Horse Care I

Horse care basics course- understand and learn how to care for a horse kept at grass. Ideal for working with horses or for those who are wanting to learn the essentials of caring for their own horse.

Course CodeBAG102
Fee CodeS2
Duration (approx)100 hours
QualificationStatement of Attainment

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Manage the daily requirements of your horse  
  • Learn Horse Management at home
  • Study Horse Care either Online, by eLearning (USB Memory Stick) or with Distance Education course notes
  • Self paced: Learn about horses when it suits you and where it suits you

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, 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.


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.

Where can you Graze a Horse?

If establishing new grazing or re-seeding old areas, an appropriate seed mix should be used. Standard agricultural mixes are not suitable for horses as they tend to produce very rich grass with a high protein level, which can be detrimental to a horse’s health. Wherever possible, grass species of native origin should be used. Some suitable grass types are listed below:

  • Perennial Rye Grass (Lolium perenne) - an important grass present in many ready-made forage seed mixes. Very tolerant to heavy grazing but needs a fertile soil to grow to its full potential
  • Creeping Red Fescue (Festuca rubra) – Forms a hard wearing turf due to its creeping ability. Generally hardy and can cope with lower soil fertility
  • Cocksfoot (Dactylis glomerata) – provides useful growth in both early and late season. Particularly hardy to drought so useful for very dry soils
  • Crested Dogstail (Cynosurus cristalus) – a short leafy grass that provides a good turf base. Particularly palatable to horses but has a fairly low nutrient value
  • Smooth-Stalked Meadow grass (Poa pratensis) – drought resistant so useful for dry soils. Not particularly palatable so should appear in small amounts in a seed mix
  • Timothy (Phleum pratense) - useful in heavy or peaty soils, tolerates low soil fertility and winter conditions. Very mature Timothy has a low digestibility level  and low crude protein level
  • Herbs add variety and palatability to grazing. Specific horse paddock herbal mixes are available to buy on the market. Appropriate herbs are: Melilot (Melilotus officianalis), Fenugreek (Trigonella foenum-graecum), Fennel (Foeniculum vulgare), Lemon Balm (Melissa officinalis), Chicory (Cichorium intybus), Queen-Anne’s Lace (Daucus carota), Dandelion (Taraxacum officinalis), and Chamomile (Chamaemelum nobile).
  • White Clover- small amounts of clover are beneficial; clover fixes nitrogen from the air into nodules in its roots, which helps to improve soil fertility.  Large amounts of clover should be avoided due to the potential health problems it can cause; in particularly wet seasons clover can become mouldy and consequently toxic to horses

Grazing horses have access to a wide variety of plants; few fields are totally free of poisonous plants. Luckily, poisonous plants are rarely eaten when the horse has adequate food. Problems occur when there is little grass available to eat and they may eat a poisonous plant due to hunger.

All fields and boundary fences and hedges should be inspected for any poisonous plants before horses are turned out into the area. Any poisonous plants found should be removed and burnt, particularly ragwort which is more poisonous when dead. Some of the most common plants poisonous to horses include Ragwort, Laurel, Yew, Foxglove, Ivy, Deadly Nightshade, Laburnum, Buttercup, Lantana, White cedar, Star thistle, Birdsville indigo, Oleander, Zamia palm, African boxthorn and Night Scented Jasmine.

  • Ragwort is probably the most dangerous poisonous plant for horses; it is widespread and develops easily in pastures in poor condition. Horses do not normally eat it in its growing state but its presence in hay is dangerous. It is best to remove the plant by hand and burn the remains before the land is grazed.   Once horses have started to eat it, they often develop a taste for it and will actually search it out. It causes liver damage which may not affect the animal until much later on its life
  • Yew poisoning is usually the result of animals straying or eating clippings, which are as poisonous as the fresh plant
  • Laburnum often overhangs fences from adjoining gardens
  • All parts of the deadly nightshade plant are poisonous; particularly the roots and berries which look like black cherries when ripe
  • Check for acorns and green oak leaves hanging over a field boundary
  • Privet should never be used as a hedge plant for a horse field boundary
  • Buttercups are normally rejected by the horse but can be eaten if there is not adequate grass. They spread rapidly and are an indication of high acidity in the land. They are eradicated by spraying with an appropriate weedkiller

If an area of grazing is to provide a nutritionally adequate and economical food source for a horse, a sound maintenance programme is required. If constantly grazed without rest and proper management the land will become 'horse sick' and quickly deteriorate. Horses will generally only eat the grass they like and they will not eat coarse or rank grass which grows as a result of droppings continually souring the ground.

As well as improving grass quality, removing droppings from the grazing area also plays a big part in reducing a horse’s parasite burden. The majority of worms that affect a horse spend a major part of their life cycle lying dormant in the ground or attached to the grass. By removing droppings regularly the life cycle of the worms is disrupted and consequently the horse’s worm burden is reduced. 



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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
Cheryl Wilson

Cheryl has spent two decades working in agriculture, equine and education industries, across England, Scotland, Australia and New Zealand. She graduated with a B.Sc.(Hons), HND Horse Mgt, C&G Teaching Cert. For several years, Cheryl managed the distance
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