equine care

The Complete Beginners Guide


This is something that was heavily requested by beginner riders, everything here that I have spoken about was requested by you guys. I am not a professional and everything that is said is what I know and what I have learnt personally and what I teach kids in lessons and every day at work where I’m working with people who have never touched a horse before coming out on trail rides. I do not suggest those who are a beginners reading this to try any of the medical things I’ve talked about, please speak to a professional or your trainer before even attempting it.

I hope you all enjoy this, it has taken me ages to get this all together and type this up. If you wish to have another topic added to this post or you have a question about ANYTHING that I have said here please feel free to ask me any questions you have and I’ll be more than happy to answer it.

This post will go into the FAQ for future reference for everyone so it will be easier to find!


      What to Wear

As a beginner rider, you DONT have to go to the barn, stables whatever looking like a million dollars every day especially if you’re on a budget!

The best things to wear are any old shirts or if you want to look a bit more decent a polo shirt is always good and you can pick them up pretty cheap (I’m talking $4+). When you ride you want to wear something comfortable but enough to protect your legs from being rubbed my the stirrup leathers so wearing a pair of jeans, jodhpurs or breeches OR if you’re really feeling lazy you can of course wear sweat pants/track pants riding since they are EXTREMELY comfortable!

You should always wear boots when riding, or at least something with a heel so your whole foot does not slipping through the stirrups and boots that have a flat sole with a little treading in case you do happen to fall off your foot can slide out and not get stuck. You don’t need to go out and spend HUNDREDS of dollars on fancy tall boots, all you really need is just a pair of paddock boots and half chaps or if you ride western just a pair of western boots!

Helmets! You should ALWAYS ride with a helmet on your head, i don’t give a shit if your ride western and it makes you look dumb just WEAR A HELMET! It’s better than not wearing one and falling off and either killing yourself or ending up with bad head/brain injuries.

Helmets are fairly cheap and again you DONT need to go spend stupid amounts of money on a helmet because of its brand because ALL helmets out on the market right this second are all tested the same, they all have the same safety standards. You’re only paying for the brand.

When getting a helmet you should make sure the helmet fits your head correctly, the helmet should not slip back or slip down to your nose with movement, it should sit firmly on your head but not enough that it will give you a headache while riding (consult a sales assistant in your local tack store to help you out!)

NEVER buy a helmet second hand for one reason, when you fall off you ‘should’ replace your helmet because there could unseen cracks on or inside your helmet which can make the helmet not do its job very well next time you fall off!

Catching a horse & Grooming:

                 How to catch a horse

To catch a horse you will need and halter/headstall and a lead rope! The key thing is, is to be organized with your halter and lead rope (lead rope should be clipped to the halter) before you walk into the paddock or stall. Once you are ready, walk into the paddock or stall and approach your horse slowly, if the horse stands there calmly and doesn’t run off, put the lead rope over the horse’s neck so if the horse dose decide to do a runner you have something to grab hold of the horse with. Next slip the horses nose through the nose band and pull the halter on, then put your right arm over the horses head (ideally just behind the ears and grab the straps that’s going to buckle up and continue to pull the halter on and buckle it up! pull the lead rope off around the horses neck and off you go to the barn or tie up rail, post whatever.

if you horse is the run off as soon as they see you walk towards them with a halter type its best to make there little habit into work! (Only if the paddock they are in isn’t 987795637242894 acres!) Chase the horse around the paddock as if you were lunging the horse, they will soon tire out and give up. Bribing with feed is the WORST thing to do but if it becomes beyond the joke then use feed.

               How to unrug

Unrug is easy but again can be dangerous since you’re playing around the horses back legs with straps. To unrug either tire your horse up to something that will break if the horse pulls back. Next unbuckle the neck and fold in down onto the horses back, then undo the chest straps, once you have done this run you hand down the side of the horse and over his butt so the horse knows you there and unclip the leg straps and then clip them back up to the rug. (Makes it sooooo much easier when you go to rug again!) and then slowly take the rug off the horse and fold it up and put it somewhere, were it won’t be in yours or anyone else’s way.

                How to groom

Grooming a horse is very straight forward! You will need a body brush, dandy brush, curry comb, hoof pick and a mane and tail brush and maybe a sponge to wipe snot out of noses and gunky shit out of their eyes.

Brush with the fur and not against it as it will feel uncomfortable for the horse!

                 What to look for when grooming you horse?

When grooming it’s also a fantastic time to look over the horse for cuts, scraps, lumps and bumps that could of happened over night in the paddock or stable.

                Cleaning hooves and what to look for in hooves

To clean out your horse’s hooves you need a hoof pick! Once you have that simply stand side on to the horses leg so you butt is facing towards the front of the horse. Once you’re in this position running you left hand down the horses leg to their tendons which are located at the cannon bone above the fetlock and give a little squeeze on the tendon and the horse should pick up its hoof for you which then you quickly run that left hand down on the hoof when the horse shifts its weight to pick up, once you have hold of the hoof get your hoof pick and start picking the dirt, mud and poop out of the hoof. While doing this you should be also checking that the horse does not have any thrush which is commonly around the horse’s frog and will be powdery looking and white and will smell disgusting which you will notice the second you start picking out the horses hoof and is something you should treat as soon as possible. It’s good to treat Thrust with something strong enough to kill the bacterial infection but gentle enough to not irritate and kill off good tissue in the horse’s hooves some good treatments are iodine solutions, cider vinegar, tea tree oil and menthol based creams, but please consult a vet, farrier or a trainer before going in and treating it!

You should also look for cracks and holes in the hoof wall for Seedy Toe with is another bacterial infection from walking in wet paddocks and arenas all the time. It is another quick fix and all you will need is a hoof knife, a pocket knife, a tin of blue stone and a container of sole pack which is basically a putty.

Pick your horses hoof up and find the hole with your hoof knife and dig around, once you find the hole get your pick knife and start digging into it and scrap all the black infection out of it and you will know that it is the infection as soon as you start digging and scrapping into it as it will give off a really bad smell. Once you have dug out as much of it as you can, do not let the horse put its hoof down until your finished treating it. Grab a handful of blue stone and sprinkle a good amount into the hole you have just dug the blue stone is like an anti-bacterial to help kill the infection once you have packed the hole with blue stone, get a small amount of sole pack and smooth it over the top of the blue stone to seal that hole up and keep that blue stone in. Once you have done that your horse is free to go and you should do that every few day or at least once a week until the infection has cleared up! (Again please get a vet or farrier in to check it out first)  

Tack & Tacking up:

                        What tack to use?

There is MANY different varieties of tack out there that can be very confusing to someone who has just started in the equestrian world so i will run through the basics and what those items do!


There is also many varieties of saddles in the world made for different disciplines of riding. The main ones you will see in a tack store will see:

All Purpose Saddle - which is a saddle commonly used because well the name says it all, it can be used for anything English! The seat of an AP saddle is deep enough for dressage and the cantle of the saddle is low enough to jump but still high enough for the dressage use of it. The flaps are in between the sizes of a dressage and jumping saddle.

Jumping/ Close Contact Saddles - A jumping saddle is a saddle used for riders who compete and ride doing Show Jumping, Cross Country or US Hunter Jumpers. The seat is almost flat to give the rider more space to move themselves with the horse over higher jumps to make it easier on the horse compared to a dressage saddle that has a higher cantle to keep the rider in place. The saddle also has shorter flats as a jumping rider will have shortened up stirrup leathers so they can get themselves out of the saddle and into a two point seat.

Dressage Saddle - A dressage saddle is used for dressage (obviously) the saddle has a much deeper seat for the rider to feel the horse under neither them and to keep themselves in the right position to execute the right signal to the horse. The flaps on a dressage saddle are long and normally have big knee rolls to again keep the rider in the right position!

Australian Stock Saddle - A stock saddle is styled like an English saddle X with a Western saddle, it has long flats, a deep western-ish English styled seat with a high cantle, it has knee rolls that sit just in front of your thighs to keep you locked into the saddle and secured and are made to be ridden in for long hours for weather you’re doing cattle work, trail riding, or even for playing Polo Cross or doing camp drafting in. The Stock saddle is also a VERY ideal saddle to break a horse in with for obvious reasons! However the stock saddle has NO horn.

(if you have one with a horn you should probably set fire to the fugly thing ;) )

Australian Swinging Fender/ Half Breed Saddle - The same as the stock saddle they are a mix between a western saddle and the stock saddle. They have the stock saddle tree and seat and the western saddle stirrup leathers and stirrups and the girth is done the same as a western saddle on some of them and have NO horn.

Western Saddle -  Similar to the stock saddle varieties is the Western saddle, It’s something that is more popular in the US and is used for cattle work or doing rodeo activities along with trail riding. Again this is another saddle that is made to be ridden in for long hours and this saddle does have a horn.

(Where a horn should belong!)

                                  Saddle Fitting

Not all saddles will fit your horse! Every horse has a different body shape… just like us. Some horses will have high withers and some with a wither you can’t even see because the horse is so fat or just have a really flat back. Some horses are wider and some are skinner so it’s very important to have a saddle that fits your horses back correctly. If you saddle does not fit correctly your horses will more than definitely let you know about it by either

- Bucking and pig rooting while being ridden.

- Get girth shy and try and turn around and bite you.

- Get a very sore back and you will notice if you ran you hand down there back and they start to flinch and tense up.

- Pressure marks will come up in the horse’s fur as white patches of hair.

If your horse start doing these things it’s a good idea to stop riding them and get a professional saddle fitter out to fit a new saddle to them.

Ideally when fitting a saddle to a horse you should ALWAYS try the saddle on them WITHOUT a saddle pad first. The saddle should be able to comfortably sit behind the shoulder blade and you should be able to run your hand between the horse and gullet pretty comfortably. Next you need to make sure the pommel of the saddle isn’t in contact with the wither you need at least 2 -3 fingers clearance. Next the saddle should sit balanced on the horses back, so move the saddle side to side and it should stay in place. Lastly the length of the saddle matters too! The saddle should NOT past the last rib on the horse which is more case with Western saddle and Stock saddles!

**disclaimer: I’m not a professional saddle fitter, this is just what I’ve been taught and it’s worked out pretty well for me. I do suggest going to a trained professional (trainer at your barn or an actually saddle fitter) that knows how to saddle fit for advice **

                                    Leg stretching

Now that you have your horse saddled and ready to go, it’s always best to stretch the front legs! By stretching the front legs you pulling the skin out from under the girth which will prevent girth galls/chaffing but not only that it will help make your horse not so stiff in the shoulder if they are worked constantly and your horse will probably love you for it!


                   Mounting your horse

When you mount a horse you should always mount it from the left hand side (near side), put your left foot into the stirrup while holding onto either the front of the saddle, cantle of the saddle or both while you have one hand on the reins so you horse does not move off. It is best and better on a horses back to mount with a mounting block, log, milk crate or someone to give you a leg up! So you’re not putting a lot of strain on the horses back before you’re even on top of them. Not only that but it will be better on your saddle and especially your stirrup leathers in the long run!

Once you are on the horse and you’re happy with the length of your stirrup leathers you then need to make sure that only the ball of your foot is in the stirrups and your heels are down (this applies to you western kids too!) Why you ask? When you only have the ball of your feet in the stirrups you will have more balance and it’s a tone more safer for in case you fall off your feet can slide out easier and quicker than having your whole foot in the stirrup where you have the risk of your foot getting stuck in the stirrup if you were to fall off. With your heels down it will make your legs feel more comfortable in the long run if you’re riding for a few hours and it’s also helps to not accidently nudge the horse to go faster when you don’t want to.


Now that you’re on the horse, you need to control it! It’s very straight forward.

Stop - simply pull back gently on the reins and apply more pressure if the horse is not stopping quickly enough for you. Make sure when your pulling back you keep your hands low and below your belly button! If you pull high and towards you head (like i have seen MANY MANY MANY times) the horse is NOT going to listen.

Left - Shorten up your reins and pull your left rein towards your left hip (keep your hands low)

Right - Shorten up your reins and pull your right rein towards your right hip (keep you hands low)

Go - to make the horse go, simply move your feet back till you can feel the horses belly and squeeze your heel on them. Once they start moving move your feet away and off there belly until you wish to go faster.

Shortening up reins - When someone tells you to “shorten up your reins’ it’s just mean to run your hands further down the rein to shorten them up a bit so you have a bit more control.

- Walk

A walk is a 4 beat pace that is the first thing that will ever happen as soon as you tap that horse to move forward, it’s very easy and smooth and pretty much straight forward.

- Balance

Balance is everything at a walk you should be able to comfortable be able to ride the horse at a walk with no stirrup and no hands and still be able to sit correctly

     - Transition to trot

To move onto a trot, squeeze the horse with your heel and your horse should start to trot, sit TWO or THREE beats of the trot to get the rhythm and then start to rise!


   - What is a trot?

A trot is a TWO beat pace, it is very rough and is one of the hardest paces of a horse and a pace that is known to loose riders balance if they are trying it for the first time

   - Rising/posting

Since the trot had two beats you want to be able to rise to EVERY second beat. The easiest way to explain it is, if you can feel the saddle hitting your ass you’re supposed to be standing for a second and then sitting and then standing etc.

   - Sitting

A sitting trot is something that is used in a lot of dressage work and obviously can be used for anything because it is a very handy thing to learn especially for transitioning into a canter!

What you want to do is to slow the horses trot down or even better bring the horse back to a walk, sit deep, keep your heels down, sit up and straight and then move your horse into a trot, do NOT grip with your legs otherwise you will just bounce off the horse. As you are trotting you want to your legs right down to your heels to take the shock/movement of the trot while your just sitting there taking it.

  - Transition to canter and balance

To transition you want to be sitting the trot for a few stride while squeezing the horse on into a canter, you balance in between that might be off but once you practice that sitting trot you will be able to transition into that canter a lot smoother and more balanced.

- Canter

  - What is a canter?

A canter is a THREE beat pace, it is very smooth and easy to ride. (Depending on the horse!!)

   - seated

Being seated in a canter is a basic that should be learnt the second you start cantering and for some odd reason I find a LOT of people I have no clue. When a horse is cantering you move in a rocking horse kind of motion, you move with the horse not against it. To stay seated you keep your heels down, sit deep, and don’t grip with your legs just like a sitting trot but this will be a thousand times easier and you not getting bounced around the place!

   - Half seat/ two point

A half seat or a two point seat is something used by people who do show jumping or hunter jumpers and you will see them standing and leaning forward like they are galloping but they are just cantering into a jump, they find it easier to half seat it around the course for fuck knows why but it’s also the position to be in when you’re about to take off at a jump to make it easier on the horse to get over that rail.

- Gallop

   - What is a gallop?

A gallop is a FOUR beat pace, it is the fastest pace a horse can go.

   - How to gallop

To gallop squeeze your horse again while in a canter and the horse will start to take off striding out longer and pick the pace up and you will soon find its too hard to sit so the best thing to do it stand up into a half seat/two point seat.

-  Artificial Aids (crop, spurs, martingales etc.)

Artificial Aids on a horse are your spurs, your crop, the martingales anything else that is attached to the horse to aid it.

   - How to use them correctly

An artificial aid is basically and extension of something so the spurs are an extension of your leg, your crop is an extension of your arm. However to use an artificial aid you NEED to know how to use them correctly, spurs should be used for last resort and you should start with soft spurs and work your way up if the horse isn’t responding to your how you would like it to, you should never be at the point where you are booting the living shit out of a horse with spurs, you should only have to lightly tap or nudge them. With a crop you should only have to tap them with it and not flog the fuck out of it. With martingale and tie downs they should be just right and not tight that the horse is having its head forced to its chest. If you horse is not responding to anything of these you’re doing something wrong and you should probably go back to basics and use your NATURAL AIDS that are your LEGS, SEAT, HANDS and VOICE or talk to a trainer.

                Spooking, Bolting, Pig Rooting, Bucking and Tripping

    - Why it happens

Spooking, bolting, pig rooting, bucking and tripping can happen for a number of reasons.

If your horse is spooking or bolting, chances are they took fright at something. Pig root and bucking can be course by tack not fitting right, the horse is uncomfortable and sore or just being a lil shit! As for tripping it could be a sign that your horse needs he’s hooves done or could be just simply be bored of whatever they are doing and aren’t playing attention to the job orrrr could be just that gravity is a bitch!

    - What to do if they happen

If they spook, right your horse past or lead your horse near the object that its spooking at and get them use to it, if they take off bolting on you simply turn your horse into a very sharp circle to make them stop or run them into the closest fence or gate and pray they don’t decide to jump it, for pig rooting and bucking either ride through it if they are not sore or you have tack not fitting correctly but if that is the case them seek some professional help to sort out the problem. For tripping get a farrier to check out your horses feet if they need doing or if you think they are bored switch your training and some something different every now and then!


Untacking is doing reverse of everything we have talked about above!

To dismount, take both feet out of the stirrups, lean forward, swing your right leg behind you and jump down.

Next tie your horse up, and run your stirrups up (run the stirrup up the inside leather).

Next, undo your girth and then walk around the other side you can either take the girth completely off the saddle or you can flip the girth over the top of the saddle or you can tuck in over your stirrup. After that pick your saddle up off the horses back and place it where ever you wish to leave your saddle for a few moments, Then take off your saddle pad, if its soaked in sweat leave your saddle pad out somewhere to dry over night or for the rest of the day before putting it away otherwise it will go very smelly if you put it away wet. Next you take your bridle off and put your horses halter back on!

   - Hosing down

To hose your horse down after you ride take your horse to the wash bay or somewhere that appropriate to wash your horse down. Tie your horse to something that will break if your horse insists on pulling back (bailing twine is great for this!) Next turn your hose on and start wetting your horses legs first to get them use to the temperature of the water because im use you wouldn’t like someone spraying in the back suddenly with freezing cold water! After a few minutes go ahead and start washing the sweat out of your horse.

          - How to dry off your horse off properly

To dry your horse off get a sweat scraper and run that all over your horses neck and body and get as much water as you can, then with your hands run them down your horses legs right down to the fetlock to get the water off there. Next get a towel and dry your horses legs again with that really well and then dry the horses face off and rest of the body. If you don’t dry your horse off properly over time you will start to see scabby sores appear on your horse’s legs (horses with white socks are prone to it) and a potential of rain scald can appear on your horses back from water being trapped in your horses coat.

   - Rugging

Again rugging your horse back up is the same as above but in reverse!

Place the rug on your horse, unclip your legs straps, get the left side clip and clip its straight around the the left clip, get the right clip and hook it through the left leg strap and clip it to the right clip so the legs straps cross over. Next do up your chest straps, then the belly straps if your rug has those and then your neck straps!

  - cleaning tack

Tack cleaning is pretty straight forward and you don’t need much instruction to do it but you can use saddle oil, saddle soap or saddle conditioner to clean all your leather tack. You should ideally clean you tack at least once a week!

If you tack is synthetic then all you need is a damp cloth or sponge and wipe all your tack over to get the dust, dirt or mud off!


    Feeding is a hard topic to talk about because in all honesty it all depends on your horse and how much work it gets each day or week etc.

Horse Heath

        - Basic horse first aid

Basic first aid is stuff you can treat yourself. Every horse owner should have a first aid kit for their horse/s in that kit you should have….

- Vet wrap or wraps that sticks to itself

- A digital thermometer (don’t get mercury as it doesn’t give an accurate temperature)

- An antiseptic wound spray or wash

- Absorbent padding, gauze, cotton wool

- Scissors

- Scalpel

- Spare wormers

        - When to call a vet

As you know vets cost a LOT to call out to visit your horse. If your horse is bleeding out, has a very deep cut, is colicing or something that you are VERY worried about, call a vet. If your horse has a scratch or a tiny cut or something that you can fix up yourself with what is in your ‘first aid’ kit for your horse which we just went through then do it yourself and save some money and don’t call the vet out.

       - When to worm a horse

You should worm your horse every 6 – 8 weeks. If you have no idea you can notice by looking at your horses poop and if you see worms in it, then that’s a BIG sign that you need to worm your horse ASAP!

You can also get your vet or our send in a fecal sample to your local vet for them to do a worm count and they can tell you exactly when to worm and what worming product will work best at that time!


Nothing fancy or technical here, just two clips showing how his movement has improved in just one week with medication, care, and gentle exercise. I wish I had taken a baseline video at the beginning of me leading him around, but since I didn’t the first clip is just of him moving freely in his paddock. You can see the limp and exaggerated head bob he was displaying early on.

In the second clip I led him on the same kind of clay mud that he has in his paddock so that the comparison would be even. You can see the great improvement in his movements, how his walk is much more even and steady. He still a little nervous and insecure, and likes to crowd me up a little as we lead, but otherwise he’s doing really well!

I also showed him walking up and down a hill, and exercise we’ve been gently introducing to strengthen his hind end. Though his gaits have evened out, the weakness in his hind end is still apparent. He has also had his first intro session with gentle lunging, and he’s a fast learner. Again, still insecure and so tends to try to crowd me, but I got him walking out on the circle after only a few tries and he relaxed somewhat.


What are some fun ways to give your horse enrichment?

Mental and physical stimulation doesn’t only have to come in the forms of training and riding your horse, and in fact, it’s best to do both of those things in moderation and also give your horse other things to do to keep their minds and bodies healthy.

Enrichment is anything that can give your horse outlets to satisfy their natural instincts and curb any boredom they may have. Which horses do love just to sepnd time grazing and roaming about their pasture, sometimes they need something else to do. Here are some suggestions of ways to enrich your horse:

  • Place their hay in small piles around their pasture so they have to “forage” for their food
  • Scatter some horse treats around the pasture so they have to sniff out and find them
  • place a few apples or carrots in their water trough so they have to “bob” for apples
  • Invest in a Likit toy, an edible hanging salt block that the horse has to work for to get a few licks out of
  • Hang treats like carrots and apples from high up places, so that they food swings when the horse tries to bite into it and it takes some work to get all of the treat
  • Invest in a Jolly Ball or other horse-safe rubber ball for your horse to toss around and bite into
  • Build your own or buy a scratching post for your horse to itch on, but be sure that the bristles are soft enough that they won’t rub hair off if you’re making your own
  • Spend some good old fashioned quality time with your horse, giving them some social contact and strengthening your bond
  • Cut a hole in a plastic barrel and fill it with apples or other snacks, and watch your horse roll the barrel around and try to work the food out of the barrel
  • Create flavored hay by soaking your hay in a water mixture of horse safe and appreciated spices or flavorings like peppermint, oregano, cherry, cumin, rosemary, or carrot.

Always remember to mix up your different enrichments, and never leave a toy out for too long of a time so that it becomes commonplace and boring. Have fun with it and get creative!


Remember while you are out enjoying the Holidays someone is at your barn caring for your horses. making sure that they have food, clean stalls, and water.

Please make sure you at LEAST thank them for spending their holiday caring for your animals, if not buy them a small gift (we all like peppermints right!)

um, i just wanna let tumblrquestrians know, having a barefoot horse doesn’t make you some kind of barbarian. diesel doesn’t have shoes, but he still gets blanketed, groomed, clipped, and cleaned up for shows just like other horses. it’s not some kind of hippie-naturalist movement, it’s more of a “he has great feet and can do anything without shoes so why would i pay to have them put on” movement.

Swollen or runny eyes on your equine? No problem!

Nobody wants to get out to the barn and see this staring them right in the face.

Luckily, while I hope you call your vet, there are things you can do to aid your pony friend and avoid a costly vet bill! I’m going to share some tips, tricks, and general knowledge I’ve picked up that can be a massive benefit to every equestrian!

Runny Eyes

Tearing eyes, weeping eyes, discharge from the eyes, and the like can be indicative of a few potential problems your horse may be having.

  • Allergies
  • Mild irritant exposure
  • Sinus infection
  • Eye infection
  • Blocked tear ducts

While I’m sure this doesn’t cover everything and these are layman’s terms (after all I am not a vet) here are somethings to do or keep in mind when dealing with runny eyes:

  1. Use sterile swabs to clean the eyes twice a day. Build up of discharge from the eyes can further irritate the issue so cleanliness is a must.
  2. Use a warm cloth to wipe the sides of the face where any discharge or tears have built up. Tears/discharge are well known for staining grey fur, but not everyone knows they can create a scalding type effect when left to their own devise.
  3. Use a fly mask to cover your horse’s eyes to protect them from further exposure to flies, bothersome particles, and to reduce the amount of sunlight that reaches the eyes. This is pretty straightforward, if the eyes are being bothered then keep things away from the eyes! Horses who are known for going to great lengths to remove flymasks may want to have this care step avoided, rubbing the eye will continue to produce irritation.
  4. Monitor the weeping of the eyes for signs that it is lessening or directly correlated to an allergen. Sometimes horses get too much dust or pollen and their eyes will naturally “run a cleaning cycle” to remove the irritating particles. Excessive weeping for more than 3-4 days indicates that there may be another issue. In that case call your vet and inform them of the situation, you may not need to have them out to see your horse but they will be the most capable of telling you how to proceed at this point.
  5. Use eye drops/saline solution as directed by your veterinarian. They may or may not also instruct you to use an ointment in the eyes at this point.

Swollen Eye

Swelling of the eye is also not a simple “ah it must be this one thing and nothing else!” scenario, which is precisely why you should consult a vet immediately when swelling of the eye occurs. Swelling could be indicative of:

  • Infection
  • Chemical irritation
  • Trapped irritants (large particle)
  • Damage to the eye (to the eye ball or 
  • Abscess

Again, be sure to consult your vet so that they can do a gross examination of the eye to determine if there is any cuts or other damage to the eye. Especially if you believe fly spray or another chemical has come in contact with your horse’s eye– chemical burns and abscesses on the eye are potentially permanently damaging and the last thing an amateur should ever attempt to handle alone. Once that has been ruled out and it is determined that your horse is only struggling with infection or trapped irritants here are some things you can tackle on your own:

  1. Use sterile swabs to clean the eyes twice a day.
  2. Use a warm cloth to wipe the sides of the face where any discharge or tears have built up.
  3. Use a fly mask to limit exposure to irritation. Remember if your horse is likely to cause more harm trying to get the fly mask off, then it is better to go without.
  4. Use a saline solution (sensitive eye contact solution for humans is okay) or horse specific eye drops to rinse your horse’s eye at least once a day. Twice is even better.
  5. Apply an antibiotic ointment to the eye twice day after rinsing. It is important to use an antibiotic after rinsing the eye in this scenario to avoid the development of an abscess on the eye. Ointments with  Neomycin, Polymyxin B, Dexamethasone are your most ideal option as they contain antibiotics and steroids to reduce swelling of the eye (these three ingredients are the active ingredients in all equine ophthalmic ((eye!)) ointments!). In a pinch Neosporin or other triple antibiotic ointments containing both Neomycin and Polymyxin B will do. Note that using Neosporin or an alternative in place of an eye ointment will have slower success than the eye ointment. This is due to Neosporin (and generic versions) lacking Dexamthasone- the steroid that reduces eye swelling. Neosporin is also not engineered to melt across the eye the way an eye ointment would, however it is sage to use and 100% better than doing nothing. It will give results, just not as fast as eye specific ointment!
  6. Give 2 grams of Bute a day (not to exceed 5 days in a row) to help reduce swelling of the eye. We want to eliminate as much swelling as possible to allow for the eye’s natural flushing system to do its job. 
  7. Monitor the eye for massive reduces in swelling each day when following the above care plan anything less that a reduction by 1/3 or ½ is not enough progress and you need to have your vet come back out to take a look at the eye again. 
  8. An ideal situation would be the clearing up for swelling within a week. Anything less and you must contact your vet again.

Eye Care Need-To-Knows

  • Never ever apply saline or ointment any other way than directly to the eye. Please look up pictures/videos/tutorials of the proper way to administer medications/solutions to the eye.
  • Never ever apply anything to the eye without confirming it’s okay with your vet first. It is perfectly acceptable to call your local vet clinic with questions and they will answer them no worries!
  • One swollen eye is “normal” (duh, still get this checked please) but both eyes being massively swollen is not. Immediately (not in a few hours or tomorrow) contact your vet and have them come out to view the problem first-hand. Both eyes being swollen could indicate head trauma.
  • Two runny eyes is “normal” and likely being caused by allergens or irritants. One runny eye is not. One runny eye can mean a blocked duct, an infection, or something else that will not clear up on its own and require vet attention. Make sure you get a vet out to handle the situation properly.
  • A horse’s eyelid has greater power to close when swollen, which is in part when reducing swelling is so important. If you cannot open the eyelid to administer medication than you can’t do much good. 
  • All eye issues are emergencies. Things with eyes can go from bad to worse in no time at all and as someone who does not have equine medical knowledge then you’ll have zero clue if it’s something that could be very bad. Always, always get your vet out to take a look at your horse’s eyes if you have the slightest suspicious something isn’t right. 
  • Expired products will not do their job so don’t bother with them!
  • Always have one other person helping you to handle your horse when cleaning the eye or administering meds/solutions. The last thing you’d want is to bop your pony in the hurt eye!
  • ALWAYS CALL A VET, don’t make me say it five hundred more times.

Be safe and stay educated!