Keeping Horses As Pets

Pet Care Pet Health Pets Posted Jul 27, 2021
Some may think adoptions exclusively include dogs and cats. However, here at RSPCA, we have so much more to offer you – including our marvelous equestrian friends.

Horses need lots of space to roam, eat A LOT, and have great personalities. Check out our horses looking for homes at RSPCA Queensland here.

Benefits of owning a horse

1. Social Benefits

Owning a horse can be a great way to meet new people through local clubs and social media groups. The horse community is fairly active and inclusive, offering owners a space to share their passion and love of horses with one another.

2. Great Companionship

Horses are known for their ‘larger than life’ personalities. Each horse has their own unique set of personality traits and characteristics that are easy to fall in love with. They may look big and tough, but behind their large exterior, they have a heart of gold and enjoy an active and healthy outdoor lifestyle. Horses can make great companions and help encourage owners to spend more time in nature, away from everyday stresses.  Horses have also been known to be great for healing — therapy horses/horsemanship.

horse standing with owner

3. Long Lifespan 

Unlike many common household pets such as cats, birds and dogs, horses have a much longer lifespan. Depending on the breed, the average lifespan for a horse ranges between 25 and 30 years. Prince, a thoroughbred in RSPCA care, just found his forever home at the ripe old age of 34, turning 35!

When it comes to adopting a horse, often RSPCA horses have come into care after being seized from less than ideal circumstances. Some may not have had adequate living conditions, nutrition or care, or even handling. So some horses can make great paddock companions once they have been rehabilitated, but may not be suitable to ride. 

So you’re convinced a horse is the pet for you… what basic horse care do you need to know first?

Animal Care Basics for Owning a Horse

Here at RSPCA we really love our horses, so before being able to adopt one of our equine friends, your house will need a property check. This is to make sure that you are equipped and ready to introduce a new member into your family. It is also important that prior to adopting one of these incredible animals, you consider the following animal care basics to ensure that your horse is happy and healthy.  

Council Regulations

Be sure to check your Council regulations and requirements to allow for keeping horses. Then you can start looking at your property to ensure the setup is right for caring for a horse.


Horses need shelter that offers shade in the warmer months and protection from rain and wind in the cooler months. Their shelter space also needs to be large enough to ensure they can feel comfortable enough to lie down. The best place for shelter is in an area away from fencing and in an area not prone to flooding. This will prevent your horse getting soft hooves which makes them prone to bruising and injuries. Give your horse a well-drained stable area and remove manure.

It is also important for horses to have access to at least an acre of hazard-free pasture to roam around throughout the day when they are not spending time in their shelter. Fencing around your property should be safe and secure.

Read more on having the right amount of shade and shelter for your horse here.

Food and Water

Grass or an equivalent amount of healthy hay is required for your horse. As each horse is unique, it is important to check with your vet or specialist if you’re unsure about what type of diet your horse will need. For example, some horses require extra nutrition that can be offered in a variety of foods other than hay (eg. Lucerne, grassy Barley chaff depending on the horse needs, pellets, muesli mixes, sweet feeds, extruded feeds, and micronized feeds, which help the digestion). If you’re looking for a treat to reward your horse with, they also love molasses and licorice!

Fresh water is another crucial part of all horses’ diets. You should always have fresh water available for your horse throughout the day — it is recommended that they drink between 30-50L of fresh water daily, so self-filling water troughs are recommended, but still require a daily check. If you have flying foxes in your area you’ll need to ensure your water troughs are covered, under shelter or in a stable.

Tip: Never feed your horse lawn mower clippings! Here’s why.

Social Interaction & Exercise

Horses are herd animals and thrive on companionship. Having another friend will help prevent loneliness and boredom. Keeping horses busy with salt licks (also good for additional mineral uptake) or general exercise are other ways that can prevent loneliness and developing bad vices — cribbing (wind sucking), weaving, or self-mutilation.

Read more on why it’s a good idea to ensure your horse has other equine friends here.

Another benefit of having more than one horse is they also help each other exercise! Horses that live at pasture with other horses in a herd will exercise themselves if the paddock has good pasture. We’ve got some more tips on exercising your horse here and their daily requirements.

Basic items you’ll need when owning a horse

  • Brushes (curry comb, dandy brush, body brush)
  • Hoof pick
  • Halter
  • Lead rope
  • Fly mask
  • Day rug/ night rug
  • Poo pick (horse manure must be picked up regularly to prevent possible worm ingestion)
  • Basic first aid kit
  • A local Veterinarian (for routine and emergency treatment) and Farrier
  • A produce place who can supply you with feed year round

horse portrait

Veterinary Care

Owners should always have an emergency vet on speed dial in case of emergencies — colic / large injuries are all considered emergencies. Common horse issues include, colic, laminitis, arthritis and Hendra. It’s important to ensure your horse is vaccinated against Hendra virus. Here’s why!

It’s also important to ensure you have regular farrier visits to keep your horse’s hooves in check. How often?  We have more information here about farrier visits for your horse.

Yearly dental checks are also important for your horse. Read more about horse dental care here. Good dental health also ensures your horse is processing their feed well which helps them maintain condition.

While keeping a horse as a pet can be incredibly fulfilling, please ensure that you do your research prior to adoption so that you are equipped with the knowledge to provide our majestic creatures with a loving and supportive home. Read Oolgie’s happy tail here.

If you have any questions about adopting a horse or basic care needs, please do not hesitate to contact the RSPCA and talk to your local vet.

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