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Chapter 5: Horses, donkeys and mules

Unit 37: How to restrain horses, donkeys and mules
Unit 38: How to age horses
Unit 39: Hoof (foot) care, shoeing and lameness
Unit 40: Colic
Unit 41: Internal parasites of equines
Unit 42: Skin and coat disorders of equines
Unit 43: Heat (oestrus), mating and pregnancy
Unit 44: Foaling and caring for the young
Unit 45: Stabling and grazing
Unit 46: Feed and water for equines
Unit 47: Grooming and tackle (tack)
Unit 48: African horse sickness

Unit 37: How to restrain horses, donkeys and mules

Horses, donkeys and mules are called equines.

Equines can kick and bite and there are a number of different ways to control these animals in order to examine, treat or shoe them.

Learning objectives

After studying this unit you should know:

1 What are equines.
2 How to use the twitch.
3 How to restrain equines.
4 Hobbling equines.

Equine animals

Equines are the members of the horse family and have single hoofed feet. The equines are the horse, donkey, mule and hinny. The father of the hinny is a horse and the mother is a donkey.

Using the twitch

The twitch is a simple tool used to control equine animals. You can make one from a strong, thick stick in one end of which is a hole through which is passed a loop of rope 30 cm. long. The twitch is put on the muzzle.

Put your hand through the loop and hold the animal's muzzle. Slip the rope over your hand and twist the stick to tighten the rope around the muzzle.

Do not put the twitch on the animal's ear as this is very painful.

Using the twitch

Hobbling animals

A set of hobbles consists of four straps each of which has a metal ring attached to it. A rope is passed through the rings. Pulling the rope will make the animal fall and when it is down the head should be held down to keep it down. An animal is hobbled in order for it to be examined or castrated.

Hobbling the back legs only is done to the mare when she is mated to a valuable stallion. The hobbles prevent her from injuring the stallion.

Hobbling animals

Lifting one leg to control the animal

Holding one leg up will stop the animal moving or kicking. This will make it easier to examine, check its teeth or take its temperature. It will be necessary to restrain the animal's head. It may be necessary to use the twitch on the muzzle to fully restrain it.

Holding front leg while temperature is taken

Covering the animal's head (blindfolding)

Putting a blanket, coat or sack over both the eyes will calm an animal and make it easier to restrain.

Opening the mouth

Hold one ear and slip your other hand between the incisors and the cheek teeth and pull the tongue out. The tongue of the horse, unlike that of the cow, is long. This is useful when checking the cheek teeth in ageing the animal, rasping teeth or administering drenches.

Opening the mouth

Unit 38: How to age horses

Horses can be aged with some accuracy up to the age of 5 years by looking at the front and cheek teeth.

If the feet and the teeth are looked after, a horse can live and work for many years.

Learning objectives

After studying this unit you should be able to:

1 Recognise the temporary (milk) teeth of the horse.
2 Recognise the permanent teeth.
3 Recognise the Galvayne groove.
4 Know how to age horses.
5 Know about teeth problems in horses.

The temporary (milk) teeth of the horse

The foal at birth has only two front teeth in each jaw and as the foal grows other temporary (milk) teeth are emerge. There are 24 temporary teeth which are smaller than the permanent teeth.

Upper jaw:

6 front teeth, 3 cheek teeth on each side

Lower jaw:

6 front teeth, 3 cheek teeth on each side

Permanent teeth

When you need to look at the animal's teeth you can open the lips to look at the front teeth, but to see the cheek teeth you will need to pull out the tongue (see Unit 36).

There are 36 to 40 permanent teeth in the horse:

· Front teeth:

6 teeth in each jaw

· Cheek teeth:

6 teeth on each side of the jaw

· Canine (dog) teeth:

Sharp, long teeth situated in the gap between the cheek and front teeth. There are 4 teeth, one on each side of the upper and lower jaw.

The canine teeth start to emerge when the horse is 4 years old. The teeth are large in the male but in the female are very small or absent.

How to age horses

Teeth on the upper and lower jaws are similar.

(1) Birth:

2 temporary front teeth

(2) One month old:

4 front temporary teeth, 3 temporary cheek teeth on each side

(3) Six to nine months:

6 front temporary teeth

(4) One year old:

4 cheek teeth present

(5) One and a half years:

5 cheek teeth

(6) Two and a half years:

2 permanent front teeth replace 2 temporary teeth

(7) Three and a half years:

4 permanent front teeth showing

(8) Four years old:

4 canines show and 6 cheek teeth

(9) Four and a half years:

6 permanent front teeth

See the diagram below.


From 6 to 25 years of age the point of contact of the front teeth and the surface wear of the teeth will point to the age of the animal.

How to age horses

The Galvayne groove

This is another way to tell the age of the horse from 10 to 30 years. It appears at 10 years of age as a little canal on the top of the corner front teeth. By 15 years of age it has reached the middle of the tooth and at 20 years it has reached the bottom. It then starts to fill up and by 30 years of age the groove has disappeared.

The Galvayne groove

Teeth problems

As equines grind their food the edges of the teeth become sharp and can damage the tongue or the inside of the cheek. If you find that an animal has difficulty eating, open its mouth by taking out the tongue (see Unit 36) and check the cheek teeth with your finger. You may need a veterinarian to rasp the teeth.

You should check the teeth several times a year. Remember that teeth and hooves in good condition are essential in equines.

Unit 39: Hoof (foot) care, shoeing and lameness

The equine foot is a very sensitive area and must be examined frequently.

A well fed, strong animal is no good if a hoof is bad.

Learning objective

After studying this unit you should know:

1 The structure of the equine foot.
2 How to keep the foot healthy.
3 The importance of shoeing animals.
4 How to recognise lameness in equines.
5 How to treat the lame animal.

The equine hoof

The foot of equine animals consists of three bones, the long pastern, short pastern and the pedal bone. What we see of the hoof is the wall of the hoof and underneath is the sole.

The equine hoof

Keeping the hoof healthy

The animal should be made accustomed to having its feet picked up. Clean the sole of the hoof from mud and dung. If these materials are not removed the moisture they contain may cause infection of the sole of the hoof.

Dress (cover) the wall of the hoof regularly with grease or oil to keep it moist. This will prevent the hoof from cracking.

The importance of shoeing

The wall of the hoof grows like the nail of your finger. It is worn away as the animal walks. When animals walk or work on hard surfaces such as concrete, tar or mountain roads the hoof may be worn away more quickly than it grows. In this case shoeing the animal protects the hoof. If an animal is shod the shoes should be removed every 6 weeks so that the extra growth in the hoof can be removed.

Shoeing and oiling the hoof stops it from splitting. Contact the farrier (horseshoe maker) every time you want to shoe the animals or if the animal develops lameness because of a problem with the shoes.


Lameness is an abnormal walk and is caused by injury or disease.

Remember that it can be difficult to discover where the lameness is and what is causing it. To identify the lame leg you will need to:

· Halter the animal and ask someone to lead the animal around for you.

· To check the front legs ask your helper to trot (faster than walk) the animal towards you when a lame animal will be seen to nod the head as it trots. The head is raised as the lame leg touches the ground.

· To check the back leg have the animal trotted away from you. Watch the back of the animal and you will see it rise as the lame leg hits the ground.

· Examine the lame leg for any heat, swelling or pain.

· Lameness is usually caused by a problem with the foot.


Treating lame animals

You should ask for veterinary advice but you may be able to do something about the problem.

· Sometimes lameness is caused by the sole of the hoof becoming infected. The sole is painful and pus (yellow secretion) is formed. Clean the wound and apply tincture of iodine. Leave the animal to rest and do not work it.

· A crack in the wall of the hoof can cause lameness and is cured by oiling the hoof and correct shoeing.

· The bottom of the foot can be infected and becomes wet, black and smelly. This is called thrush and is seen in animals kept in wet conditions. Cut away the infected material and put formalin or tincture of iodine on the area (see 1: 3 A Annex 1)

Unit 40: Colic

Colic is a pain in the belly and may be continuous or comes and goes.

There are many causes of colic including parasitic worms, bad feed, and drinking water too soon after working.

Learning objectives

After studying this unit you should be able to:

1 To know when an animal has colic.
2 Know what causes colic.
3 Know how to prevent colic.
4 Know how to treat colic.

How to recognise colic

Colic is the name given to abdominal pain and is common in equines. The signs of colic are:

· The animal kicks at its belly.
· It repeatedly lies down and then gets up, rolls about or it sits up on its back legs like a dog.
· The animal sweats.
· The pain can be continuous or it comes and goes.

If an animal is showing the above signs, take its temperature (see Unit 4) and its pulse.

In horses if the temperature is over 39.5°C and the pulse is over 60 per minute the condition is very serious and you will need to find a veterinarian immediately.

The causes of colic

There are a number of different causes of colic:

· Parasitic worms in the digestive system.
· The animal's teeth are bad and cannot chew food properly.
· The animal has been grazing on sandy ground, sand causes colic.
· The animal has eaten too much grain.
· Drinking water when it is hot and tired after working.

Preventing colic

You can prevent colic by:

· Treat the animal regularly to get rid of gut parasites (see Unit 41).
· Check the animal's teeth, ask your veterinarian to rasp sharp teeth.
· Do not give water to tired, hot and sweating animals.
· Do not give too much grain to the animal.

How to treat a horse with colic

Walk the animal around for a while and do not allow it to eat any feed. Give it a drench of magnesium sulphate or vegetable oil and water (see R22, Annex 1). Ask for veterinary assistance.

Unit 41: Internal parasites of equines

Equines suffer from a number of parasitic worms in the gut which may sometimes be found in the dung. Maggots of the bot fly live in the stomach and are also found in the dung.

The parasites cause loss of weight and bad condition. In foals they may cause diarrhoea. The worm infections often cause colic and can result in the death of the animal.

Lungworms which infect the lungs cause respiratory problems and are common in donkeys which pass on the infection to the horse.

Learning objectives

After studying this unit you should know:

1 The parasitic worms which infect equines.
2 The problems caused by the parasitic worms in equines.
3 How to treat worm infections.
4 How to control worm infections in equines.
5 Horse bots (bot fly) and their importance.

Parasitic worms of equines

A number of worms infect the gut of equines. The largest is a roundworm which can be over 30 cm long and produces millions of eggs which survive on the pasture for a long time.

Redworms (up to 3 cm long) are roundworms also found in the intestine. These live for a time in the liver and the main arteries which take blood to the gut. They finally pass into the gut where they feed on the wall of the intestine.

Often seen in the dung are white worms up to 15 cm. long which have long thin tails. These are the whipworms which live in the intestine and lay their eggs around the anus of the host where they develop before falling onto the ground.

Lungworms infect the lungs and are common in donkeys which can have large numbers of worms. Eggs are coughed up and swallowed to pass out in the dung

Parasitic worms of equines

Problems resulting from infections with worms

The large roundworms are not often found in animals over 4 years old. They are a problem in the foal and can cause weight loss, dull coat, poor condition and can cause colic by blocking the gut. Young worms moving through the lung cause coughing and the damage to the lung can allow other infections to develop.

The redworms suck blood and badly damage the wall of the gut. The worms passing through the blood vessels can cause severe damage and result in weakening of the vessels and blockage. The worms can cause colic which is often fatal if not treated.

Whipworms cause irritation of the anal region making the animal restless and causing it to rub its tail against a wall or post. Infected animals do not feed properly and can lose condition.

Lungworms can be present in large numbers in the donkey without it showing any signs. However the donkey can pass on the infection to the horse which suffers from lung problems, coughing and discharge from the nostrils. Heavy infections kill horses.

How to treat infected animals

Adult worms can be killed by giving a drench containing fenbendazole. Haloxon can be used to treat worms in the gut (see R12 Annex 1).

Preventing infection with worms

There are several ways of reducing the chance of animals becoming infected:

· Removal of dung from small pastures reduces the number of eggs contaminating the pasture.

· If other grazing animals are kept, allow them to graze pasture following the horses to reduce the contamination of the pasture. Ruminants are not infected by horse parasites.

· Stables should be kept clean and dung removed daily to a dung heap. Any worm eggs in the dung will be killed by the heat that is formed when the dung rots. Turning the dung heap over every one or two weeks will ensure that the heat reaches all the eggs and kills them.

· Regular treatment with anthelmintics (every 3 months if possible) reduces the worm problem.

Horse bots

Bot flies lay their eggs on the hairs of the lower legs, shoulders and around the mouth. The maggots hatch and are taken into the mouth as the animal licks. They burrow into the gut and develop in the stomach where the red coloured maggots can live for up to one year. The maggots pass out in the dung and burrow into the soil where they change into the adult fly.

The adult flies annoy the host and the maggots damage the stomach but they are not as great a problem as the worms. Bots can be removed by giving the animal a drench containing haloxon (see R12 Annex 1).

Bot fly - Maggot in dung

Unit 42: Skin and coat disorders of equines

Equines can suffer from a number of different skin and coat problems including mange, ringworm and infections caused by other germs.

These conditions cause severe irritation and can result in loss of condition and a reduction in the animal's ability to work.

Learning objectives

After studying this unit you should be able to recognise:

1 Mange on equines.
2 Infections caused by lice.
3 Problems caused by ticks and flies.
4 Ringworm in equines.
5 Rain scald, mud fever and cracked heels.

Mange on equines

Several different mites (very small insects) can infect equines and cause mange. Various parts of the body can be affected and the conditions are known as:

· Body mange (starts on head and neck and spreads over entire body)
· Foot mange or itchy leg
· Ear mange

Mange causes severe irritation, scabs and lesions on the skin, and loss of weight. Irritation makes the animals difficult to harness and work. Body mange can cause loss of condition resulting in death.

The mite causing the problem can only be identified by your veterinarian examining skin scrapings under a microscope. Mange can be treated using a preparation containing gamma benzene hexachloride (see Lindane, R15 Annex 1).

The stable, harness and grooming equipment should be thoroughly cleaned and if possible disinfected. Remember that some mange mites can infect humans so wash thoroughly after handling infected animals.

Lice infestations

Lice suck the blood or chew the skin. They are usually seen around the base of the tail or the mane (hair on the top of the neck). They cause irritation and hair loss but can be easily treated using gamma benzene hexachloride (see Lindane, R15 Annex 1).


Several types of ticks feed on equines and attack the legs, belly and ears of the animals. They suck blood and can pass on infections from one animal to another. Ticks can be removed by picking them off but sometimes the mouthparts stay in the animal and cause infections. Ticks are best removed by burning them on the back with a lighted cigarette, the tick then falls off the host.


Equines are troubled by flies which try to feed off body moisture and blood. The animals toss the head and stamp in annoyance.

If the animal has an open wound flies will lay eggs close to it and the maggots which hatch will feed on the blood and meat. Any maggots found should be removed and the wounds should be properly cleansed and treated with tincture of iodine, gentian violet, Dettol or an antibiotic and an insecticidal powder or spray (see R1, 5, 8 Annex 1).


Ringworm results in round whitish scabs and loss of hair. It can affect any part of the body and the lesions can become large and join together. It causes irritation and can be treated by washing the scabs with iodine solution. If the infection persists ask you veterinarian for advice and remember that ringworm can infect humans so wash thoroughly after handling animals.

Cracked heels or mud fever and rain scald

These conditions are all caused by the same germ which infects the skin when it becomes soft from being wet for a long time. Mud fever or cracked heels occurs on the fetlocks and heels resulting in scabs and cracks in the skin which produce pus. Rain scald consists of small scabs across the back, shoulders and neck when animals have been left to stand in the rain for long periods.

Treatment involves removing the scabs and treating the wounds with an antiseptic (see R1 Annex 1). The affected areas should be thoroughly dried and the condition can be prevented by drying the animal's if its skin becomes wet.

Cracked heels or mud fever and rain scald

Unit 43: Heat (oestrus), mating and pregnancy

Heat (oestrus) is the period when the female show a desire for the male.

After a successful mating the animal becomes pregnant Pregnancy lasts for 11 months in the horse and 12 months in the donkey.

Donkeys and horses can be mated to produce hinnies or mules.

Learning objectives

After studying this unit you should know about:

1 Heat and the signs of heat in equines.
2 Mating in equines.
3 Pregnancy.
4 Care of the pregnant animal.
5 Hinnies and mules.

How to recognise heat in the equine

The donkey and horse comes into heat in spring or early summer.

The female horse (mare) comes into heat for the first time at about 18 months of age. However the mare should not be allowed to mate (mounted) until she is 3 years old when she will give birth at 4 years of age.

The female donkey (jenny) comes into heat for the first time when she is 1 year old.

The mare is in heat for 7 days while the donkey is in heat for 2 to 7 days. During this time the female will accept the male. It is best to mate the animals in the last 2 days of the period of heat. The signs of heat are very clear. The female frequently urinates and mucous is discharged from the vagina, she shows a strong desire to mate.

If mating is not successful and pregnancy does not result the mare will come into heat again 14 to 16 days later while the jenny donkey comes into heat after 2 to 3 weeks.


Choosing a good male for mating is very important. To produce a good foal you need good genetic characteristics from both parents (see Annex 4).

If you have valuable horses it is a good idea to apply a twitch to the mare and hobble her before bringing the stallion to her as she may otherwise kick and injure the stallion (see Unit 37).


Pregnancy lasts for 11 months in the mare. She will show an enlarged abdomen during the last 3 months of the pregnancy. The udder will develop in the last month of pregnancy. The donkey is pregnant for 12 months. Pregnant animals should not be ridden or worked in the last 3 months of pregnancy.

Caring for pregnant animals

The pregnant animal should be fed well especially during the last 3 months as the foal may die if the mother is not well fed.

Hinnies and mules

The father of the hinny is a horse and the mother is a donkey. The size of the hinny will depend on the size of its mother, the bigger the mother the bigger the young. The mother of a mule is a horse. Mules are powerful animals while hinnies have endurance (stamina).

Unit 44: Foaling and caring for the young

Foaling or giving birth is a natural process and animals usually give birth without help. You should know when the mare is about to foal and keep watch on her as she may have difficulties.

Learning objectives

After studying this unit you should know:

1 What are the signs that foaling is about to happen.
2 A natural foaling.
3 Assisting a difficult foaling.
4 Caring for the young animal.
5 Castration of young males.

The signs of foaling

Enlargement of the udder is the most reliable sign that foaling is close. A thick, clear secretion may be seen dripping from the teats and the vulva becomes swollen and loose.

Put the mare in a stable or shelter with plenty of clean bedding to give birth.

Natural foaling

The mare rarely has difficulty giving birth and usually gives birth at night when no one is around.

The water bag breaks and the front legs appear followed by the foal's head. When the foal's shoulders are clear of the mother you can clear the membrane from around the foal's nose to help it breathe. Sometimes the back legs of the foal come first but this does not present a problem.

The afterbirth will normally be passed within an hour after the foal has been born. You must check that it has been passed within 24 hours of birth. If it is not you will need to get veterinary help immediately.

Difficulties in foaling

If the mare is showing signs of distress and no foal has appeared or if the foal is in an unusual position you will need to get veterinary help. You may find that:

· Only the foal's head has emerged from the mother.
· Only one leg is out.
· There is no sign of the foal.

You can try to help deliver the foal in the same way as in a difficult calving (see Unit 19). Wash your hands thoroughly with soap and water, make sure your nails are short and scrub them well. Soap your hand well and insert it into the vagina to discover what is causing the problem. Try to correct the problem as for a calf or lamb and bring the foal's front feet and head into the correct position for birth.

If the navel cord is attached to the young it is advisable to cut it 3 cm from the body of the foal. Tie a clean string around the end of the cord and dress it with tincture of iodine, Dettol or gentian violet (see R1, Annex 1).

Care of the foal

The foal should be on its feet within 2 hours and suckling within 4 hours. It is essential that the foal takes colostrum from its mother immediately and if the foal has difficulty in suckling you should milk the colostrum from the mare into a clean container and feed it to the foal with a bottle. If a foal has not had colostrum within 8 hours it can become infected.

Foals are weaned after 10 months if the mother becomes pregnant again. Otherwise the young animal may be left to suckle from the mother until it is 20 months old.

Foals should be trained to the head collar at an early age and should become accustomed to being tied up. Use a safety knot when tying up animals (see Knots and tethers Appendix 3) so that they may be quickly released if necessary.

Castration of the colt foal

The young male (colt) should be castrated when 2 months old. Animals up to 2 to 3 years old can also be castrated.

If your community has many equines it is advisable for you to purchase an emasculator which is a tool which crushes and cuts the testicular cord. Castration can be done with a knife but castration should be carried out by a veterinarian and you should ask for advice and assistance when it comes to castrating equines.

Unit 45: Stabling and grazing

Equines, especially horses, can be kept in stables when not working.

They can be kept in a field with some form of shelter against bad weather conditions.

Learning objectives

After studying this unit you should know:

1 What is needed in a good stable.
2 Keeping the stable clean.
3 What is needed to keep animals in the field.


Horses are often kept in stables when not working. A good stable can be made from wood, brick or concrete and should have a solid floor which slopes gently towards the door to allow urine to flow out.

The stable should be big enough to allow the animal to move about, lie down and roll over. The stable should be 3.5m × 3m in area or larger. Small animals will need less space. A stable where the animal is free to move is called a loose box. The door of the loose box should be divided into two so that the top half can be left open during the day to allow fresh air into the stable and allow the animal to see what is going on around it.


Concentrate feeds for the stabled horse are placed in a manger (a feeding trough) which is fixed to a wall at least 60 cm above the ground. Hay is fed from a hay rack of wooden or metal bars attached to the wall at least 1 metre from the ground. Hay can also be fed from a rope net hung from a hook or ring in the wall. A metal ring should be attached to a wall to allow the animal to be tied up when it is groomed or examined. Water can be provided in a strong bucket placed in a corner of the stable with a bar of wood to hold it in place.


Animals should be provided with shade and shelter. Trees provide shade and shelter can be provided by a three-sided shelter made of wood or sheeting. Animals can be fed hay or concentrates in the shelter when necessary.

Keeping the stable clean

The manger and buckets should be emptied and cleaned every day and fresh water provided. A good bed of straw, sawdust, wood shavings or clean sand should be provided which is deep enough so that the floor of the box is not uncovered by the animal's movements.

Remove any soiled bedding and dung every day and take to a dung heap. Add some fresh bedding to the box. Removing the dung helps to reduce fly problems and the risk of infection from parasites. Bedding should be completely renewed when possible. The dung heap rots and produces heat which kills eggs of parasitic worms. When it is well rotted the dung can be used to fertilise land.

Keeping equines out at pasture

Fields for equines should be well fenced. Fencing needs to be strong and can be post and rail or wire. If a wire fence is used the bottom wire needs to be at least 30 cm off the ground to prevent animals getting their feet caught in it. A good strong hedge which the animals cannot push through not only acts as a barrier but will provide shelter against wind. Hedges should be made of thorn or other strong bushes planted in two parallel rows.

Keeping equines out at pasture

Water will need to be provided in a trough or strong bucket which will need to be filled daily. A bucket can be placed in an old tyre to prevent it being tipped over.

It is a good idea to fence pasture into three areas. One third can be used while the remainder is rested or used for hay. Removing dung from the pasture will reduce contamination by worm eggs. Donkeys and horses can be tethered for grazing and moved to fresh areas every day.

Unit 46: Feed and water for equines

Equines have a simple stomach. They eat grasses and soft plants and need grain as supplementary feed.

Learning objectives

After studying this unit you should know:

1 The feed required by the non-working horse.
2 The amount of feed needed by the working horse.
3 Water requirements of equines.

Feed for the non-working equine

All equines are similar in their feed requirements and if they are not working or carrying young they need to be allowed to graze for at least a few hours every day on good pasture. Hay can be given to them at night.

Feed for working equines

The working donkey and mule will need 1 kg of concentrate feed in addition to grazing and hay. Working horses will need 2 kg of concentrate feed in addition to their grazing and hay. A heavy working horse can require 4 kg of concentrate.

Millet, corn, barley, rice and maize are good concentrate feeds for equines, crushed oats can be fed in small amounts. Barley is very useful and can be fed crushed or the whole grain can be fed after it has been boiled and allowed to cool. Barley makes a good feed if it is left to soak in water overnight then drained and fed with the addition of a handful of salt. When a horse is fed barley whole grains in the dung will indicated that the animal has a tooth problem and is not chewing its food properly.

If bran (from oats) is available it can be fed damp (sprinkled with water), when it acts as a laxative and if fed dry it helps to regulate the gut and make the faeces normal.

Vegetables can also be added to the feed. Carrots should be sliced, turnips can be fed whole. Vegetable waste such as potato and apple peelings, carrot tops and cabbage leaves can be chopped up and added to a feed.


Animals should be given clean drinking water every day. A horse needs 25 to 30 litres of water per day but will need less when eating green grass. The horse will need more water when the food is dry or the weather is hot. Pregnant or suckling mares need more water.

Do not give water to tired or sweating animals as this can cause colic. Walk the animals around and allow them to cool down for some time before giving them water to drink.

Unit 47: Grooming and tackle (tack)

Grooming is the cleaning and brushing of the animal's coat which helps to keep the animal healthy and prevent skin problems.

Tackle is the equipment used on the animal so that it can be ridden (saddlery is used) or driven (harness is used).

Learning objectives

After studying this unit you should be able to:

1 Groom the animals.
2 Care for wet animals.
3 Know the correct harness and saddlery to use.
4 Prevent wounds occurring from badly fitting tackle.

Grooming (brushing) equines

Animals must be groomed daily. A strong, hand held brush (body brush) is used to remove loose hair and dirt from the coat. After two or three strokes with the brush, dirt and hair is removed from the brush by brushing it against a metal comb (curry comb). It is important to remove mud and dirt from the legs and feet or mud fever will develop (see Unit 42). The hooves should be examined daily and cleaned out with a hoof pick.

Animals should be lightly groomed before being fitted with harness or saddlery to avoid dirt being trapped underneath and causing skin problems.

Grooming (brushing) equines

Caring for the wet animal

When an animal returns to the stable soaked with sweat, rain or snow it must be dried immediately or it will become sick. The water must be removed from the coat using a metal scraper with a handle which is drawn down over the coat. You can also remove water by twisting a handful of straw or hay into a curved shape and using this in downward strokes over the body. More straw, cloths or an old blanket should then be used to dry the animal by rubbing the body.

Harness for working animals

To use the animal for draught work (pulling) it must wear harness. Mules, donkeys and horses need to wear collars to pull agricultural tools or carts. A horse can also pull loads wearing a breast girth. Mules and donkeys can carry loads of up to 100 kg and pull carts of 300 kg. Horses are stronger and can pull or carry heavier loads but they can be more difficult to train for the work. Horse collars, girths and the bridle (head harness) should be correctly fitted and not allowed to rub the animal.

Harness for working animals


A saddle should always fit properly and have no stiff or rough edges that will rub the animal. It is advisable to put a cloth under the saddle especially in hot weather when a cotton cloth will absorb sweat.

Following a ride, when the animal is hot and sweating, you should loosen the girth immediately, but leave the saddle in place for several minutes until the animal starts to cool.

Wounds from badly fitting tack (tackle).

Badly fitted saddles, collars, hobbles and girths will result in wounds which develop into sores. A badly fitted saddle will result in saddle sores and an ill fitted girth results in the development of girth-galls. The hair will be rubbed off and a wound develops which will become infected.

All harness and saddlery should be kept clean and care should be taken when putting it on the animal to ensure that it fits properly, does not rub, and that no folds of skin are trapped under the girths.

To treat any sores which develop it will be necessary to rest the animal and treat the wounds by cleaning and dressing with tincture of iodine or Dettol solution (see Unit 73).

Wounds from badly fitting tack (tackle).

Remember that lack of care and the use of badly fitting harness or tackle can result in the loss of the animal's ability to work.

Unit 48: African horse sickness

African horse sickness is an infectious disease of horses, mules and donkeys and causes the death of a lot of animals.

Although called African horse sickness it is also found in Asia.

Learning objectives

After studying this unit you should know:

1 What is African horse sickness.
2 Precautions to take against African horse sickness.

African horse sickness

This is a disease which is spread by mosquitoes and affects mules, horses and donkeys. The signs of the disease can vary as there are a number of different germs which cause it.

The first sign of the disease is a fever with the temperature reaching 41 °C. The disease may then affect the heart, lungs or both the heart and lungs depending on which germs are causing the infection.

An animal infected with the lung form of the disease coughs and shows difficulty in breathing, but the main sign that the infection is African horse sickness is the production of a lot of yellow discharge from the nostrils. The infected animal will soon die.

The animal which is infected with the heart form of the disease has red swollen eyes. The head and neck region also becomes swollen and there is a blood spot under the tongue. Animals infected with this form may die or recover within 2 weeks of showing the first signs of the disease.

Animals infected with the heart and lung form suffer from swelling of the eyes, head and neck as well as the heavy discharge from the nose. Some may survive.

Precautions against African horse sickness

There is no treatment for this disease. Vaccination is recommended but the pregnant animal must not be vaccinated.

If there are equines in your community talk to your veterinarian and arrange for them to be vaccinated.

Remember that this disease kills and can quickly spread through all the equines in your community if they are not vaccinated.

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