Horse Care In The Bitterroot Valley
Of Western Montana

Bitterroot Valley Real Estate

Perhaps no other domestic animal embodies the romance of the Rocky Mountain West than the horse.

Tall, powerful, sleek in shape, graceful in stride and the subject of legends, myths, stories and very real history, horses are as much a part of western Montana today as they have always been.

Horses are magical creatures that are at once mysterious and humble. They can be understood and trained, but on their terms and based on their temperament. They are herbivores and lack a hunting instinct present in other mammals, but they have a strong sense of self-preservation and powerful bodies. Once you build trust with an animal, you can train the horses, creating a lasting bond.

Caring for horses is a challenge though rewarding. If you’re up for it, there are a few things you should know. The animals need a good deal of food, fresh water and room to graze. They also require veterinary care and human contact.

On the home front, it’s important to remember that horses need quite a bit of space. Some say 20 acres per horse. So two horses on a three-acre plot is not sufficient. And horses need an average of 20 pounds of food and about 10 gallons of water a day. Horses can often find what they need grazing a pasture, but the animals are selective eaters, and you may need to plant seeds and rotate the animals around different pastures so the horses can meet their nutritional needs and you can sustain the health of your pasture.

Other feeding options include hay perhaps the most common forms of food for horses. Hay types vary depending on the area and the supplier, but make sure it is quality hay, whatever you buy. Avoid dusty hay or hay that is moldy. Green hay is best. If yours is a working or pregnant horse, you may want to supplement your horse’s diet with concentrates, which should be added to a horse’s diet. And don’t forget to put out a mineral salt block, especially in the summer.

Horses also need regular veterinary care. Because they eat from the ground, they are constantly exposed to intestinal worms and should be de-wormed about every two months. Also, you’ll want to have a blacksmith provide routine hoof care and trimming about every couple of months. And once a year, you should have your horse vaccinated against tetanus and other common horse diseases.

So what happens if your horse is not well? Because horses are prey animals in the wild, they show no outward or obvious sign of pain or weakness, but an observant owner can tell when a horse is lame, which is when a horse will stand or trot differently to compensate for pain somewhere. It is up to the owner to figure out where the source of pain is based on examining the animal, and then take the appropriate measure to help the animal heal.

Your horses need exercise and human care. They are no longer wild creatures. So, rustle up the gang, saddle up the horses and hit the trail. Giddy up!

Don’t have access to a horse? 
Explore the Bitterroot on your own two feet.