Horse Health Equine Welfare is on the Rise in Minnesota, and Experts say Education is Key to Continuing That Trend

The condition of Minnesota’s horses is on the rise after a dramatic increase in investigations into horse welfare during the Great Recession. To continue the positive trend, experts encourage people to learn what it takes to care for a horse before purchasing one.
Between 2008 and 2013, the Humane Society was called in to investigate the conditions of an average 1,400 horses a year, a 400 percent increase over previous years, according to the University of Minnesota (U of M) Extension. The number of horses in the state has remained level at over 92,000, but the number of investigations into their welfare has decreased in 2014 and 2015 to an average of 894. Horse experts in the state attribute the improvement in horse welfare to an improved economy, preventative measures and education.
“Education is really important,” said Krishona Martinson, U of M Extension equine specialist. “The more research they can do, before buying a horse, the better.”

Horses can live into their 30s, so purchasing one is a long-term commitment. Martinson said basic nutrition and health needs can cost between $1,500 and $2,000 a year.

“I think it’s a shock to people how much they eat,” said Nancy Turner, president of the board of This Old Horse, a non-profit horse rescue located near Hastings, noting that a horse can eat around 20 pounds of forage each day.

Horses also require adequate space and accommodations. Martinson said a minimum of 400 square feet per horse is recommended for an outdoor dry lot or turn-out, and access to shelter and shade is a must. Extension also recommends two acres of pasture per adult horse.
“Pasture is not necessary for a horse, but two acres of pasture per horse would reduce or eliminate the need for hay during the summer season,” Martinson said.

It’s also important to develop a waste management plan. Martinson said a horse can produce 50 pounds of urine and manure a day, something potential horse owners don’t always consider.

“What we really recommend is that people lease a horse before purchasing one or take some riding courses,” Martinson said.
Once someone decides to purchase a horse, Martinson said they should continue to learn about their animal. The U of M Extension provides several free and cost-based learning opportunities for horse owners at its website, www.extension.umn.edu/agriculture/horse/.

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