly marks on paper and poor sharpeners can damage pencils.

The other materials you might need will depend upon which type of finish you want for your drawings.

Watercolour Paints

One of my favourite mediums to use is watercolour which I think is a lovely way to add colour to any topic as this picture by Vineta Sayer from the Society6 curator site shows.

Vineta Sayer MA - Wise Eyes
Vineta Sayer MA – Wise Eyes available to purchase through Society 6

As with all art materials it is worth reading around for the best best brands and paying that little bit ore for decent tools to work with. Cheap watercolours and paper will not produce great results no matter how talented an artist you are. These paints from Amazon did receive a good review from an art teacher who wrote a lengthy review criticising many other brands (so these must be OK).

Along with paints you need brushes. Although top brushes can cost thousands (literally) what you are really looking for are good quality brushes in a mixture of sizes and types. This set shown here provides a good mix of good quality brushes that are also reasonably priced.

As with all purchases I would strongly recommend reading the product reviews from people who have actually purchased and used the goods and have some experience in what works best for what you need. The products listed here provide a guide but you may require something more specific.


Charcoal is another way of finishing off a sketch and adding more texture. This picture from Stephanie Stonato illustrates how effective charcoal can be as a art medium.

Charcoal Horse picture
Stephanie Stonato on Society 6

Charcoal can be purchased in a number of different formats, charcoal pencils are ideal for doing most of the work, however the sketch outline will need to be done with ordinary sketching pencils.

Charcoal pencils are not very effective for shading in large areas, and for this task charcoal sticks work better.



Next Steps

So these are the basic materials that you need to get started, the next step is to decide what you want to draw and what type of drawing you want to make. It can be a good idea to look at other artists work to see what really appeals to you, and which materials you would feel most comfortable using.


Further Reading

There are new materials being added all the time to the site, for the moment the following articles may help to give you ideas for drawing horses.

If you have any questions or wish to share your preferences for artwork materials please feel free to leave them in the comments section below and good luck with your own drawings.

How to Manage Your Horse Pasture in Bad Weather

Managing horse pasture at any time is a tough full time job, but this has been one of the wettest winters on record in Ireland. For horse owners across the country and in neighbouring areas of the UK it can be almost despairing.

Irish Weather – Rain and More Rain

I live in the West of Ireland and according to the Irish meteorological reports we receive 225 wet days a year – although I have to admit there are times when it feel like a lot more!

The met office do go on to say that even on a wet day it can be dry for periods, although not often at the times when it would be most helpful. The question is how can land sustain this level of continual wetness and what effect does it have on the ground when heavy animals are walking and running about on top of it?

Dealing with Flooded Horse Pasture


2016-02-08 13.46.28

Even the best drained land seems to be experiencing flooding this year, and the water is collecting in small ponds wherever land slopes, rather than draining away. This poses three main challenges for horse owners;

  • limited grazing and poor quality grass
  • constant wetness of the horse and its hooves
  • land susceptible to be churned or poached and no chance of recovery

Larger fields can cope better with horses and wet because there is more area for them to use, however smaller paddocks will become poached in wet weather.



Drainage can work well if rainfall is not consistent and the land has the chance to dry out. But most agriculture type drains only move the water from one end of the field to another, they are not drained into proper run offs. This means that they can only cope with smaller amounts of wetness and are there to help the natural process of seepage drainage.


Tress can absorb gallons of water from the ground, as well as providing shelter to horses and preventing rain falling beneath them.

Once heavy and continuous rainfalls starts or the land is exposed to rivers flooding, then small drains like these are not designed to cope with this.

One advantage of a field shelter is that is prevents rain falling directly onto the ground beneath it. If the shelter is positioned correctly i.e. on the top or middle of a slope rather than the bottom, and sheltered from potential damage caused by high winds, then horses have an area to escape from the continuous wetness.

Mature trees also provide shelter and will absorb large amounts of water from the ground. A mature tree can absorb approximately 50 gallons of water a day from the ground.

Protecting Field Entrances

The worst area of a field will naturally be the entrance way as this is in frequent use. It can become worse in winter as horses are often more willing (!) to come in and can start pacing near the entrance way.

I have read a suggestion of using grass mats at the entrance of a field to protect the ground, but these need to be laid when the ground is dry and good. A stronger option is to use some form of hardcore that won’t be slippy for the horses (which concrete sometimes can be), and which will be durable and has good drainage.


Rescuing Horses in the Floods

Ireland has seen some incredible flood scenes this year and stories that would wrench your heart as people have battled to save homes and land from the torrential water.

As well as humans animals have also seen their homeland ares washed away, as this amazing horse rescue video shows. These horses were rescued from the river Shannon area where they had brome stranded on an island. The water was already three feet high above the land and local vets said they wouldn’t have survived another night with all the cold and wet. Thankfully they were all rescued as can be seen in this video by the local sub aqua club who were called in by the owner of the horses.

Keeping Horses Dry

There are often plenty of discussions about whether horses need to be rugged up over the winter, or whether they wouldn’t be better running free as they do in the wild. In Ireland, where the climate is generally milder using rugs to keep out the cold is not such as necessity unless your horse is clipped or is originally designed for a warmer and drier climate.

However using rugs to keep horses dry is a way in which they can continue to live outdoors without succumbing to ailments and illnesses associated with the wet rather than the cold in winter.

Mud Fever

Perhaps the biggest challenge is preventing Mud Fever, which is a bacterial infection which thrives on the moisture. Cuts and abrasions can become infected and are then very hard to keep clean without confining the horse to a stable.

The constant wet is especially a problem for Horse hooves, which can become susceptible to rotting. It is one of the reasons why even field kept horses should have some time in a shelter or stand on dry ground. For horses that really don’t like coming into a stable (l have one of those) I find the only way to get him in and dry for a while is to feed him in a field shelter and tie up a hay net.

Winter Access To Turnout Areas

For all horses whether living inside or out there needs to be access to areas that they can run around and blow off steam. This can be an arena, sanded turnout area or a section of a field that you just sacrifice for winter use.

Although riding in an arena is one form of turnout, horses also need a bit of free time where they can roll and brush out their winter coat, as well as kick and stretch out leg muscles that may have become cramped and stiff with long periods of standing around.

This can be difficult to arrange in the depths of a very wet winter but it will pay dividends as they horse will be fitter and mentally in better form (saving vets bills in the future).

Finally in Winter Horse Care

Wet winters along with dark mornings and early nights make equine care a tricky business. But by closely monitoring both the land condition and your horse’s health the winter will pass uneventfully. Hopefully, Spring will soon be in sight and according to the Irish Met, April is often our driest month of the year, I certainly hope so.

Horse Sport Ireland

Can Ireland Sort Out Its Horse Doping Problem?

It is probably a strong indication that a country really has a horse doping problem when they start setting up Task Forces to address the issue (well produce a report). The recent announcement from the Anti-Doping Task Force in January 2016, that they have (surprise surprise) produced a report, will no doubt cause further discussion on the topic, but will this fix the problem once and for all?

image horse racing

Anti-Doping Task Force

The Task force which was set up by Horse Racing Ireland and the Turf Club in December 2014, is made up of 16 members and has representatives from all aspects of the horse racing and thoroughbred industries including owners, trainers, sales companies and breeders. It is chaired by the Turf Club which is the national regulatory body for horse riding in Ireland.


Why Set Up an Anti-Doping TF?

The task force was supposedly set up following the disqualification of Philip Fenton  a race horse trainer in November 2014 for possessing banned animal medicines at his stables in Tipperary. Originally they had been discovered during a Department of Agriculture inspection in 2012, which was then followed by an inspection by the Turf Club.

But the scandals go back much further, including the Department of Agriculture veterinary inspector John Hughes who was found guilty of illegally importing steroids, enough in fact for 62,000 doses which led to suspicions that steroids were being used illegally on an industrial level. As Ireland exports around 5,000 racing horses this has severe implications for the whole industry and the reputation of Irish horse racing.

The Value of Horse Racing to the Irish Economy

The horse racing industry is estimated to be worth over €700m to the Irish economy per year according to Teagasc and employs over 12,000 people, which is a strong motivating factor to make sure that the sport stays clean.

These figures can be broken down into approximately 10,000 sport horses which contribute an estimated €135m to the economy, with an additional 73,000 equines in the breeding sector worth approximately €225m, these figures are all according to a 2012 research  study by University College Dublin, and used by Teagasc in their report.

Horse Sport Ireland

However it is interesting to note that in the Teagasc report from the Irish Horse Sport Industry strategic committee, there is no mention in any of the recommendations of anti-doping regimes, or priorities for funding in this area for 2015 onwards.



Doping in the Media

Many of the doping cases that have been discovered usually end up covered by newspapers and online news and media outlets. Which means we can also find some of the more bizarre explanations for why a horse might have failed a drug test.

For example according to a report in 2015 from the British Horse Racing disciplinary panel report an Irish trainer by the name of William Treacy, was fined £1,000 because the drug Tramadol was discovered in his horse’s sample. The trainer suggested that his own medication for arthritis, which contains tramadol must have contaminated the horse since he often peed in the stable in the morning when giving his horse his morning apple.

Despite the number of media incidents a U.S. Senate hearing in 2012 heard that the percentage of positive drugs tests for racing was incredibly low, with more than 99% of horses passing the test and nearly 25% of all horses tested at any one race. However critics of these results have challenged the report and highlight that the racing industry also allows a number of therapeutic drugs to be administered to horses and these can be manipulated to enhance performance and still pass the drug testing regime.

What Affect Does Doping Have on Horses?

Doping is not only an Irish problem, in fact race horse across the globe have been known to be given enhancing substances. The first doping tests came into effect in the 1930s although some lobbyists would argue that doping itself actually dates back much further possibly 3,000 years ago. Even then the saliva tests that were carried out in the 1930s were more to ensure that rival horse owners weren’t trying to sabotage a horse’s performance.

Traditional doping would have included the use of cocaine, but this became easily detectable. Modern doping often involves the use of steroids which also cause muscle bulk to develop placing additional pressure on the fine legs and also affects the horse’s hormone system. Other doping systems involve putting liquids directly into the horses stomach just before a race, which was more common practice in the U.S.

What Exactly is the Turf Club Doing to Address the Doping Issue?

As the body responsible for regulating the industry the Turf Club has a clear role to play in leading out on this issue. As far back as 2014 the Turf Club started increasing the anti-doping regime.

They also received additional funds amounting to €150,000 from Horse Racing Ireland in 2014, however until the Department of Agriculture starts demanding change and putting more weight behind supporting the regulators, they could be on an uphill struggle given the size and influence that the industry has.

FEI Clean Sport Campaign

FEI Clean Sport website

As a potential model of a zero tolerance approach, the FEI is clamping down strongly on doping within its events and has developed a Clean Sport scheme, with a website to promote awareness around anti-doping and the global anti-doping and controlled medication programme (EADCMP).

The FEI veterinary department decides which events will be tested and then all levels of competition and all disciplines will be tested.

The following video is part of the FEI educational material and explains in more detail how the FEI anti-doping regime operates globally.

Anti DopingTask Force Recommendations

The Task Force report has made a number of recommendations including that the drug testing laboratory work should be centralised. This follows calls in other countries to centralise resources for testing such as in the U.S.. However if animal rights sites such as PETA are raising concerns about a tainted industry where steroid use is endemic, then it might need more than better drug testing facilities to eliminate the danger to horses.

So What Now?

It would appear that despite regulation doping is potentially an industry wide problem, especially in the race horse industry. Perhaps it is time that they took more notice of the FEI approach and embraced a zero tolerance stance on doping, however I suspect this is still a long way down the road.

image Monty Roberts The Man Who Listens to Horses

Monty Roberts – The Horse Whisperer

I have been a fan of Monty Roberts for quite a while now, both for his work with horses and also his advocacy work towards disadvantaged young people and victims of domestic abuse.

The focus in this article is horses though and I wanted to introduce a few of his techniques and share some resources that are available about his life and work.

Read More

What Is Intelligent Horsemanship?

Intelligent horsemanship is an approach to training horses that Kelly Marks and her mentor Monty Roberts have applied to numerous horses, at live training sessions throughout the world. It works by applying psychology to the horse and encouraging an understanding of what the horse might be anxious about or scared of. Not every horse behaves and thinks the same way, so intelligent horsemanship is about working together to achieve the best for both horse and rider.

In this article I want to explore a little bit more about – what is intelligent horsemanship and how exactly does it work?


Kelly Marks Intelligent Horsemanship

The Intelligent Horsemanship organisation, which is based in the UK, was founded in 1997 by Kelly Marks and aims to ‘bring the best horsemanship ideas together from around the world‘.

The organisation aims to achieve this through offering training courses, educational materials and demonstrations.

So where did the inspiration for Kelly’s work come from?, Well as many of you are aware Monty Roberts was a key person in her life who taught her many of the techniques that underpin her work today. Monty is a strong advocate of non-violence towards animals and does not believe that simply forcing an animal to do something is effective.

One of the most famous techniques that he has developed and which Kelly promotes, is the Join-up.

Monty Roberts Join-Up Technique

image Monty Roberts Join-up
Monty Roberts famous join-up logo

Many of the intelligent horsemanship principles work using horse psychology, and the principle that if you can communicate to the horse in their own language then they will understand better. Join-up is the first part in this conversation because it establishes the relationship between the trainer and the horse and helps to build trust.

Most of Monty and Kelly’s join-up work occurs in a round pen. The aim is to establish trust with the horse but ironically the first task is to start by sending the horse away.

You can see more about Join-up and watch one of Monty’s videos in another article I wrote.


Trailer Loading Difficulties

Once join up has been established it enables a whole range of activities to take place that involve the horse understanding and trusting its new human leader. The following video is one in which Monty describes how he applies the technique to loading a trailer, one of the most common challenges that he and Kelly are asked to overcome by horse owners.

Dealing With Plastic Bags and Other Distractions for Horses

It does seem to be a fact that horses find the most amazing things to be spooky at.

During the recent New year celebrations a nearby family to me decided to set off fireworks, with lots of bangs and lights. I rushed out expecting my older mare to be thoroughly distressed, only to see her looking out the stable totally unperturbed and enjoying the spectacle. This is the same mare that at a gust of wind will fly round the field like a mad thing totally excited.

Kelly and Monty have done some amazing demonstrations to show how to calm horses against some of their phobias, including clippers, bicycles, plastic bags and walking across plastic sheets. The Join-up is still the starting point for all these techniques, so that once trust is established the horse will then slowly allow the trainer to lead them and become closer to things that before the demonstration the horse would try to flee from.


Many of the approaches that Monty and Kelly advocate involve familiarising horses with their fears. They do this by introducing things slowly to horses and responding to their fears by monitoring their reactions and staying calm with them. Most horses tempt to flee danger and will look to run or move about restlessly. As the horse settles and stands still then this behaviour is rewarded and reinforced, so the horse learns that by not running the situation actually works out better.

Using this technique Kelly and Monty have managed to familiarise horses to a range of different spooky things. They have demonstrated consistently how the horse will settle once it trusts you and realises that the object will not harm them.

This principle can be used each time something new is introduced to horses whether it is new items in the yard, objects out on hacks or new experiences such as being, backed, shod or clipped.

Top Marks for Kelly

Kelly has demonstrated many of her skills and given tips and advice to people in her TV show Top Marks, which appears on the Horse & Country channel. Over the years she has used her own horse American Pie in demonstrations, as an example of how even the most spooky horses initially, can become a real show horse that goes everywhere.

Here is clip produced by Horse & Country TV which illustrates some of the things she shows to her followers.


The work of intelligent horsemanship has grown and along with Kelly Marks there are also regional trainers that have undertaken work with Kelly and are qualified to offer training of their own in the techniques used. Amongst the list are two Irish trainers on the intelligenthorsmanship website, who are Demeiza Franssen based in Tralee and Stephanie Heeran based in Tipperary.

Intelligent horsemanship clinics are now happening in the UK, Ireland, France and the Netherlands. All  of which are a tribute to the work of Kelley Marks and her team, and an initial interest to help Monty Roberts spread the message of non violent horsemanship across the globe.


Further Reading on Intelligent Horsemanship

There are a number of books by Kelly Marks on Intelligent Horsemanship principles such as Leading and Loading which is shown below.

image Leading and Loading Intelligent Horsemanship
Leading and Loading (Intelligent Horsemanship) by Kelly Marks (2000) Paperback

available on Amazon.

There are also more videos available on YouTube and also information on clinics available on the website.


I hope you enjoyed the article and if so please do remember to share it on social media. If you have any other suggestions please feel free to add them to the comments section below. There is another article on Kelly Marks on this site.

The Benefits of Apple Cider Vinegar for Horses

I have heard about apple cider vinegar (ACV) being used for horses, especially with older mares as a way to reduce their stiffness. So I was interested to learn more and also since ACV is often used by human for natural weight loss, what are the implications on my oder mare, will she lose weight?


What Is Apple Cider Vinegar?

Unlike refined vinegars that are often used in cooking and bought from supermarkets, organic ACV is made from organic apples that are simply crushed and allowed to mature. Traditionally this would have been done in wooden barrels but possibly health and safety now dictates that this now has to be done in stainless steel containers.

image apple orchard
image by Dan at

Since the vinegar is made naturally it retains a lot of the minerals, vitamins and enzymes that are present in apples plus there is the added benefit of additional organic acids acquired through the two stages of fermentation needed to produce the ACV. Natural ACV which is best for horses, contains the ‘Mother’ which is the concentrated culture of cellulose and acetic acid bacteria which should appear in good quality bottles of ACV, and assists in the fermentation process.



So What Are the Benefits to Horses?

You’ve probably guessed by now but Apple Cider Vinegar offers many different benefits to horses including the following.

Ease Arthritis Symptoms

This was how I originally came into contact with ACV as a way to treat my older Mare and see if it cured her stiffness, especially in Winter.


The ACV contains 5% acetic acid plus a number of other amino acids, all of which can act as a natural antiseptic to remove unwanted yeasts and bacteria from the gut (it works the same way in humans). Because it make the stomach more acidic ACV has also been shown to improve and prevent intestinal stones within horses, which if left unattended often need to removed surgically.

Natural Fly Repellent
image fly on flower
image by phanlop88 (

ACV works in two ways to deter insects and flies from your horse. Like garlic it is believed that horses sweat the ACV onto their skin which many flies and insects don’t like. Or you can also make your own fly repellent using ACV, one suggested recipe from is as follows;


  • 500 ml Apple Cider Vinegar
  • 250 ml Water
  • 250 ml Avon Skin so Soft (bath oil)
  • 10 ml Eucalyptus oil (or citronella oil)


Simply mix all the ingredients together and apply it through a spray bottle.



Skin Infections

Simple skin infections such as ringworm can be treated by applying neat ACV onto the spot. Ringworm is a fungal infection and this technique can be applied for other fungal infections such as thrush in the hooves.

Another pet product that is suitable for horses (as well as cats and dogs) are these pet ear wipes that use ACV along with witch hazel and Aloe vera


Hoof Rot

ACV can be applied directly to hooves to prevent hoof rot or improve frog growth. The natural antibacterial properties help the hoof the deal with underlying infections that can be causing a problem with the hoof. For the hoof soak the foot 2-3 times daily until it is healed.


Shampoo & Conditioner

According to the Savvy Horsewoman ACV can be added to a bucket of water for the final rinse to smarten your horses mane and tail. Or you can buy shampoo with ACV already in it!


Encouraging Horses to Drink Strange Water

ACV cleanses water and kills off unwanted micro organisms that might be off putting to horses, especially if they are presented with water form a strange source. A few tablespoons is all that is needed.

“Brown Horse Eating And Grazing In Farm” by Kittikun Atsawintarangkul (
“Brown Horse Eating And Grazing In Farm” by Kittikun Atsawintarangkul (
Does ACV Cause Weight Loss in Horses?

One of the questions that I had at the start of this research was whether ACV could cause weight loss in horses, since it is widely used as a way of increasing weight loss in humans.

At this point I am still looking for the answer, I haven’t noticed any loss in condition in my own older mare, but at the moment she isn’t working and is happy to potter around the yard without using any additional energy. I did read on one forum on the earth clinic that a horse owner had noticed weight loss despite also noticing a slowing in feeding (not gobbling food) and shiny coats which were advantageous.

Another article on holistic horse named one of the benefits of using ACV on horses as managing weight and lowering body fat so presumably this is something to be watchful for, but I haven’t managed to find anything definitive on this topic (Yet).

Where to Buy Apple Cider Vinegar?

image apple cider vinegar for horses

Apple Cider Vinegar can be bought in most supermarkets and health food shops. However if you are looking to buy for a horse it is probably cheaper (actually definitely cheaper) to buy in bulk from wholesalers.

The product shown here is an organic ACV that can be bought through Amazon, the company is Bragg (owned by Patricia Bragg so is not a large multinational) and the product has some very good reviews from people who have been using the product for years.

The product can be bought in 16 or 32 ounce bottles (litre or half litre)
Bragg Organic Raw Apple Cider Vinegar, 16 Ounce – 1 Pack



I would love to hear of any other uses for this amazing product so please feel free to add them in the comments section below. And if you have had any experience in using ACV and noticed any effect on weight loss I would be particularly grateful to hear from you, thanks.