Horse Care Guide for Homesteaders

Dr. R.J. Holliday included this horse care guide in his 1970s book on farm animal care, "A Herdsman's Handbook for the Modern Homesteader."

| November/December 1973

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    Diagram shows a typical horse's field of vision, which is strong to the sides but blind to the immediate front and rear. 

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First-time farmers usually do pretty well with gardens, chopping wood and building outhouses . . . but the birth of that first calf or litter of pigs generally sets 'em back a couple of notches. R.J. Holliday DVM, a veterinarian in Missouri and MOTHER EARTH NEWS contributor, intends to remedy the situation. His tool? A new handbook precisely designed to explain all the animal facts of life in language that new back-to-the-landers can understand.

MOTHER EARTH NEWS serialized the manual as Dr. Holliday completed each chapter. This was installment No. 8.

No other facet of good herdsmanship demands as much attention to detail as does the management of horses. It's always sad to see a good animal ruined or a promising young rider injured . . . just for lack of the little bits and pieces of information that ensure adequate care of the mount and safety for the handler.

This horse care guide will discuss briefly some of the things a new horse owner needs to know right now to avoid many of the dangers besetting him and his acquisition. Most of these topics will be dealt with in greater detail in upcoming chapters.

Equine Psychology

At best, most horses are nervous, flighty creatures. In the wild state this trait was necessary for survival, since the main equine defenses are the ability to see danger at a distance and the speed to escape it. Kicking and biting are occasionally used in close combat with a predator but are more often reserved for intraspecies competition: by the stallions in their struggle to maintain a band of mares, by the mares to establish the "pecking order" within the group, and by the colts and fillies for exercise and recreation.

To really understand the psychology of horses we must remember that they fear sudden movements or noises. Their reaction to close-up danger is to kick or bite and their reaction to a distant hazard is to run.


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