Getting to Know Your New Horse

Learn about your horse’s health, behavior, and personality as you acclimate him to a new home, diet, and herd.
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Getting to Know Your New Horse
Once you’ve ensured your new horse’s health, wellness, and diet needs are met, it’s time to start building the relationship that will carry you into the future. | Photo: iStock

Your new horse is almost here and, understandably, you can’t wait to get him under tack and start on your new adventure! But before you swing a leg over, there’s a laundry list of things you’ll need to take care of to ensure your horse has a smooth transition into his new life and home. Not doing so could leave your new arrival at risk for many potentially serious health conditions, ranging from colic to poor organ function. But don’t worry—we’re here to guide you through welcoming a recent purchase or adoption to his new farm with his health and mental wellness in mind.

General Health and Wellness

Exactly how well and how long it takes a new horse settle in will depend on a number of factors, including his health status, temperament, and previous care, said Jenny Biehunko DVM, Res. ACVB, a veterinarian and behaviorist at Veterinary Behavior Consultants of Alabama, in Pelham. That said, there are some guidelines owners can follow in the first few weeks of a horse’s time at a new facility.

If your horse has traveled over state lines, he likely came with a health certificate and proof of Coggins test indicating he’s negative for equine infectious anemia. Also ask for his health records to verify he’s up to date on vaccinations. Even if you know a horse’s health history, you should quarantine a fresh arrival from resident horses for at least three weeks to minimize the risk of disease transmission, Biehunko said. Horses shouldn’t be able to touch noses, but it’s best if they can see other equids to help satisfy their social need for herdmates

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Erica Larson, former news editor for The Horse, holds a degree in journalism with an external specialty in equine science from Michigan State University in East Lansing. A Massachusetts native, she grew up in the saddle and has dabbled in a variety of disciplines including foxhunting, saddle seat, and mounted games. Currently, Erica competes in eventing with her OTTB, Dorado.

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