• Adele Shaw

The Basics...

I've been asked repeatedly to do a post like this, a list of what I can and can't do without. Items I feel are "necessary" to owning a horse. I'm going to go from very very specific to broad spectrum in this article, talking about everything from the brand of mane brush to the type of environment a horse requires to maintain a happy and healthy lifestyle. These are of course mostly personal opinion, except for the lifestyle items.. in my opinion those are vital to every and any horse.

Sometimes when it comes to the lifestyle you're able to offer your horse it's a little less than "ideal", but I'm going to be perfectly honest and tell you that there is only so much "not ideal" a horse can happily live with, and if you can't provide even minimal requirements for the horse then you probably shouldn't own a horse.

Please though, keep in mind that there are many other options to get more than your fill of horses without owning a horse. Horses are expensive, time consuming, and not really a practical "pet" for most people, but that doesn't mean you can't live and breath horses! Just please, don't own one unless you can care for the horse properly.

Disclaimer: This article is "link heavy", meaning I've provided links to every item listed. I was not sponsored or paid in any way to list these particular items or brands. Every item listed here is genuinely one you would find me using on or with my own horses. However, I have chosen to provide Amazon based links when able to as I make a very small sale percentage (which helps keep this blog running!), but if I could not find the item I wanted to recommend on Amazon then I used another source.

Please keep in mind these items may be available for a cheaper price somewhere else, but in general I tried to find the best prices for my recommendations.

Equipment -


An easy place to start with this list is with grooming equipment! This is the equipment I use for grooming that I would struggle to do without! I rarely use anything else really, even though I have quite a few more items in my groom box. I'll link a place to buy this item or a similar item.

  • Body brush (yes, even for the face, I use a medium all around body brush.)

  • Metal curry (I prefer this to a rubber curry, just because I rarely use a curry except for when there is caked mud, which is when the metal does better. And... it's great for shedding season!)

  • Hoof pick

  • Mane & Tail Brush (human hair brushes work a lot better, and pull out less hair! Or, go one step better and get a brush specifically designed for minimal mane and tail fall out like this one.)

  • De-tangler or Conditioner

  • Fly Spray (you can use any fly spray, but this is a natural one I like. Less chemicals, safer)

  • Shampoo

  • Conditioner

Equipment -


This is a list of the only equipment I use and feel is necessary for the safe handling of horses from the ground.

  • Breakaway halter (I never use any other kinds of halters, even for training, including rope halters and regular full nylon halters. I want my halters to be well fitted, smooth, and breakable in case of an emergency)

  • Cotton lead (you can use any lead rope, but these are my favorite, nice and soft in the hand,and the perfect length.)

optional but a huge favorite of mine...

  • Blocker Tie Ring (this one is absolutely not necessary, but even since buying a few of these I can't imagine not having at least one! They are perfect for horses that struggle with tying and are prone to sitting back, and for young horses learning how to tie. I also use these inside my trailer during travel)

Equipment -


Everything I keep on hand no matter what - This is my "medical kit". I travel with it and keep it in the barn when home.

  • Vet Wrap, Cotton Pads, and Gauze Bandage Rolls - (for any wounds or hoof injuries than can be wrapped)

  • Topical Wound Ointment , Natural Wound Ointment, and/or Honey! (you heard me right! Honey is an excellent topical wound treatment and can be used in replacement of a medicated treatment when there's a shortage or because you would rather use something less..."chemical".)

  • Spray On Bandage or Natural Wound Powder (for those hard to wrap places! The powder is a miracle worker!)

  • Fly Ointment and Fly Roll On Spray (I usually keep both a roll on fly spray and a topical fly repellent ointment because some horses do not respond well to topical fly repellent ointment. I had one horse who's whole chest swelled nearly double in size in reaction to applying the fly ointment to a small wound. In those cases I'll use the roll on to surround the wound but not cover it.)

  • Antiseptic Wash

  • Ice packs (you can even use these with vet wrap to create your own "ice boot", which is perfect for occasional use)

  • Coconut Oil (excellent natural conditioning and antibacterial ointment for small sores and cuts, also great for conditioning manes and tails.)

  • Fly Mask (not just for keeping away the flies, fly masks are excellent for protecting the eyes from debris or from the sun - especially for horses with sensitive eyes, such as blue eyes. A long nose fly mask will be vital for horses with pink noses too)

  • Eye Wash (Any time I have a horse that's eye is gooey, or slightly swollen my first action is to rinse the eye with sterile saline wash. Of course, call your vet, but often times a good clean out is enough to get the eye back to normal. It also works as a wound wash.)

  • Duct Tape and Baby Diapers (For wrapping wounded or abscessed hooves!)

optional but a huge favorite of mine...

  • Colic Prevention Paste (This may look weird to some people, but this paste I truly believe has prevented at least a couple colics from happening or getting worse! I always keep a few of these on hand.)

  • Calming Paste/Powder (I always have a tube or tub available to me at all times. It's great for emergency trips to the vet, stall rest, and so on.)

  • Antiseptic Shampoo or Medicated Shampoo (I always keep a bottle of this on hand, especially during the wet months I regularly wash my horses' legs in one of these shampoos to prevent any bacterial and fungal infections. Also works great for summer sores and so on.)

  • Back On Track Mesh Sheet (whether your horse is young or old, I find these sheets to be extremely helpful for warming up a horse before exercise, helping recovery from an injury, and keeping arthritic horses comfortable!)

  • Royal Quick Wraps (for stalled horses, these boots are excellent for keeping the legs clean and blood flowing, but they also work great during trailers or for injury recovery)

  • Hoof Boots or These (even if your horse isn't barefoot, keeping at least one or two boots as "spare tires" in case your horse pulls a shoe is a life saver! I've provided a link to two brands I really like, but please make sure and research boots specific to your needs and check the sizing. Hoof boot brands have unique sizing guides and some brands will work better for your horse than others. The second link I provided is geared towards barefoot horses in particular, where as the first boot link can be used as a "spare tire" )

Equipment -

Training Equipment

No matter what discipline you ride or train, whether you're on the ground or in the saddle, this is my basic list of equipment needed. I ride and train all kinds of disciplines, and though the cheek piece on a snaffle may be different if you're western or english, the bit is very much the same. Same goes for the rest of the list, the biggest piece of equipment being the saddle.. in which case you're going to need to personalize that to your specific discipline.

  • 1” wool pad (western) or a nice cotton or wool pad for most other disciplines. (With most saddles you only need a fairly thin pad that doesn't interfere with the fit of your saddle. Half pads and shims should (at least in most cases) be only used temporarily until the saddle can be fitted to the horse. Western saddles are designed to work with a nice thick wool saddle pad that is even from front to back, preferably around one inch thick. I really like the western pad linked, the SPH wool pad. The cut out at the withers is invaluable for any horse.. flat withered or high! If you need more of a "fixer" western pad, which should only be temporary until a suitable saddle is found, check out this pad by CSI)

  • Professionally Fitted Saddle (no matter the discipline! I can't really list a saddle here, as this is very much a discipline based decision)

  • Snaffle Bit or Bitless (i've listed my favorite snaffle bit and my favorite bitless. Keep in mind the snaffle comes in various cheek pieces, from d-ring to loose ring, and the length of the bit is going to depend on your horse's mouth. I'm not against other bits, but a basic snaffle or bitless is usually all you'll ever need!)

  • Breakaway halter (I never use any other kinds of halters, even for training, including rope halters and regular full nylon halters. I want my halters to be well fitted, smooth, and breakable in case of an emergency)

  • Bridle or Headstall (this is going to greatly depend on your chosen discipline. I've provided two examples, but these may not be exactly what you need.)

  • Extra long reins (when training long and low the extra length is vital! Too short of reins and you'll never be able to allow your horse to stretch fully.)

  • Lunge Line (for warm-up, training, and even for hiking walks with your horse to let them explore!)

  • Lunge Whip (though I don't use lunging whips in the conventional manner usually, I still find them invaluable. Either as an extended target or cue giving tool.)

  • Target stick (this is a link to my favorite target stick at the moment, but you can make a target stick out of anything really. As long as it's clearly visible to the horse, large enough that the horse doesn't mistake your hand for the target, easy for you to hold, and able to be held away from your body it can be a target!)

  • Treat bag (any fanny pack will do, or the pocket of your jacket during the winter. Or, there is a fancy, but super simple, easily washable treat pouch I'm currently trying to get my hands on too...)

  • Treats (The treats you use will depend on your horse, but my favorites at the moment are these and these, combined with baby carrots and my horse's regular pellet feed or bits of alfalfa.)

optional but a huge favorite of mine...

  • Back On track Western or English saddle pad (excellent for placing under a wool western pad to keep it cleaner, and to help keep your horse's back comfortable no matter what discipline you ride!)

optional, but sometimes necessary -

  • Bell boots (if your horse over reaches during his stride, or you jump or do hard stops.. you may want to invest in a great pair of bell boots to protect them!)

  • Polo wraps or exercise boots (exercise boots, jumping boots, polo wraps, splint boots... this form of protective gear comes in many shapes and sizes for the various disciplines and needs of you and your horse. I've linked two common styles that I really like, though the brand linked is a higher end product.. so you may want to look for an alternative brand if you're on a budget.)

Care -


So, lets get down to the core basics to equine maintenance that are not necessarily product based. These items listed are going to be, in my opinion, vital to being able to sustain a happy and willing equine partner. This is the checklist that I ask all potential horse owners to be able to provide before making such a big decision as taking on a very large living being as a horse.

No matter where you live or what discipline you want to ride, there are necessary requirements to humanely care for a horse. If you can not provide one or a few of these items for your horse, please consider waiting to actually "own" a horse. Consider leasing, volunteering at a rescue, taking lessons, or becoming a working student!

  • Barefoot trimmer (I know I'm going to take heat for this one, but except for rare medical cases most all horses can and should go barefoot. That being said though, there is a huge difference between just pulling shoes and having a qualified barefoot professional working with your horses.)

  • Veterinarian (No ifs, ands, or buts, you must have a qualified equine veterinarian available at all times - you may need to find near by emergency clinic for those off hours)

  • Equine Dentist (This is different than your average vet. Some vets do great work on teeth, but I find this to not always be the case so take care in making sure your horse's teeth are well cared for.)

  • Trailer (or access to trailer. No ifs ands or buts about this one. Medical emergencies and natural disasters are real)

  • Qualified Osteopath (We could go back and forth on whether this is "critical" or "necessary", but I'm going to add it to the list because way too many problems I see in horse training and care are pain related that need to be addressed by an osteopath or a chiropractor, though I prefer osteopaths. Getting regular checkups or at least having one available for necessary situations is very important!)

  • Deworming Routine (Talk to your vet about a good deworming program for your area! Consider doing fecal tests before chemical treatment so you don't risk creating resistances in parasites.)

optional, but a favorite of mine -

  • Massage therapist (some horses are going to find this more beneficial than others. Some horses may have old injuries that need regular care by a qualified equine massage therapist, and some may just be tense and tight from their training! Either way, you can see some really big positive changes in your horse's attitude and training from even just a single massage, but a regular routine massage may be more beneficial than just one or two.

Care -


Every horse is going to need a diet specific to their needs and the area you live, but there are "basics" that I find most horses do really well with and in almost every case these basics are vital.. you'll just add "on top" to provide for individual needs.

  • Ration Balancer or Multi Vitamin (most horses do really well on a basic ration balancer in combination with forage)

  • Free choice loose minerals (This is different than a mineral block. Horses are not as suited to extracting mineral needs from blocks as cattle are, they do much better with loose minerals offered free choice.)

  • 24/7 Hay or Forage Source (when stalled, traveling, or when pastures are low on grass horses will need other forage sources, like hay. Coastal, alfalfa, timothy.. there are many choices.)

  • Slow Feeder Hay Net (When offering hay I highly recommend a slow feeder net, even for ideal or underweight horses. It replicates the act of grazing and therefore keeps them stimulated and active longer, also providing a more natural intake of nutritional needs. - use this link/code to get a discount from my favorite hay net makers!)

optional, but a favorite of mine -

I feed these to all my horses and love the results!

  • Flax seed (you can buy whole flax seed in bulk online or a lot of feed suppliers will order food grade whole flax seed in bulk for you. I feed one cup each day to my average size horses.)

  • Joint Support (smartpak has a large variety of joint supplements to meet your needs, for most of my horses I use the one linked. Except for my metabolic horses I use a joint supplement without glucosamine .. I combine this one and this one at the moment.)

optional, but sometimes necessary -

Extra supplements may be necessary for your horse to make up for dietary deficiencies or the unique needs of your horse. I won't be able to list all the needs your horse may have, but I'll list a few of my favorite "extra" supplements that I've needed to use in the past and keep on hand, but also Smartpak.com has an excellent variety of choices and can help you find what you need!

  • Mare/Hormone Supplement (for mares that struggle to keep their hormones balanced and act "mareish" frequently.

  • Pain Management (for arthritic horses or horses recovering from injury, I love devil's claw! It comes in both a powder and pellet form. The powder is less expensive and the horses eat it up readily! I've never had a problem with my horses liking it.)

  • Weight Gain (sometimes during hard winters or for horses that struggle to maintain weight you may need to add a little extra "boost" to help them out.)

  • Liver and Kidney Support (after deworming, vaccines, or any form of chemical medication I like to give my horses a liver/kidney support boost to help with their overall health and recovery. It helps detox the chemicals out of their body.)

Care -


When it comes to keeping our horses happy and healthy, this is one of the most important parts!

  • 24/7 pasture/turnout (Really, at least twelve hours of turnout in pasture a day for most horses will work well, but I highly recommend full time pasture. Even for show horses. A horse that is accustomed to constant large scale turnout is actually less likely to injure themselves and is generally happier and healthier overall.)

  • Shelter (This could be a stall during bad weather or a shelter in the pasture, but your horse needs cover from extreme elements.. such as freezing rain.)

  • Companions (horses are social creatures designed to live in herds. Solitary confinement is inhumane. At least provide a companion over a fence near by if you absolutely must, but no horse should be without companions of their kind.)

Care -


Even if you're a highly educated rider, or even a trainer yourself, you need a qualified trainer/riding instructor that can help you regularly. No rider is immune to mistakes, no trainer is perfect, and there is no such thing as "knowing everything". From novice to professional, you too need an instructor! Here are some of the qualities I look for in a professional I would hire...

  • Experience level (every instructor has to start somewhere, so experience levels are going to vary greatly from instructor to instructor, but try and find someone that has a lot of experience either working on their own or working as an assistant under another trainer.

  • Education (there is no "school for riding instructors and horse trainers", but a good trainer will always be continuing their education through clinics, seminars, online programs, taking lessons, reading, and so on. An instructor or trainer that is not open to learning new things or actively pursuing to further their education is not going to be a good instructor or trainer in my opinion)

  • Attitude (nobody learns much from a teacher that's cranky, unapproachable, and abrasive. yet, we seem to have a lot of horse riding instructors that are just plain mean to their students! Look for an instructor that's patient, understanding, pleasant to be around, and positive! And not just towards you, but the horse too!)

Some of the smaller items like supplements and equipment may change over time, but I wanted to give a really rounded look of what I would recommend as basic care for all horses to anyone I talk to. These are the fundamentals, and while a few can be discussed or done without, most of these are vital to maintaining a happy and healthy horse... no matter the breed or the discipline. Almost all of these items I would feel lost without, though the ones listed under "optional" are things I own and love, but wouldn't say are "necessary".

I hope this is helpful to anyone interested in owning a horse or maybe you already own a horse but are curious what you're missing out on! ;) Either way, this is what I personally "can't do without".

- Adele

#feeding #diet #horse #horsemanship #traininghorses #horsetraining #lifestyle #health #medical #grooming #equipment #tack #riding


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