"Easy keepers" - The Horse Forum
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post #1 of 22 Old 06-05-2015, 04:39 AM Thread Starter
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"Easy keepers"

Don't worry, I know full well that ALL horses are intelligent, living creatures that need a LOT of attention and care. There is no such thing as an "easy" horse breed.

However, I would still like some general info from all you equine experts, about what breeds of draft horses, light horses, and ponies are generally the healthiest; least prone to getting sick, having genetic defects, and such. Do horses tend to be very sensitive to climate? I worry in particular about how some that originate from warm parts of the world would deal with the brutal winters where I live. What breeds are best able to cope with cold and snow?

In addition, what breeds, in your opinion, do you believe have the best temperaments?
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post #2 of 22 Old 06-05-2015, 08:44 AM
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Lol, horses are horses. You could wrap them in bubble wrap and they would still find a way to hurt themselves. Don't worry, I'm not making light of your question. It just seems like you can do SO MUCH to prevent injuries and sickness and those critters still find a way to get into it.

I know ponies and miniatures can be very sensitive to their diet. They usually don't do well with 24/7 turn out in lush pasture. They need some restrictions. With other horses as far as genetic defects...it is what it is...genetic. Quarter horses with the Impressive line are known to have some issues. Climate- horses are actually pretty hardy and adaptive to their climates. Some can struggle with the heat and cold, but overall if they have proper care (sufficient forage and water, hoof care, dental care) they can tolerate many kinds of weather.

As far as best temperaments...I have seen good and bad from a lot of breeds. I've seen some incredibly gentle giants, angel Shetlands, deadhead thoroughbreds, and also some from a wide range of breeds that would rather kill you than look at you.

People could talk for hours with the questions you brought up. Good questions :)
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post #3 of 22 Old 06-05-2015, 10:10 AM
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The horses that seem to be easy keeps have horses in their background that had to survive in harsh climates with not a lot of edible vegetation. One must be mindful to offer hay during the day with pasture at night when the sugars are at their lowest. Supplementing easy keeps often results in obesity and founder. In England a feed is produced that's fiber with few calories because of the high incidence of grass founder. We need such a feed here altho a daily flake of oat straw would probably do the same. My arab, a hot climate breed, grew a great coat and did well in -35 temps with a constant supply of hay.

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post #4 of 22 Old 06-05-2015, 11:11 AM
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If you're looking for sheer hardiness and intelligence, consider getting yourself a mustang. They are generally very hardy horses who don't have many issues -- thanks to generations of natural selection while living unattended on the range. Their legs and hooves in particular are known for being very strong and sturdy. Of course, there are always exceptions to the rule.

The night before I adopted my mustang from the BLM holding facility in Burns Oregon, it was about 25 degrees Fahrenheit and breezy. It was October and the mustangs didn't have their full winter coats, but they were just fine.
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post #5 of 22 Old 06-05-2015, 12:42 PM
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As a general rule, horses with hotter, more energetic temperaments tend to be the hardest to keep. They tend to be more active in the pasture, risking injury, and they generally need a few extra calories to fuel their fire, and stay in good body condition. This generally includes many thorougbreds, some arabians, and some warmbloods. Basically, horses bred for racing, endurance, and other demanding disciplines such as stadium jumping, and cross country, are going to have more get-up-and-go, and therefore may be hotter to handle, and have faster metabolisms.

The hardest keepers I've ever known have been thoroughbreds. Not all throughbreds are hard to keep, but they certainly can be, depending on the individual.

Breeds that are known for being hardy, easy keepers include small drafts, morgans, mustangs, and standardbreds. Most stock-type horses, such as quarter horses, appaloosas and paints are relatively easy keepers. Though arabians can be hot, all the arabians I've known have been very hardy, sound and weathered winters very well, despite their desert origins.

Also keep in mind that easier keepers come with their own host of problems. Many of these hardy horses are prone to becoming obese, and possibly foundering if their food intake isn't controlled. Many easy keepers can actually be more trouble because they must be kept on dry lots, or use grazing muzzles to maintain their health, especially if they're not being exercised enough. There are two sides to the spectrum.

And don't forget that individuals within a breed can vary greatly in health and temperament. This is why it's always important to ask a lot of questions, do your research, have a trial ride, and have a prepurchase exam done before buying any horse.

As far as temperament goes, I think individuals of any breed can have great temperaments. You just need to choose a temperament that's appropriate for your experience level and what you plan to do. For example, if you want to be competitive in eventing, you may want a horse that hotter, more athletic, intelligent, and eager to work (probably a thoroughbred or warmblood). This same horse may not be the best choice for someone looking for a trail horse or a family pet. That person may want a more docile, submissive mount, that is content to chill in a paddock for weeks on end (probably a small draft cross or quarter horse). This really just depends on what your idea of "best" is.

And I find that most horses, if they were born and have been living in a certain climate, are well-adapted to it. Any horse, including arabians, and akhal-tekes are capable of growing a substantial winter coat. They're big, outdoor animals that do a good job of regulating their own body temperature, regardless of what the weather's doing. The only horses I've ever seen have a problem are some older horses, horses that were born in a different climate, or horses that are housed under lights. One of my horses was born in Arizona, and he had to be blanketed for his first few Pennsylvania winters, but he's doing well now, and grows a nice winter coat with the rest of them.
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post #6 of 22 Old 06-05-2015, 05:20 PM
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I'll also give props to mustangs for probably being one of the healthiest 'breeds' along with one of the most adaptable.

Hotbloods tend to do better in warmer climates, but adapt well to colder climates as well.

Cold weather breeds tend to be any of the more drafty looking breeds, like Fjords, Haflingers, Any draft breed, Morgans and the list could go on. These breeds also tend to be the easiest keeping of breeds.
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post #7 of 22 Old 06-05-2015, 07:17 PM
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I find that there are "general" rules of thumb about certain breeds but, like all animals, some break the mold.

I look after an Arabian who, out of 15 horses, reacts the most to hot weather - we need to bring him in for an hour to cool off.

Lots of TBs are zesty in hand and under saddle and can be hard to keep weight on. And then there are some that come off the track dead quiet and are total beginners' horses. I have one that couldn't lose weight if he tried.

I do agree with the above posters - and yes, some of the breeds that have survival stories in their history do seem to be hardy today. I own a Canadian - the King of France sent stallions and mares over on boats to help develop North America. Only the toughest survived the trip and then, many had to live in Northern Quebec, eating tree bark and sometimes fish (I know - crazy) to survive.

And now, in 2015, I can attest they are a tough, tough breed. I'm going to assume the Mustang has a lot of the same toughness due to similar circumstances.

But as others said - easy keepers need exercise and to be watched in regards to food intake as they can gain weight quite easily. But I save a lot on grain!
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post #8 of 22 Old 06-05-2015, 08:42 PM
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I don't think enough new owners, or even existing owners, think about how easy a keeper their horse is. So many people buy a cheap horse, and end up paying more in feed, vet, rugging etc that a horse twice that would have cost. I learned this lesson a while ago :)

Here in Australia (although I imagine its not that helpful to you) the Australian Stock Horse is an excellent breed. Usually smart, easy keepers, hardy and sound.

Many stock horse types are also easy keepers, like Quarter Horses and Appaloosas, however its not a hard and fast rule. What I would probably do is rather than looking towards a horse bred for show instead look for one who was/is a working horse or was a bred on a station or property. Just look more for practical lines.

I had a Clydesdale/Thoroughbred cross that was pretty hardy.

I've known some easy Arab crosses, some purebred ones can be good too but they can also be very highly strung and reactive so that really depends on the individual.

Many grade/no breed/cross breed horses can actually be great too. In dogs its called hybrid vigour, where crossing two established breeds can produce a dog that is stronger, healthier etc. It's far less pronounced in horses but often a cross can produce some great qualities. Again judge the individual not the breed, but don't rule them out.

I don't know if their environment has a lot to do with it, but it very well might. Two of the three hardiest horses I have owned grew up relatively untouched and unhandled until they were around breaking age. They grew up in herds, unrugged, using only their environment as shelter, sustained on grasses, perhaps hay in rough times. The third I don't know his history, but it could have been similar. I have no evidence for this, and not enough experience to identify a pattern - however it could be worth considering.

Some of the larger ponies can be great. I'd lean towards the chunkier, stocky types.

Thoroughbreds, in my opinion, are one of the hardest keepers. Some are okay, many are not. I wouldn't recommend. If you are looking for a cheaper horse, the Standardbred is, in my opinion, somewhat hardier although somewhat less athletic as well.

Again though, I stress that you do need to judge a horse on it's individual nature/type, not just breed.

To add, many feral breeds, such as Mustangs, Brumbies etc are very hardy, however be selective with regard to temperament and training.
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post #9 of 22 Old 06-05-2015, 09:26 PM
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Originally Posted by Persephone View Post
Don't worry, I know full well that ALL horses are intelligent, living creatures that need a LOT of attention and care. There is no such thing as an "easy" horse breed.

However, I would still like some general info from all you equine experts, about what breeds of draft horses, light horses, and ponies are generally the healthiest; least prone to getting sick, having genetic defects, and such. Do horses tend to be very sensitive to climate? I worry in particular about how some that originate from warm parts of the world would deal with the brutal winters where I live. What breeds are best able to cope with cold and snow?

In addition, what breeds, in your opinion, do you believe have the best temperaments?
There are generalizations you can apply to breeds, yet a great degree of difference within a breed,due to family lines, esp in those breeds that don't have closed books
In general, horses are divided into three main groups , far as temperment

cold bloods-drafts
Warm bloods -most light horses and distinct from "Warmbloods'. horses that are bred for the sports discipline,although they aer in this group, along with stock horses, ect
hot bloods- TBs and Arabians
Easy keeper is not a plus in my books!
It denotes a horse that is very efficient in using food, that evolved out of some background where food was not plentiful, thus has the 'thirifty gene'
Morgans and ponies are noted to carry this gene,a though many stock horses also , due to family lines, have this trait
These are the horses that seem to gain weight on air, need to be managed to prevent IR from developing-in other words, I rather feed a horse extra, then need to dry lott, watch what hay I feed, control turn out or use grazing muzzles, ect
Easy keeper, used in many ads ,is not a plus in my books, s it reads between the lines' diet management'
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post #10 of 22 Old 06-06-2015, 04:16 AM
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People don't mention Standies nearly enough as excellent, beginner-friendly but athletic enough to compete given the right training, intelligent, hardy horses.

The young Standy mare I'm riding at the moment doesn't have the greatest feet due to neglect but she and the Thoroughbred are on free choice hay, in a large pasture, and only get one small meal per day. They're not awfully expensive to keep. The TB is an exceptionally easy horse to keep in good weight but not all are - Thoroughbreds are one of the most expensive breeds to own, as a rule.

The Standy is in absolutely perfect condition and only gets more than pasture and hay because she's in work so she needs it.

We also have a mixed breed pony mare who is concerningly overweight. She's confined to the round pen at night and put in a smallish pasture during the day, and she's just coming into work now. I had a Welsh Pony who was in work 2 hours a day 6 days a week, and stalled with straw instead of hay, and STILL overweight - he was a pain and I wasn't terribly sad when I outgrew him and sold him on.

Pony breeds tend to be tough and hardy but are prone to being overweight to the point of laminitis. My little Welshie was a chronic case and one of his hooves was convex (you want concavity) which indicates an unfortunate probability of pedal bone rotation. With strict diet, exercise, and good trimming, we managed to restore concavity to his hoof, over the course of the two years we had him. When we sold him his feet were perfect. But it was DIFFICULT and he foundered again after he was sold.

It is cheaper to own a horse that you don't have to feed extra, but it's a lot more work.

I had an Anglo Arab who took after the Thoroughbred side of his breeding. He cost me over $100 a week in FEED ALONE. Meanwhile my young growing Thoroughbred was only costing half that, tops. And now that she's done growing she's even cheaper, but I don't own her anymore.

Standardbreds, though, are excellent horses, and too few of them are given the training they need to reach their full potential. It's very worth looking at a good Standie for a horse that's cheap to buy, cheap to keep, and relatively low maintenance.
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