SPCA New Zealand
Advice & welfare

Keeping your horse healthy

You should check your horse daily for any changes in his or her appearance or behaviour.

For more about horse behaviour see the information here. Proper nutrition and maintaining a clean, safe environment is important for your horse’s health.

Regular health care for horses includes

Hoof care

  • Hooves need regular checking and cleaning.
  • Hooves also need regular trimming. Horse shoes help protect the hoof, but need to be checked and adjusted regularly.
  • How often your horse’s hooves need to be trimmed depends on factors such as age, season, diet, environment, and the general condition of your horse and his/her hooves.

Dental care

All horses need regular dental checks. Older horses (above 16 years) may require extra dental care.


All horses need through and regular grooming.

Worming and vaccinations

Consult your vet about vaccinating your horse and only give medications prescribed to your horse.

In addition to learning about your horse’s behaviour and body language, you should also learn as much as possible about horse care and health, in particular common ailments such as colic, gastric ulcers, laminitis, and the dangers of parasites (‘worms’) to your horse. Much can be learned about these conditions in good books, via reliable sources on the Internet and via your vet.

If you notice any of these signs, please contact your vet:

  • Poor appetite
  • Eyes: Discharging, watery, swollen or crusty eyes
  • Nostrils: Discharge from the nostrils (note a small amount of clear discharge at the nostrils may be normal)
  • Mouth: Worn, sharp, or abnormal looking teeth
    • Dribbling or dropping food
    • Rapid breathing
    • Coughing
    • Swelling under the jaw
    • Pale gums or discoloured gums
    • Blood in the mouth
  • Skin/coat:
    • Flystrike
    • Sunburn
    • Skin cancer (lumps or ulcerated areas of skin)
    • Parasites
  • Urine/ Faeces:
    • Diarrhoea
    • Straining to pass urine or faeces
    • Discoloured or bloody urine
  • Injuries: Wounds, stiffness, or lameness
  • Body language/ behaviour:
    • Weakness/lethargy
    • Lack of coordination/staggering/ swaying
    • Signs of pain when touched
    • Muscle tremors/shivering
    • The horse separating him/herself socially from the herd
    • Collapse
  • Swellings or masses (lumps)
  • Body condition: Obesity/anorexia (sunken flanks or protruding backbone).
  • Hooves:
    • Lameness/pain
    • Overgrown or irregular hooves (contact your vet or farrier)

Owners must have the ability to separate sick or injured horses for treatment. Don’t forget, the stalls must be sheltered, well bedded, cleaned regularly and allow the horse constant access to food and water. You can read more about providing the right environment for your horse here.

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