Fit from Head-to-Hoof: A Simple Daily Health Check for Your Horse

how to look after a horse

If you’re new to owning a horse taking a few minutes to check over your horse each day for any signs of illness, disease or discomfort can minimize the time and money spent on unnecessary visits from the vet. Plus it’s a great chance to get to know your horse better, making it easier to recognize the signs when something is wrong. This head-to-hoof nine-point health check should take less than fifteen minutes to complete and built into your daily routine will help to ensure that your horse enjoys a happy and healthy life.

Starting at the head, check your horse’s:


The lips should be free of sores and cracks, particularly in the area which comes into contact with the bit. Sores and ulcers can be treated with antiseptic ointment provided by your vet, and a bridle should not be used whilst healing is taking place.

Your horse’s gums should be a healthy pink color. If they are pale or discolored it is worth seeking a vet’s advice as your horse may not be taking in enough water and may be suffering from dehydration which can quickly result in weakness.
Watch your horse when it eats – if it is dropping significant amounts of food this can indicate dental discomfort or pain and, again, should be investigated by a vet.


A thick yellow or green discharge from your horse’s nose may be the indicator of a contagious disease such as horse flu and should be checked by a vet, as should any sign of bleeding from the nose.


You can keep your horse’s eyes clean with a damp sponge (use a different sponge for each eye to avoid the transference if infections), but any persistent discharge from the eyes should be checked out. Irritants such as grit or seeds that have lodged in the eye should be removed by a vet – attempting to do it yourself may cause more harm than good.


Gently check your horse’s ears and the top of his head between them for any signs that the bridle is causing sores or discomfort.


Starting between your horse’s shoulder, place your finger and thumb either side of his spine and, applying slight pressure, run your hand along his back toward the tail. If your horse flinches or moves away he may be experiencing muscular discomfort in his back which may require attention from a horse chiropractor.


Check the areas where your saddle and girth sit for signs of irritation, broken skin, hair loss or blisters. Excessive rubbing from a saddle or girth will eventually result in painful saddle sores, so early detection and prevention are vitally important.


Lift your horse’s tail to check for indications of diahorrea (also referred to as ‘scouring’) on the hindquarters or legs. Scouring can indicate a parasitic infection or other intestinal disorder which are normally avoided by an effective worming regime and high-fiber diet. Persistent scouring will require a vet’s attention.


Gently run your hands up and down each leg to check for any areas of swelling or cuts. Lumps and selling should be checked out as they may indicate tendon damage. If all is well your horse should not flinch or show signs of discomfort when you check his legs.


Finally, check each of your horse’s feet to ensure that there are no problems with missing nails and loose horseshoes and to remove any stones that may have become lodged. Gently tap the base of the hoof (but not the central ‘frog’) – if your horse flinches or pulls his foot away he may be experiencing foot pain. Check the outer edge of each hoof for cracks. And that’s it – if your horse passes this quick daily health check you can be confident that he’s fit from head to hoof; but if you see anything that causes concern whilst you’re checking your horse don’t leave it to chance – seek advice from a vet.

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