SPCA New Zealand
Advice & welfare

Caring for horses

Caring for horses 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 to consider their needs before choosing to care for 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 consist of pasture, including grass, clover and other pasture plants. Horses must also have 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 used in sport/work) or needing to gain condition.

Note: Since horses eat mainly pasture and other roughage (hay or grain), they may need an extra source of nutrients. It is recommended that you allow your horse access to a mineral lick/block.


Horses need a lot of space to exercise. Ideally, one horse will need about one acre of land. A horse also needs a sleeping/resting area and shelter to provide protection from the sun, wind and rain.

Your horse’s environment must:

  • Be spacious to allow the opportunity to canter/ gallop
  • Be secure and safe, with a strong sturdy fence to keep them safely contained.
  • Have sufficient shelter with dry areas to rest, with suitable bedding material provided.
  • Allow for social interaction with other horses
  • Allow grazing on fresh pasture


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. Regular, preventative health checks with your veterinarian is important. Horses should receive a dental check approximately every 6 months. Horses will also need to have their hooves trimmed regularly by an experienced farrier.


  • Horses are herd animals that need social interaction with other horses. When horses are together in groups or pairs, you will notice them engaging in social interactions such as grooming.
  • Horses will spend a large portion of their day grazing and therefore require access to a large space with plenty of pasture.
  • Horses require a lot of exercise to stay happy and healthy.
  • Horses have been shown to learn well using positive reward-based training.

Additional Information

Visit the SPCA Kids’ Education Portal (www.spca.nz/kids) for more information, helpful tips and videos on caring for your companion horses!

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