SPCA New Zealand
Advice & welfare

Caring for horses

Looking after a horse or pony is a big responsibility. They have complex needs and require a lot of time, hard work, and money to ensure they stay happy and healthy.

Horses can live well into their thirties, so it is important that you have a thorough understanding of the ideal diet, environment, behaviour, and health care before getting a horse.


Horses are herbivores that graze on high fibre pasture for a large percentage of the day. Your horses diet will depend on your horses age, breed, lifestyle (e.g. if in work) and general condition.

The majority of your horses’ diet should be:

  • Pasture: Grass and hay
  • Water: Constant access to fresh water

Supplementary feed is required when pasture is poor quality, or for horses that are using extra energy (e.g.if in work) or needing to gain condition.


Your horse’s environment must:

  • Allow grazing on fresh pasture
  • Be spacious to allow the opportunity to canter or gallop
  • Be secure and safe
  • Have sufficient shelter with dry areas to stand or lie down on
  • Allow for social interaction with other horses


  • Horses are herd animals that need social interaction with other horses
  • Horsed communicate by using body language
  • When handling horses, don’t forget that horses are prey animals that usually want to run away from danger
  • Horses need to be able to move around and exercise


Check your horse daily for any changes in their appearance or behaviour. Proper nutrition and maintaining a clean and safe environment with the opportunity to exercise is important for your horse’s health.

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