Horses are part of an ever growing industry, with over 600,000 horses in the UK, 1.4 million riders and 5 million people with an active interest in the equine industry*. Most people acquire a horse out of choice, so if you make this decision you should think carefully before going ahead. A horse needs lots of love and care, including regular worming, vaccinations and dental care. Owning a horse is time consuming and can be costly; not only will you will need to consider where you will keep your horse, you must also consider the ongoing costs of owning a horse which include accommodation, bedding, feed and healthcare.

In the unlikely event that your horse goes missing it is going to be very difficult for anyone to know who it belongs to, unless your horse carries some form of permanent identification. It is wise to get your horse microchipped or freezemarked, this will avoid heartache in the long run, should your horse go missing or is stolen.

Horses are herd animals, and thrive on being together with other horses. Don’t forget that your horse will need somewhere to graze, a stable for warmth in the winter time, a constant supply of water, feeding daily and regular exercise. It can cost hundreds of pounds a month to care for a horse, including accommodation, food, veterinary care and insurance; there will be other costs, including buying tack and rugs and extra livery charges when you go on holiday.

Horses can live into their thirties, over this time your horse will need lots of care and attention. Being able to provide all of this will ensure you and your horse make the most of your time together.

* Research conducted in 2004 by the Henley Centre for DEFRA and the British Horse Industry Confederation.

Horses can suffer from a number of viral diseases, infection with Rotavirus is just one of many. If you are considering breeding your horse, you should be aware of this disease and how it can affect breeding status as well as your potential foal's general health and well-being. Rotavirus is the most commonly diagnosed cause of viral enteritis in young foals.

What is Rotavirus?

Rotavirus is a common environmental pathogen and is the most common cause of viral enteritis in young foals. Foals under 3 months of age are the most severely infected, with high mortality rates if not treated aggressively.

What are the symptoms?

If a foal is infected with Rotavirus it will not suckle from its dam and will be depressed. The foal's temperature will often be normal, but it may suffer from profuse diarrhoea, which may persist for a few weeks.

Can it be treated?

Foals under 3 months of age are the most severely infected, with high mortality rates if not treated aggressively with fluids, electrolytes and nutritional support given intravenously or by nasogastric intubation.

Treatment can be lengthy and expensive.

How can I prevent my horse from contracting Rotavirus?

Prevention should include good hygiene, a reduction in the population density of foals and mares should be tested to ensure they have adequate antibody levels against Rotavirus - the foal will obtain these antibodies via the mare's colostrum.

Vaccination of pregnant mares is possible, this increases the Rotavirus antibody level in the mare's colostrum and should be administered in the 8th, 9th and 10th months of pregnancy. Vaccination provides passive transfer of antibodies to foals via the mare's colostrum and aids in protecting foals against this potentially fatal disease.

For advice on vaccination programmes specific to breeding, contact your vet.