Ten issues to consider for new horse tenants

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If you haven’t had a lot of experience with horses moving into your stable, or even if you have, there are some simple things you can do to ease the transition for the new arrival as well as you and your existing herd.

  1. If possible, find out the grain type and amount being fed at the prior barn. It’s best to slowly introduce a horse to new feeds, so if you can buy some of the former feed and transition over to your choice, this will help reduce the risk of colic. If you do not know what the horse was eating, it’s better to start with low amounts and increase over time rather than risk foundering a horse that is not used to a lot of grain.
  2. See if a few bales of hay can be sent with the horse. This way you can introduce him to your hay over time.
  3. Figure out turnout arrangements prior to the horse’s arrival. Usually it’s best, if you’re going to be turning the horse out with others, to pick one horse to test their behavior and temperament that will be firm but fair if they get aggressive.  If possible, introduce a new horse to a herd adding one horse at a time.
  4. Horses that are not accustomed to grass need to be introduced to it slowly. If you will be eventually turning a horse new to your facility out on acreage where good quality and ample grass is readily available, start with ½ hour of grazing and increase daily by ½ – ¾ of an hour each day until you reach six hours.
  5. Have an area on your property where you can isolate new arrivals for about two weeks to ensure they are not carrying illness into the barn that can be spread to others. At least one horse should be in this area with them so as not to add stress to their move, but it’s best to keep them away from the rest of the horses in the barn when possible.
  6. Get vet records on the horse to determine when he was vaccinated and any other issues that have been a factor that you should be aware of.
  7. Determine when the horse was wormed, when his teeth were last checked and when his feet were trimmed/shod.
  8. Be clear about what fees will be covered by the owner and when payment is expected. It’s best to have a written contract, but this isn’t always feasible.
  9. Discuss barn rules prior to arrival if the owner will be coming to care for or ride the horse. Also, have safety policies in place that are enforced to ensure riders, horses and property are protected.  Equine liability insurance is advisable in any situation where you will be allowing others to handle horses on your property.
  10. Keep a close eye on the new horse initially to determine his normal behavior and be able to recognize quickly if something is wrong.

Bringing a new horse into the barn can be an exciting time, especially for the small operation that doesn’t see a lot of traffic. It can also be a nightmare. If you have a good plan in place to address potential challenges before they occur, though, life should be easier for all involved.

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