Horse Care I

Learn horse care from our international team of equestrians and animal scientists. An excellent course for horse owners or a starting point for a career in the equine industry.

Course Code: BAG102
Fee Code: S2
Duration (approx) Duration (approx) 100 hours
Qualification Statement of Attainment
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Distance Education Course for Horse Enthusiasts

  • Learn about horse psychology and handling, evaluate conformation,
  • Understand the importance of dietary requirements to the horse,
  • Learn about the horses digestive system and the principles of feeding and watering your horse
  • Explore opportunities for working with horses; or just learn more about caring for your own animals 

Also learn to use correct grooming procedures, develop appropriate management procedures and broaden existing knowledge of commercial opportunities in the horse world. Manage horses kept on pasture and learn relevant pasture management techniques to maintain productivity and prevent "horse sick" pastures.

Comment from one of our Horse Care students:

"I learnt many new skills that are easily applied to day to day runnings" A. Green

Lesson Structure

There are 7 lessons in this course:

  1. Horse psychology and handling
    • The early horse
    • Survival mechanisms of the early horse
    • The modern horse - behaviour and memory
    • Using psychology to handle horses
    • Catching and leading horses
    • Fitting the bridle and saddle
    • Tying up a horse
    • Safety rules
  2. Buying a horse
    • Temperament
    • Size
    • Weight carrying ability
    • Age
    • Equine dentition and ageing
    • Glossary of terms
    • Dentition diagrams and detailed explanation
    • Colour and markings
    • Breeds
  3. Conformation
    • The shape of the skeleton
    • Body proportions and parts
    • Conformation problems
    • How to describe confirmation
  4. The digestive system and principles of feeding and watering
    • The digestive System
    • The alimentary canal
    • The Stomach
    • The small intestine
    • The large intestine
    • Absorption of food
    • Groups of food nutrients
    • The composition of some common horse feeds
    • The principles of watering
    • The principles of feeding
    • Feeding concentrates and roughages
    • Feeding groups of horses at one time
  5. The grass kept horse and pasture management
    • Advantages and disadvantages of working off grass
    • Paddock size and minimum area needed
    • Types of fencing
    • The water supply
    • Shelter
    • Fodder trees
    • General management of the grass-kept horse
    • Management in summer
    • Management in winter
    • Exercise
    • Grooming the grass-kept horse
    • Conservation of the land
    • Keeping horses at grass on small areas
    • Roughing off and turning a horse out
  6. Grooming
    • The skin - epidermis, dermis, the coat
    • How the skin regulates body temperature
    • Reasons for grooming
    • Grooming tools
    • Grooming techniques - strapping, sponging, brushing
    • Using a stable rubber, dealing with stable stains on grey coats
    • Oiling the feet
    • Quartering
    • Setting Fair/Brushing off
    • Washing the mane and tail
    • Washing the sheath
    • Shampooing the horse
  7. Industry Applications
    • Resources
    • Writing resumes - employment readiness
    • Competition horses (overview) - event horse, dressage horse, show jumper, endurance
    • Educating Horses
    • Breeding
    • Farm planning
    • Short term operations
    • Farm business structures
    • Quality management systems
    • Whole farm planning
    • Preparing a farm business
    • Managing risk
    • Sensitivity analysis
    • Financial management
    • Record keeping
    • Finance sources
    • Setting up a small business

Each lesson culminates in an assignment which is submitted to the school, marked by the school's tutors and returned to you with any relevant suggestions, comments, and if necessary, extra reading.


  • Describe the procedures for the buying and selling of horses.
  • Differentiate between the different procedures used for the handling of horses.
  • Develop a program for the evaluation of the conformation of horses on a property/facility.
  • Analyse the digestive system, including structure and function, of horses.
  • Develop appropriate procedures to manage a horse at grass.
  • Explain the methods used to prepare horses for specific uses, including their grooming for different tasks.
  • Explain commercial opportunities available in the horse industry.

What You Will Do

  • Describe different psychological traits of a horse including:
    • herd instinct; memory and fright.
  • Explain how an understanding of horse psychology can assist with handling a horse.
  • Compare three different methods of breaking in a horse.
  • Demonstrate how to put on different pieces of tack including:
    • a head stall; a bridle and a saddle.
  • Demonstrate how to lead a horse.
  • Demonstrate how to ride a horse.
  • Develop a list of safety rules for handling horses in a specified situation.
  • Compare the differences in the way two different horse owners handle their horses, at the same horse show or competition.
  • Describe the different ways of trading (i.e. buying or selling) horses in your locality.
  • Develop a check-list of factors to consider when buying a horse for a specified type of use.
  • Compare five different advertisements for the sale of horses of a similar type, to determine which of the five appears to be the best value, and listing the reasons why it appears good value.
  • Evaluate the features of a horse being offered for sale in your locality, to determine the value of that horse.
  • Label an unlabelled diagram of the parts of a horses body.
  • Define the different conformation terminology, including:
    • girth; body proportions; leg settings; conformation and bone.
  • Describe the preferred features of the parts of a horses body referred to in earlier points.
  • Compare the conformation of two different breeds of horses, based upon a physical inspection of a horse from each breed.
  • Compare procedures used to evaluate the conformation of horses at two different properties/facilities.
  • Label the parts on an unlabelled diagram of the digestive system of horses.
  • Explain the function of different components in a horses diet.
  • Explain how the watering of a horse, as observed by you, on a specific property is likely to affect that horses digestive processes.
  • Evaluate the digestive processes involved in the digestion of three different horse feeds analysed by you.
  • Differentiate between the digestive processes in three different types of horses, including:
    • very active horses; horses being rested.
  • Compare the advantages with the disadvantages of keeping a horse at grass.
  • Recommend paddock facilities, in your locality, which are appropriate for horses kept at grass.
  • Prepare a description, and use illustrations where appropriate, of the facilities you recommended.
  • Differentiate between the requirements of a specified horse kept at grass, at different times of the year, in your locality.
  • Develop guidelines for managing a specific horse at grass, on a property visited and investigated by you.
  • Explain three different husbandry tasks which are essential to the management of the horse investigated by you.
  • List the different reasons for grooming horses.
  • Describe how to use different items of grooming equipment.
  • Write a procedure for washing a horse, in a specified situation.
  • Compare how to groom horses for different situations, including:
    • dressage; pony club competition; exhibitions and stock work.
  • List the different applications for horses in modern society.
  • List the resources available for different sectors of the horse industry in your locality, including:
    • racing; breeding; competitions and recreational riding.
  • Determine the minimum facilities required to establish three different specified businesses in the horse industry, including;
    • a riding school; a stock agent and another horse business.
  • Evaluate the financial viability of four different sectors of the horse industry.
  • Evaluate the potential of two different specified horse enterprises in your locality.

"The course is a lot more detailed than I thought it would be - I am learning a lot more than I hoped! I am very happy with the course and the school, very professional and thorough." Janette - Horse Care I student


Tips for Handling Horses

The modern horse is a descendant of those early horses who were the swiftest and most alert and with the strongest herd instinct. Even though the horse is not threatened by hunting carnivores today, it still has the same survival traits as its predecessors. The modern horse will react in the same way as the early horse to fear or excitement. It will gallop away, buck (kick up its hind legs), kick and shy (jump sideways).

The modern horse still has a strong herd instinct. We talk of horses being "gregarious" ‑ they like to be with other horses. We can see the horse's herd instinct at work when one horse will refuse to be led away from his companions, or when a badly frightened horse gallops back to his companions. In both cases, the horse wants to be with the "herd" where there is safety and reassurance.


The Horse's Memory

The horse has a very long memory and this is useful in training. The horse will remember that he was rewarded for certain behaviour and will usually choose to behave this way again. He will not often repeat behaviour for which he was punished. Handlers must be consistent in rewarding and punishing horses so that the horse clearly knows what behaviour is expected.

Horses remember frightening things for a long time. If the horse is reminded of a frightening experience he will show signs of fear. An unsympathetic handler will punish the horse for behaving badly. This is unjust. A good handler will reassure the horse so that he loses his fear and behaves well again.


Using Psychology To Handle Horses

In one way, the modern horse is different from the early horse. It has grown taller and stronger. A horse is always stronger than its handler and could choose to run away or attack us with hooves and teeth. We are able to handle horse's because they are not aware of their strength and because they like to please. At all costs, we should avoid situations where the horse learns he is stronger than his handler. We must also preserve the horses goodwill by treating him fairly at all times. Firm but kind handling is the key to successful horse management.

All handlers of horses should try to learn as much as possible about Horse Psychology. This will increase their understanding of their horse's behaviour and make them better horsemen/women.

There are many good books and videos on horse psychology and handling that may be obtained at book and saddlery stores.


Handling Horses

Using our understanding of Horse Psychology, we can handle horses safely and with ease. Remember that the horse is gregarious. It will be easier to bring all the horses from a paddock rather than just one. Avoid making sudden noises or movements around horses. Build up the horse's trust in you by being calm and confident.


Catching A Horse In The Field Or Stable

Always warn a horse of your approach. Speak to it quietly but so it can hear you. A horse will quickly learn to recognise your voice and words you repeat often. Never approach a horse silently as your sudden appearance will frighten him badly. This is particularly dangerous in the stable when the frightened horse will want to flee but will be constrained in a small space.

Walk steadily towards the horse's shoulder so he can see you. (The horse's eyes are at the sides of his head so he has difficulty seeing directly in front of him). When you reach the horse stand at his shoulder and gently pat or stroke him. Keep talking quietly. You could give the horse a small titbit (piece of bread or horse cubes) to reward him for not running away from you. Hold your hand flat as the horse feeds from it ‑ he might mistake an upturned thumb for a juicy carrot!


Putting On A Headstall Or Halter

HEADSTALLS or HALTERS are put on the horse so he can be controlled on foot. Before approaching the horse, make sure the headstall is ready to put on by undoing the buckle or loosening the rope. Place the rope around the horse's neck to stop him walking off. Gently pull the headstall/halter up over the horse's head until the NOSEBAND is around the horse's nose. Pass the HEADPIECE over the horse's ears and do up the buckle. If there is a THROATLASH it should not be buckled tightly ‑ your four fingers should fit at right angles between the horse's cheek and the throatlash.

"Headcollar" is an English term not used a great deal in Australia. In Australia, the term is "Headstall".


Leading A Horse In The Open

The left hand side of the horse is called the NEAR SIDE. It is customary to mount, dismount, saddle, bridle and lead from this side. (The right hand side of the horse is called the OFF SIDE). See Figure 1.4

To lead the horse stand at the near‑side shoulder. Your right hand should hold the headcollar rope about 10 cms from where it is knotted to the headstall. Your left hand should hold the slack of the rope. Speak to the horse and walk forward. Push the horse's head forward with your right hand on the rope. The horse should follow willingly. Never pull a horse along.

If a horse is very unwilling to be lead, hold a stick in your left hand. If the horse still leads sluggishly, put the slack of the rope in your right hand and tap the horse smartly on the ribs with the stick. You should look ahead all the time and be ready to move forward when the horse responds to the stick on his side. 


Leading A Horse From A Stable Or Through A gate

This is very similar to leading a horse in the open with one important difference. You must lead a horse straight out of a stable or through a gate. Remember the horse has a long body! If he is turned too quickly, a horse can badly bruise his hip on stable walls or gate posts, and expensive saddlery can be damaged. The collision with the wall will hurt and frighten the horse and he may jump forwards suddenly and knock you over.


Leading A Horse Up For Inspection

On occasions, a horse has to be led up for inspection. This could be when the vet wants to look for signs of lameness or when a buyer wants to see how the horse moves or carries himself. When leading a horse up for inspection make sure the horse strides out well (carry a stick if necessary). Allow the horse to carry his head naturally. You do this by keeping your left hand well down on the lead rope so it is away from the horse's head. When the horse has free movement of the neck and head his movements will be natural.

The horse should be led up for inspection on a level firm surface. Walk the horse in a straight line away from the onlooker. Encourage a free, swinging walk. Then turn him and trot him briskly towards and past the onlooker. Finally stand the horse up so that he looks alert and has his weight squarely on all four feet. The horse can now be more closely inspected by the vet or potential buyer.


Putting On A Bridle

Before approaching the horse check that the throat‑lash of the bridle is undone (it is normally left undone when taken off). If the horse is new to you, loosen all the buckles so that adjustments can be made more easily once the bridle is on.

Hold the reins and headpieces in your left hand and approach the near (left) side of the horse. Speak to the horse and with your right hand slip the reins quietly over his neck. Now you have something to control the horse with. Hold the headpiece of the bridle in your right hand and cup the bit in the palm of your left hand. Gently draw the bridle up the horse's face. Insert the thumb of your left hand into the corner of the horse's mouth (there are no teeth there so don't worry!). The horse should open his mouth obligingly. As he does this gently draw the bit into the mouth while pulling the headpiece over his ears.

Once the bridle is on it must be fitted correctly. The bit should sit comfortably in the mouth ‑ the lips may have the slightest crinkle but should not be pulled upwards. Equally the bit should not hang so low in the mouth that it knocks the teeth. The bit must be the right width so that you can fit one finger between the bit and the skin at each side of the mouth.

The throat lash must be done up loosely. You should be able to hold your hand (thumb facing to you) between the side of the cheek and the throat lash. In this way, there will be plenty of room for the horse to bend his head and breathe comfortably.


Taking Off A Bridle

Undo the throat‑lash. Place the reins over and around the neck and hold them under the neck with the right hand. Gently draw the bridle over the horse's ears with the left hand but allow the horse to open his mouth and drop the bit. If you try to drag the bridle off quickly, you will make the bit knock into the horse's teeth. Hang the bridle up on a peg. Rough bridling and unbridling can make a horse HEAD SHY (Nervous when your hands are near his head). Be patient, slow and gentle so that the horse can trust you and not be afraid.

A technique that is commonly practised but allows for no control over the horse if it wants to pull away is as follows: With your right hand draw the reins up to the headpiece. Grasp both the reins and headpiece in your right hand. Cup the palm of your left hand under the horse's mouth.


Putting On A Saddle

Before approaching the horse make sure the girth is lain across the saddle and that the stirrups are either crossed over the saddle, or better, run neatly up the stirrup leathers. Girths and stirrups that flap about while saddling takes place can frighten the horse. There is always a chance that a horse snaps at a fly on his side and accidentally catches a hanging stirrup in his mouth. This would severely frighten him. Play safe and keep the stirrups safely run up the leathers until your feet are in them!

Carry the saddle on your left arm ‑ the pommel (front) of the saddle should face your elbow and the cantle (back) should face your hand. Approach the near (left) side of the horse. Remember to talk to him.

Many saddles are counter-lined with a cloth-like material (e.g. felt) which needs to be protected against the ravages of sweat. This is achieved by using a saddle cloth made of an absorbent material such as wool or thick cotton.

The size should be approximately 100cm X 80cm. This allows approx. 30cm to be folded back at the front to give extra protection over the withers. This folded back portion must be uppermost so as the edge of the saddle cloth is not in contact with the withers area. 

Place the saddle too far forward over the withers. Now draw the saddle back into place so that it sits comfortably on the back. By drawing it back this way, you make sure that the horse's hair is lying flat under the saddle. This is important for the comfort of the horse.

Now go to the off (right) side of the horse and pull the girth so that it hangs down freely. Never push the girth off the top of the saddle from the near side of the horse. The girth will fall down at speed and the metal buckle will bang painfully against the horse's legs. This could make the horse edgy when it is saddled again. Run the stirrup iron down the leather or uncross the offside leather from over the seat.

Go back to the near (left) side and grasp the front of the saddle cloth with the left hand and the rear with the right hand. Lift until the saddle is well clear of the back and the saddle cloth has been forced up into the channel (groove under the saddle). This prevents the saddle cloth from being pulled tight over the back due to the weight of the saddle and rider. It also allows a tunnel for air to flow through and dries the sweat on the top of the withers and back. 

Reach under the horse for the girth. Do it up gently. Some horses develop the trick of taking a big breath of air while you are doing up the girth. This is called BLOWING HIMSELF OUT. Wait until he breathes out and then do the girth up a little tighter if necessary.

If the horse is going to stand for a short while in the stable, there is no need to make the girth snug. It should keep the saddle in place but by being a little looser, the horse will feel more comfortable while he waits to be ridden. (Try to avoid putting a saddle on a horse a long time before he is ridden. The horse may lie down and ruin the saddle. He will also be unable to rest comfortably).


Taking Off A Saddle

From the near (left) side of the horse, place the stirrup iron over the seat and undo the girth making sure you place it in the hanging position. Don't let it fall down as, again, it could hit the horse's legs. Now go to the off (right) side of the horse and put the girth and the stirrup iron over the saddle so it is safely out of the way, go back to the near side.

With your left hand under the pommel of the saddle and your right hand under the cantle, lift the saddle and saddle cloth clear of the horse's back. Place the saddle in the crook of your left arm. Hang the saddle on a saddle rack or "horse" as soon as possible. Spread the saddle cloth out over the saddle to dry. These racks and "horses" hold the saddle off the floor and support the weight of the leather in the best way.

If you have to store a saddle on the floor, stand it on the pommel and lean the cantle against the wall. Place the girth over the cantle so that the leather is not rubbed. Protect the saddle from being knocked over and stood on if it must be stored on the floor.


There are many opportunities in working with horses but also many people competing for those jobs. Studying a course shows that you are serious about your chosen career which is viewed favourably by employers. This is just a starting point - with this course you can move on to further study and gain a foothold in this industry.   This is also a great course for the novice horse owner - there is more to horses than a lead rope and saddle - they are complex beings and those that understand this, or are trained to, end up having a far better relationship with their horse.

Member of Study Gold Coast Education Network.
Member of Study Gold Coast Education Network.
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Since 1999 ACS has been a recognised member of IARC (International Approval and Registration Centre). A non-profit quality management organisation servicing education.
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UK Register of Learning Providers, UK PRN10000112

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Course Contributors

The following academics were involved in the development and/or updating of this course.

Jade Sciascia

Biologist, Business Coordinator, Government Environmental Dept, Secondary School teacher (Biology); Recruitment Consultant, Senior Supervisor in Youth Welfare, Horse Riding Instructor (part-completed) and Boarding Kennel Manager.
Jade has a B.Sc.Biol, Dip.Professional Education, Cert IV TESOL, Cert Food Hygiene.

Dr. Gareth Pearce

Veterinary scientist and surgeon with expertise in agriculture and environmental science, with over 25 years of experience in teaching and research in agriculture, veterinary medicine, wildlife ecology and conservation in the UK, Australia and New Zealand. Post-graduate qualifications in Education, Wildlife Conservation Medicine, Aquatic Veterinary Studies and Wildlife Biology & Conservation.
Gareth has a B.Sc.(Hons), B.V.Sc., M.A., M.Vet.S,. PhD, Grad. Cert. Ed.(HE), Post-Grad.Cert. Aq.Vet.Sc., Post-Grad. Cert. WLBio&Cons., Dipl. ECPHM, MRCVS.

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