Guide to Minimum Standards of Care for Equines

The North Carolina Horse Council exists to represent and further the common interest of the entire equine industry of North Carolina. Thepicture of a horse's face NCHC is composed of volunteers and groups from all breeds and types of horse activities, without bias. We are amateurs and professionals, horse hobbyists, commercial producers, local riding clubs and larger corporations.

If you believe a horse-or any animal-is being abused or neglected, report it immediately to your local humane society or animal control unit. If you are unsure who to contact in your community, call the North Carolina Horse Council at 919-821-1030 or 1-800-529-9206.

Minimum Standards of Care for Equines Consists of:

Adequate Food

  • Nutritious feed of sufficient quality (e.g., wholesome, palatable and free from contamination, such as feces, mold, mildew, insects, etc.)
  • Feed shall be provided in sufficient quantity and be 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 REINS volunteer, veterinarian or extension personnel. REINS (Regional Equine Information Network System) is a volunteer program of North Carolina Cooperative Extension. These certified volunteers are available to provide research-based information regarding the management and care of horses. They may be reached through your local extension center.
  • All storage and feeding receptacles shall be kept clean and free from contaminants, such as feces, mold, mildew, insects, etc.
  • If more than one animal 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.

Adequate Veterinary Care

  • An equine shall be afforded immediate veterinary care if know 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.

Adequate Water

  • Adequate water 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 quality of equine(s). Activity levels and climatic conditions must be considered.
  • All water receptacles shall be kept clean and free of contaminants and be positioned or affixed to minimize spillage.

Adequate Air

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

Adequate Space

  • Space available to the equine must be usable and safe (e.g., must be provided in 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, quality, condition, and size of the equine(s).

Adequate Shelter and Protection from the Weather

  • All equines should have access to appropriate shelter from very hot, very cold, or very wet environments. Trees and natural weather barriers may, in some cases, be considered adequate shelter. If appropriate natural weather barriers are not available, a three-sided run-in shed with a roof should be provided. All shelter should be free of standing water, accumulated waste, sharp objects and debris, and provide protection from inclement weather conditions such as prevailing wind, sleet, rain and temperature extremes.
  • It is the responsibility of the owner/custodian to ensure that each equine, taking into consideration age, breed/type, sex and health-has access to adequate shelter and is not excluded from shelter by more dominant equines.

Standard Veterinary Guidelines for Equines

  • Hoof care maintenance and trimming every six to eight weeks, or as directed by a farrier or veterinarian.
  • Parasites kept under control through de-worming every six to eight weeks or 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.
  • Proof of annual negative Coggins test results for Equine Infectious Anemia (EIA) is mandated by law for all equines over six months of age under the following circumstances:
    • for any public exhibition, gathering, or any co-mingling of equines, such as rodeos, parades or shows:
    • upon sale or transfer of ownership;
    • whenever an equine is transported over public roadways;
    • strongly recommended for ALL equines.

North Carolina General Statute 14-360-Cruelty to Animals-defines cruelty as "any act, omission, or neglect causing or permitting unjustifiable physical pain, suffering or death", including deprivation of "necessary sustenance". The words "animal" and "dumb animal" are held to include "every living vertebrate except human beings."

In addition, many county and city animal control ordinances require that any person keeping an animal to provide "adequate food", "necessary veterinary care", "adequate water", "adequate air and space", and "adequate shelter".Those terms as applied to horses and other equines are defined within. The North Carolina Horse Council considers these guidelines to be the minimum standards of care for the North Carolina Equine community.

This information has been provided by:

The North Carolina Horse Council

P. O. Box 12999

Raleigh, NC 27605-2999

Phone: 919-821-1030

Toll-Free: 1-800-529-9206

Fax: 919-821-1415

For more informaiton, see