When most people think of pet sitting, the first animals that come to mind are dogs and cats. But horse sitting is also a much needed service. Many horse owners travel rarely or never, because they can’t find people who are able to put in the time and work to care for their horses. If you have expertise in horse care, and live in a horse-friendly area, you might want to consider horse sitting.
Horses require specialized care, as they need to eat at certain times of the day, and a certain amount of food to stay healthy. Feedings should be scheduled at the horse’s regular feeding times, and the amount and types of feed vary from horse to horse, so keep detailed instructions for each. Also ask about what and how many treats can be given. Horses love eating yummy snacks like apples, but too many can lead to an upset stomach.
Fresh, clean water is also very important. It should be available at all times both in the stall and in the turnout area/pasture. In the winter, freezing can be a real pain, so ask the owner about water heaters.
Brushing and hoof picking is also a daily chore, so make sure you ask where the brushes, halters, lead lines, picks, and other items are located. Have the owner show you how to halter, tie, brush, and pick the hooves, and try it yourself, as some horses can be a bit tricky.
The horses may need to be handled to be turned out to graze or stretch their legs, but riding and longeing is usually not required. If more involved care is requested, you may want to adjust pricing for this, as it will take more time.
Stall cleaning is one of the less glamorous parts of the job, and is a bit more involved than cleaning a little kitty litter box. For shorter sits of a few days to a week, you probably won’t have to do a full stall cleaning. Just scooping up some “road apples” and the wet bedding and replacing it with fresh, dry bedding is sufficient. Longer sits will require a full stall cleaning, which can take a lot of time for multiple stalls.
Knowing the signs of injury and illness is very important with any animal. In horses, immediate care for many problems is essential. Any changes in behavior, eating, moving, swelling, breathing, etc. should be given a serious second look. Have emergency care items and 24 hour veterinary telephone numbers handy.
When meeting with the owner, be sure to ask lots of questions and keep detailed records. Also, have some horse care books handy, especially ones for recognizing and treating horse illnesses and injuries. Two great books to have handy are A-Z of Horse Diseases & Health Problems, by Tim Hawcroft. (ISBN# 0-87605-884-5) and Horse Owner’s Veterinary Handbook, by James M. Giffin & Tom Gore. (ISBN# 0-87605-606-0)
If you feel confident that you can handle all the above and love horses, then horse sitting may be for you!