Care and management of Equines

Pashu Sandesh, 09 March 2019

Dr. Deepikesh Joshi, Dr. Brijesh Kumar, Dr. Shashi Kumar and Dr. Vipin Chandra

Equines are mono gastric herbivorous animals. They can digest a good amount of fibrous feed in caecum, even though they have a simple stomach. Their hoof has no cleft and they are even-toed animals. They are better than bullocks as draught animals. They are well-known for their intelligence and common sense. ‘Check ligaments’ present in the hip joints of horses restricts them to remain standing while sleeping. Horses lie down very rarely as compared to donkeys and mules. 

India has some well-defined native breeds of horses which are 7 in no. namely Bhutia, Spiti, Zanskari, Kachchi-Sindhi, Marwari, Kathiawari and Manipuri. Kachchi-Sindhi is the latest registered breed of horse found in the states of Gujarat and Rajasthan.

Kathiawari and Marwari are known for their easy pace, speed, endurance and grace of movement. Sickle-shaped hock joint is found in Kathiawadi breed of horse with common colours of the breed being chestnut, brown, grey and bay.


Horses are loosely housed in inpidual stables. They can also be put in row of stalls that are 1.7 m wide and 3.3 m long.


Common concentrate feeds given to horses are gram, barley, oats and wheat bran. Other fodders fed to horses are Lucerne, green or hay, grass hays and oats fodder. Natural forage for horses is pasture grass.

Work done by horses can be pided into 3 types i.e. light, medium and heavy. If there are no means to weigh animals, then their approximate body weight may be determined using the formulae as suggested by Y. Dewrst (1975) as follows:

  1. Body weight (kg) = Chest girth (cm) x 2.7 for light horses.
  2. Body weight (kg) = Chest girth (cm) x 3.1 for medium- sized horses.
  3. Body weight (kg) = Chest girth (cm) x 3.5 for heavy horses.

There are different feeding norms for horses performing different types of works given by A.P. Soldatov in practical manual in Animal Husbandry (Russian), Kolos Publishers, Moscow, 1975.

Working equines are ideally fed the whole daily rations which are pided into 4-6 separate meals. Avoiding full feeding immediately before and after work, changing ration composition gradually and regularity in feeding are some of the important points to be kept in mind regarding feeding of horses.

Fodders should be fed to the horses before grains but if fodder is chopped then it can be fed, both the chopped fodder and grains should be mixed and fed together. Grain part of the ration must be fed inpidually. They should be offered 25-40 grams of mineral mixture per day depending on their size and nature of work.


For at least 20-30 minutes before and after performance of strenuous work, equines must not be provided with water. Ad-libitum quantity of clean and fresh water should be provided at all times. Providing water to the horse before feeding is the general practice. For the horses housed in stables, water troughs are filled thrice a day in summers and twice a day in winters. In the areas with water scarcity, an adult horse must get 40-50 liters of water per day with the amount being higher in summers and for working equines.


Horses should be shoed when they are used for work for the first time, which is by 2-3 years of age. Re-shoeing time depends on the type of work done by the horse.


Best breeding season for horses in India and other Asian countries is early spring. A filly must be bred when they attain 3/4th of their mature body weight at about 3 years of age. The gestation period of horse is 10.5-11.5 months. This period depends on the size of the breed. Oestrus period lasts for 4-7 days while the oestrus cycle extends up to 21 days. Signs of oestrus in horses include frequent urination, nickering and swelling and movement of vulva along with biting other animals.

Breeding in mare is done 2-3 days after the appearance of signs of oestrus. One stallion can be used to breed about 30-40 mares depending on its age and number of services practiced per mare with serving usually done five times in a week. 

The signs of approaching parturition in mares are presence of wax beads on its teats one to two days before parturition. Relaxation of vulvar lips and a depression of croup muscles on either side of the tail, restlessness, sweating along with lying down and getting up frequently are seen immediately before foaling.  

A healthy foal gets up and seeks its mother’s udder within 2-3 hours. Colostrum feeding should be done to the foal during this time. Milk of magnesia can be given to ensure the passing of meconium. Placenta should usually be expelled by the mare in 3 hours. If all the parts of the placenta are not shed by mare in 6 hours, veterinary help must be sought. Both mare and foal should be allowed to walk in a paddock adjacent to the calving box for helping the toning-up of mare’s uterus and developing immunity in the foal. 


Due to improper management, horses may be subjected to ailments like sore-feet, colic, pneumonia, fly-blown condition, run-down condition, Influenza or Pink eye, Strangles, Glanders, Farcy, South African Horse Sickness and Tetanus. Vaccination programme should be carried out in horses for these diseases. Providing clean feed and water, maintaining sanitation in the farm and practicing quarantine of newly purchased animals are some other points related to management of equines in a farm.

Hence, it is clear that the afore mentioned points play an essential role in farm management of equines and the farm managers or horse-keepers can keep their horses in a healthy condition keeping these management pre-requisites in mind. 

Dr. Deepikesh Joshi1, Dr. Brijesh Kumar2, Dr. Shashi Kumar3 and Dr. Vipin Chandra4

  1. Assistant Professor, Department of Livestock Production Management, Apollo College of Veterinary Medicine, Jaipur (Rajasthan),
  2. Assistant Professor, Department of Veterinary Pathology, Apollo College of Veterinary Medicine, Jaipur (Rajasthan),
  3. Assistant Professor, Department of Veterinary Anatomy, Apollo College of Veterinary Medicine, Jaipur (Rajasthan),
  4. Research Scholar, Department of Livestock Production Management, Post Graduate Institute of Veterinary Education and Research, Jaipur (Rajasthan)