Equine Care Guidelines

The Minimum Standards of Care for Equines

Any person having the charge or custody of a horse must provide:

  • Nutritious food in sufficient quantity
  • Necessary veterinary care
  • Air
  • Adequate space
  • and Shelter or Protection from the weather

Equine 808 Horse Rescue provides the following definitions of these terms as the terms apply to the care of horses in most; if not all states, and considers these guidelines to be the minimum base of care necessary for horses as defined by the equestrian industry in the United States.

Nutritious food in sufficient quantity

Nutritious food is defined as wholesome, palatable, and free from contamination such as feces, mold, mildew, insects, etc. Food shall be provided in sufficient quantity, and be of adequate and appropriate nutritive value. Diet shall be prepared with consideration for the age, breed/type, condition, size, work level and quantity of equine(s).

  • Equines should score, by a veterinarian, no less than a body condition score 4 on the Henneke Condition Scoring Chart to be considered of adequate weight.
  • Equines shall have access to adequate natural forage or be fed daily or as recommended by a veterinarian.
  • All storage and feeding receptacles shall be kept clean and free from contaminants, such as feces, mold, mildew, insects, etc.
  • If more than one equine is fed at one time or in one place, it shall be the responsibility of the owner/custodian to ensure that each animal receives nutrition in sufficient quantity.
Necessary veterinary care

An equine shall be afforded immediate veterinary care if known or suspected to have an injury, accidental or deliberate, or exhibiting such signs as shock, colic, founder, tremors, swelling, broken bones, open wounds, inability to eat or drink, blistering as a result of fire, acid, etc., irregular or abnormal breathing, partial or total paralysis, abnormal discharge or bleeding, signs of disease, severe parasitic infestation or infection, loss of appetite, weight loss, abnormal skin condition or hair loss, temperature fluctuation, persistent diarrhea, inability to bear weight on a limb or lameness, or other such sign.

The following is recognized as standard veterinary care guidelines for equines:

  • Hoof care maintenance and trimming every four (4) to six (6) weeks, or as directed by a veterinarian or a farrier.
  • Parasites kept under control through worming every three (3) months and on a rotating worming schedule as directed by your veterinarian.
  • Annual dental check-up and necessary treatment to ensure proper and adequate food digestion.
  • Vaccinations as recommended by your veterinarian.
Proper drink

Proper drink shall mean clean, potable water available at all times for all equines. Exceptions shall be determined by veterinary consultation or professionally accepted practices for the safety and well-being of the equine. Equines that are being worked or are in transport shall be provided water as often as necessary for the health and comfort of the equine. Frequency of watering shall consider age, breed/type, condition, size and quantity of equine(s). Activity levels and climatic conditions must be considered. Equines that do not have free access to water, must be offered water at least twice daily. All water receptacles shall be kept clean and free of contaminants and be positioned or affixed to minimize spillage.


Enclosed areas should be constructed or modified to allow free flow of air to control temperature, humidity and prevent air stagnation.


Space available to the equine must be usable and safe (e.g. must be provided an area free from standing water, accumulated waste, sharp objects and debris and maintained in a safe and healthful manner).


Fencing shall be well maintained and in good repair at all times. Equines shall be allowed to exercise and have freedom of movement as necessary to reduce stress and maintain good physical condition. Space and provisions for exercise must be appropriate and sufficient for the age, breed/ type, quantity, condition and size of the equine(s).

Shelter or Protection from the weather

Shelter for equines shall have at least a roof and be kept in good repair and free of standing water, accumulated waste, sharp objects and debris. Proper shelter provides protection from inclement weather conditions (e.g. prevailing wind, sleet, rain arid temperature extremes).

It is the responsibility of the owner/custodian to ensure that each equine, taking into consideration age, breed/type, and health, has access to proper shelter or protection from the weather (e.g. relief from more dominant equines that may exclude him/her from the shelter). OR All equines should have access to proper/appropriate shelter from weather extremes. Trees and natural weather barriers providing shelter may be considered adequate shelter.

Equine Crisis Resource

Hurricane, Tsunami, or Tornado Equine Evacuation

All horse owners in need a Plan B….just in case. So be prepared.
Head for the hills! When hurricane winds blow along the gulf and eastern shores of the United States, horse owners must decide whether to “shelter in place” or load horses, gear, and pretty much everything but the kitchen sink, and head inland, away from the greatest storm danger.

If you plan to evacuate with your horse, there are a number of web sites and contacts to help you. If at all possible, making these contacts well in advance of the emergency will make the trip much easier. Leave early in a voluntary evacuation period. If you wait too late, you may be stuck in traffic or not allowed on the road once winds reach a certain velocity. If you must make a last-minute search for shelter/stabling, consider some of the following as you make calls and prepare to move out.

  1. Have proof of ownership and individual identification of your horse.
  2. Be sure to describe your horse (stallion, mare, young unbroken, mare with foal) in terms that make special needs clear.
  3. Discuss fencing and stabling type—what is your horse used to living in and will he be safe in different/unusual type facility.
  4. If pasture/paddock with other horses, realize additional risk of injury in turning horses in with new “buddies”.
  5. Ask about health status: Know what vaccines/worming your horse has received in relation to the general status of horses being accepted at the stable. There is always some risk in commingling horses/livestock. Having your horse current on vaccination, especially Tetanus, EEE, WNV, Rabies and Flu/Rhino may protect in case of exposure to these diseases.
  6. Carry or locate source for feed and hay of type your horse is accustomed to.
  7. Contact Equine 808 if you need transportation to a non-flood area or to the ranch for temporary housing during a tsunami or hurricane.

Owning a horse is a responsibility that should not be taken lightly. Neglect to meet a horse’s basic needs—including food, water, shelter and medical care—is a crime recognized by an ever-growing number of jurisdictions across the nation.

More Resources

Humane Society Horse Care Guidelines
USDA Animal Welfare Information