First Horse or Pony Facility Preparation
There are a few things to keep in mind when preparing your facility for your first horse or pony. The most important are space, shelter and water.
When we talk about space, horses and ponies are grazing animals and they need to be able to move throughout the day. Placing them in a stall or small paddock 24-7 isn’t good for their physical or mental state. Depending on their exercise level and maintenance program, a turnout or dry lot can be sufficient. Ideally, you’ll want a pasture with approximately two acres for the first horse or pony and an additional acre for each horse or pony added to the herd.
The kind of fence used in your pasture is essential to your horse or pony’s health. Having the wrong kind of pasture fence (barbed wire, smooth wire or large square mesh fences) can lead to very hazardous situations that can be career ending. If the fence at the facility housing your horse or pony is already in place, make sure to check for holes or potentially dangerous places. Repair anywhere the horse or pony can escape or get injured. If the fence looks problematic, I recommend putting up an electric fence inside of current fence.
If you’re building or renovating a fence, there are options to consider:
Wooden fences look neat and are sturdy, but they do take maintenance to keep horses from chewing on them and the boards from rotting due to weathering.
Wire fences such as woven or V-mesh fences are a good option. When using a wire fence, just make sure that a horse or pony can’t get a leg or something stuck in the wire. It’s also beneficial to have a top rail of some sort for stability and to keep horses and ponies from pushing through it over time.
PVC fence looks good and lasts a long time, but it can be broken and if the horses or ponies figure out how to push through it, it can be hard to keep them in.
Pipe fences are solid and keep horses from running through it. While unlikely, if they do get caught or try to jump over it, a pipe fence doesn’t have much give and can cause injuries.
Electric fence is a good option to stand alone or provide additional support to the types of fence listed above. It’s important to monitor the horse or pony for the first few hours they’re enclosed in an electric fence. The initial shock can send them running through the fence. Typically, they will respect if after that.
Once you have the pasture fenced off, taking care of the pasture and forage your horse or pony will be eating is important. Each region has its own pasture management programs. Soil type, climate and landscape all play a role. To find the best pasture management options, contact your local extension office. You’ll want to be sure to rid of any harmful plants or weeds that can cause your horse or pony to become ill and find a way to manage the pasture so it reaches its full potential for your equine animal’s requirements. Dry lots or part time confinement may be recommended and need to be planned for accordingly.
You’ll want to make sure to have proper shelter for your horse or pony. While they don’t necessarily need an enclosed box stall free of anything harmful, they do need something to protect them from nature’s elements such as rain, wind, snow, hail and extreme heat. The shelter should be at least 10 feet x 12 feet for one horse or pony and 8 feet tall. If it is a metal or steel building, I recommend putting a border (plywood, fence, etc.) around the bottom 4 foot – 5 foot to prevent injuries if they were to roll or kick into the building. You’ll want to place the shed where it blocks the wind and has good drainage. It needs to be accessible to clean and feed out of if needed. If you have a sick or injured horse or pony you’ll want to be able to get to it with a truck and trailer and close it off for confinement purposes.
Some people like to add storage for hay and feed onto their shelter. It’s a good idea to have somewhere dry to store your hay, feed and supplies. The elements can cause hay and grain to mold or rot and, while it’s inevitable to keep critters way from hay storage, the less, the better. Animals like racoons and opossums spread diseases to horses and ponies.
Lastly, you will need a clean and sufficient water supply. Many people rely on automatic waters or natural resources. No matter what you choose to use, you’ll want a clean and reliable water source. You can find information on the facilities water at your local extension office. When using an automatic water, be sure to check that it doesn’t freeze over when it’s cold and clean it occasionally. If you have a natural resource, such as a pond or stream, make sure it’s safe for horses and ponies to access and if the pond or stream freeze, be sure you can supply them water another way. Don’t allow them to drink out of stagnant waters as they can have bacteria and other harmful toxins that can lead to illnesses.
Starting on the right foot with your horse or pony ownership journey will make it easier as time progresses. Setting yourself up to prevent illness and injury will give you less headaches and will make the experience more enjoyable for everyone involved. Plus, proper maintenance increases your property value in the long run.
For additional information on caring for horses or ponies, check out our website www.performancepony.com, email firstname.lastname@example.org or call or text me, Camie Widmer at (641) 799-5042.
I found these links very helpful and they provide additional information on space, shelter and water needs for horses and ponies.