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Silver Star Miniature Horse Farm - GENERAL CARE OF THE MINIATURE HORSE

This page is a work in progress, and the information it contains is for general care guide lines and does not constitute advice of any kind or replace professional veterinary care.

Mini's were put on this earth especially for us to care for and love!

Horses whether they are big or small, are herd animals, so they enjoy the company of another horse. There is something sad about a lone horse standing in a paddock all by itself. A paddock companion is highly recommended for the mental and physical well being of your horse. He will have a companion to interact with, to run, play, graze, snooze under a tree and enjoy shared scratches.

FEEDING

I am sharing my own experiences and observations with you, with the hope you may be able short circuit any potential problems and save yourself a bit of grief and help your horses in the process.

I believe, it is important to know the mineral balance of your paddock soils and if you are really concerned about a shortfall in mineral balance, check out your paddock grasses or hay. If you do not know what your horses are receiving in the way of nutrition, it is impossible to access what areas might need correcting.

I have learned from experience that even if you have plenty of grass in your paddocks, this does not necessarily mean your animals are receiving their required daily intake of vitamins and minerals. Or, just because you are hand feeding plenty of hay every day, does not protect your animals from a shortfall in their daily nutritional requirements.

In most parts of Australia, you will most likely need to allow your horse's access to a mineral/vitamin supplement year round.

Horses are grazing animals and if you closely observe horse behaviour, you will see they have a continuous cycle of eating, resting/sleeping and then eating again. A horses gut requires this process to be closely followed in order to prevent problems, like colic.

Horses will try and not eat where they defecate, they will move to a cleaner part of the pasture to eat, unless they are confined to such a small area or so over crowded, that they have no choice.

I prefer to keep my horses in big paddocks, so that they have the opportunity to make choices in what grasses or plant they want to eat and so they get plenty of exercise moving about grazing or running and playing.

If horses are confined and unable to graze they need to be fed regularly, a few times a day. The more natural a horse’s environment is, the more you will be free of any problems.

If you are hand feeding your horse year round, good quality hay is essential. I do not recommend throwing the hay on the ground for the horses to eat, as the hay will be pawed at, rolled on and trampled into the ground and your horses will be more prone to picking up worms by eating the contaminated hay.

Silver Star paddocks have shelter sheds with room for 8 or 10 horses. In the corner of these sheds, I have a separate box for minerals and one for salt. The shelter sheds are big enough to have an area for a big round or square bale of hay and still have enough room for the horses to shelter.

Over the years I have found that easiest and most economical way to feed hay is to use a round or square bale feeder; preferably kept under cover and off the ground, since rain can spoil and damage hay very quickly. Mould can form, which is detrimental to your horse’s health. I personally, would not feed hay that has even the slightest hint of mould, especially to pregnant mares, because you will run the risk of slipped foals. Mouldy hay can also cause respiratory problems.

Feeding hay in a feeder will also help prevent sand colic. Feeders should be low enough so even the smallest foal can reach the hay, and the feeder should be made out of non-toxic material.
Since horses naturally eat with their heads down, the more natural the horses posture when eating, the better it is for keeping the horses respiratory tracks clear and to prevent possible eye injury by dust or sharp grass stalks. Make sure all your horses have a chance to feed at the feeder by limiting the amount of horses per feeder (in a paddock or shelter).

Never under any circumstances feed your horse grass clippings. This is a highly dangerous thing to do. Beware of neighbours feeding grass clipping over the fence, they might think they are helping by giving your horse some nice, green grass clippings, but it has been proven that grass clippings are a cause of colic and choke. Grass clippings are short and this tempts the horse to swallow without chewing properly. Since grass clippings are usually a bit damp, this causes mould to form quickly. Grass clippings heat up very fast. You will notice this if you stick your hand into a small pile of clippings. Even dry grass clippings bind together and this could cause choke, colic or a gut blockage.

Mineral salt blocks and also loose salt should be provided in containers under shelter from the elements. Mineral salt blocks provide trace vitamin and minerals; however they are not sufficient in supplying a horse with its daily vitamin and mineral requirements.

In my opinion, a mineral supplement (like Equilibrium) should be made available to your horse every day to ensure your horse receives his daily requirements of minerals and vitamins.


I cannot stress the importance of this enough!


I let my horses choose if they require a supplement or not, by letting them have 24-7 access to Equilibrium ad lib, which is kept under cover in containers in their paddock sheds or sprinkled about in small qualties for immediate consumption using various feeders. (see photos below)

Of course fresh, clean water must be available at all times.

If you want to give your horse a treat, a carrot or an apple will be appreciated.
I always feed treats out of a bucket or put them in a feeder, I never feed treats from my hand as I think this will only encourage a horse to seek out hands and fingers at every opportunity, and it may lead to unwanted nibbling of the fingers of some unsuspecting person.

WORMING

I worm my horses every 3-4 months as the paddocks are so big that the horses tend to not pick up many worms, and also the paddocks are rotated to "clean" paddocks after every worming. If you have smaller paddocks or your horse is kept in a paddock with a large group of horses then worm every 6 to 8 weeks.

TRIMMING FEET

Trim your horses feet when they require trimming, usually every 2-3 months, more or less it depends on the horse and the amount of wear on the hoof. Unless you know how to do this properly it is best to use a farrier.

EXERCISE

Exercise is very important for muscling and general good health. I believe that horses need adequate room to run and play, a big paddock encourages exercise. If the paddock is too lush with the new spring growth, run some cows or sheep in the paddock to eat the lushness down, then turn the horses in. I don't seem to have any problem with founder and my paddocks are huge.

DISCIPLINE

I believe you must respect your horse and understand why he is behaving in a certain manner. And of course your horse must respect you.

Learn to read horse behaviour, so you can understand what your horse is (most likely) going to do in advance. If you must discipline your horse, a gruff word is usually all that is required. Never hit a horse, especially in the head as they will learn to be head shy and they will quickly learn to not trust you.

FOALING

First of all I believe you must be there for the birth of the foal. I use a foaling alarm and it has helped save many a foal that otherwise would have died without some form of intervention.

I also believe the expectant mare should be happy with the environment she is in, and happy with her companions. If you must move an expectant mare to another location before she foals, try to do it a few weeks before she is due. I move my mares to one of the foaling paddocks near the house when they are getting close to their due date and I give her a companion for company, usually another pregnant mare that she has been running with and knows.

The duration of gestation is anywhere between 320 and 370 days, however most mares will foal at 340 to 342 days.

After the foal is born, the foal will take gasping breaths. For the first 15 minutes of life, 60 - 80 breaths per minute, thereafter 20 to 40 breaths per minute. To count these breaths watch for chest movement or for nostril flaring.

You can count the heartbeat by placing the palm of your hand on the chest immediately behind the elbow. The foal's heart rate will be around 70 beats per minute for the first 5 minutes of life

I like to rub the foal with a towel to help dry it, as most foals are born during the night when it is usually quite cool outside and quickly drying the foal will help to prevent heat loss. This also helps to stimulate the foal. Sitting the foal up brings the foal's blood oxygen level higher than when the foal is lying down. Most foals will be able to sit up in the first five minutes of life.

Foals should have a suckle reflex by 20 minutes (test this by placing your finger in the foals mouth)

The foal will stand, sometimes almost immediately and should be able to do so within an hour,

The foal should nurse from the mare in the first three hours. Watch carefully. Be sure the foal is nursing properly on the teat and you can see him swallowing the milk (sometimes the foal will appear to be latched onto the teat and sucking, but he is not properly attached to the teat and is only sucking on the udder) I once had a foal that would NOT latch onto that teat no matter what I tried! I left him alone for awhile to figure it out for himself (which didn’t work) in the beginning, he was very lively and was running about all over the place. He would happily suck the mares leg, udder and everywhere in between, but not on the teat itself. The mare's udder was dripping with milk. I was worried he might not receive his colostrum, so I put his mouth right on the teat and let the milk drip into his mouth. But as soon as I let him go he didn’t know where to find the teat again. I repeated this a few times, until I realized it was not going to work. Very frustrating watching him struggle to find the source of that milk! I ended up milking the mare and feeding him with a bottle until he was 20 hours old. (In between giving him every chance to find that teat for himself) Then, it was like someone threw a switch on in his head….he just started drinking normally all by himself. I have had foals that have trouble finding the milk bar before, but not one as bad as this little man. If you are having difficulty getting a foal to suck and cannot manage to milk the mare and feed the foal, you must get veterinary assistance. The foal may need a feeding tube inserted into his stomach in order for him to get his first milk (colostrum) to survive.

Colostrum is the first milk that the mare produces. Good quality colostrum is thick yellow milk. Colostrum contains antibodies that the foal relies on for defense against disease. Horses differ from other animals in that no antibodies can cross the placenta. Factors that affect the quality of colostrum include age of the mare (old mares typically have lower quality), running milk prior to foaling and illness in the mare.

Colostrum is best absorbed by the foal in the first 12 hours, as specialized cells in the intestine of the foal that are required to absorb colostrum are only present for this time. If you are in doubt that your foal has had his colostrum, blood can be taken at around 24 hours of age to check that their antibody levels are adequate. Foals with low antibody levels (failure of passive transfer) will usually require a plasma transfusion to help boost their levels and protect them against disease


(Under Construction)

Silver Star foal eating mineralsSilver Star foals eating minerals out of a free feeder
Foals enjoy having free access to minerals
winter time and horses eating hay out of big round bale feederhorses eating hay from big round bale feeder in shed
horses shelter from spring rains
shed for shelter
Big round bale hay feeders are placed into sheds out of the rain