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Horses FAQ

How do I find a riding instructor?

You can contact the Massachusetts Department of Agricultural Resources for a list of licensed riding instructors and stables. or contact
Massachusetts Department of Agricultural Resources
251 Causeway Street, Suite 500
Boston, MA 02114
Phone (617) 626-1797

How do I apply to become a Massachusetts licensed riding instructor?

Massachusetts requires that an equine riding instructor be licensed with the state. The license period extends from April 1 through March 31 of each year. Visit the website, or you can contact:

Massachusetts Department of Agricultural Resources
251 Causeway Street, Suite 500
Boston, MA 02114
phone (617) 626-1797

Do I need a license to rent or sell horses?

The stable must be licensed in order to rent, or sell horses. The stable license must be posted in the office. For more information see the Mass Gov. site.

I am planning to bring a horse to Massachusetts from another state. What are the health requirements for equines entering the state?

A health certificate signed by an accredited veterinarian must accompany all shipments of horses, mules and asses into the Commonwealth of Massachusetts.

(1) For equines imported into the state the health certificate must declare the animal or animals free from all contagious or infectious diseases and must state that equines are negative to a USDA approved test for Equine Infectious Anemia (EIA test - Coggins or Elisa) done at an approved laboratory within the previous twelve (12) months.

The certificate must state that these equines do not originate from a quarantined area, or an area where a contagious or infectious disease has been officially diagnosed. No Pending EIA tests are accepted. The Health Certificate must show a temperature recording of the animal that must be within the normal range. The Health Certificate must also identify the lab performing the EIA test, the accession number of the test, the result of the test and the date the sample was drawn.

Each animal must be individually identified, and the health certificate is void after thirty (30) days. Foals 6 months of age and under are exempt from the EIA test requirement provided they are accompanied by their dams and the dam has the approved negative test.

(2) Equines to be auctioned, sold or offered for sale must have been negative to a USDA approved test for Equine Infectious Anemia within the previous six (6) months of such sale or auction. All other requirements as above in (1) apply.

For additional information, please contact the Massachusetts Division of Animal Health and Dairy Services website, or call (617) 626-1792

Where can I find more information on equine regulations, licensing and registration in Massachusetts?

Information is available from the Department of Agricultural Resources, Bureau of Animal Health, Equine Program

How do I enroll my child and/or volunteer as a leader in the Massachusetts 4-H Equine Program?

The 4-H Equine program is the most popular project area in the state. You can visit the Massachusetts 4-H website to find out the contact information of the 4-H Educator in your region. Be sure to check out the Animal Science section on the 4-H website to view event dates, resources and what exciting programs are taking place in Massachusetts.

I have a horse that drools. Is there a plant that may be causing my horse to drool?

Mold spores on red or white clover may be the cause of slobbers or excessive drooling. This may occur in spring and summer when horses eat legume forages, particularly red clover, which has been infected by the fungus Rhizoctonia leguminicola. This fungus produces an alkaloid called slaframine, which stimulates the salivary glands. Removing the affected animal from the pasture or hay will usually stop the drooling.

The fungus affects clovers (red, white, and alsike) and alfalfa, forming a black patch, and increases when these legume forages become drought-stressed or are exposed to prolonged wet conditions. The fungus is known by the common name "black patch", and is not a problem that occurs in all pastures or in every year. Cool spring temperatures and drier summers still with adequate rainfall will reduce the growth of the fungus on the clover plants. Hay made from contaminated forages may also carry the fungus and can maintain problem levels of toxin for several years.

For more information on pasture species visit UMass Extension Amherst, Crops, Dairy, Livestock and Equine website.

I have a pasture for my horses and am concerned about alsike clover. What is alsike clover, and why is it toxic to horses?

Alsike clover (Trifolium hybridum) should never be seeded in pastures grazed by horses. Alsike clover is sometimes planted because it's adapted to cool climates and poorly drained soils. However, alsike clover may cause photosensitization with short-term exposure and a condition called "big liver syndrome" with long-term exposure. The more common and acute lesions related to photosensitization are characterized by a reddening of the skin exposed to sunlight, followed by either superficial or deep dry necrosis of the skin. There may also be edema swelling and discharge, resulting in crusty inflamed areas. This occurs in the non-pigmented pink-skinned areas of the face.

Alsike clover grows 15-20 inches tall, and has a small pink flower similar to white clover. It can be differentiated from white clover and red clover which have a white inverted “V” or watermark on most leaflets. Alsike clover does not have these markings. Also, red clover has a larger flower, hairy stems and leaves, while alsike and white clovers do not have hairy stems or leaves.

Long-term consumption of alsike clover may cause progressive destruction of the liver and increased connective tissue resulting in what appears to be an enlarged liver. The causal toxin is still unknown. Alsike clover poisoning does not appear to occur every time the clover is consumed. The problem may be related to either a fungus growing on the clover, or to some environmental stress affecting the growth of the clover. It is thought that the toxicity may be caused by a mycotoxin which is either created by a fungus growing on the plant, or created/accumulated by the plant under stressful growing conditions. As a precaution alsike clover should not be fed to horses in amounts greater than 5% of the feed.

How do I learn about the quality of hay?

Contact the Extension Crops, Dairy Livestock and Equine program, University of Massachusetts, Amherst.

What should I know about manure management and where can I find information about it?

Manure contains nutrients, such as phosphorous and nitrogen, and pathogens, including bacteria, viruses and parasites. These pollutants contaminate water resources and reduce recreational potential of lakes and rivers, destroy wildlife habitat, and eliminate drinking water supplies for people and livestock. Proper manure management and runoff management will protect or improve water quality on your property, and in your community and watershed.

Resources available:

Fact sheets on Best Management Practices on Manure Management

The Massachusetts Farm Bureau has put together a guide specifically for horse owners. This guide includes the following topics:

  • Good Neighbor Guide for Horse Keeping: Manure Management
  • Pollution Control for Horse Stables and Backyard Livestock
  • Directory of Composters and Other Manure Users
  • Composting: A Solution to Horse Manure Storage & Disposal Problems
  • Horse Manure, A Natural Resource for Composters & Compost Users
  • Directory of Horse Farms and Stables with Manure Available
  • Municipal Regulations
  • Nuisance Complaints

This guide can be ordered from:

Massachusetts Farm Bureau Federation Inc.
249 Lakeside Ave
Marlborough, MA 01752
(508) 481-4766
Toll Free: 1.866.548.MFBF (6323)

The Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection also has several helpful brochures.

  • Vegetated Buffer Strips, Slow the Flow to Protect Water Quality
  • A Horse Owner's Guide to Protecting Massachusetts Natural Resources
  • Composting
  • Protecting Public Health and Drinking Water
  • Information Sources
  • Manure Management for Healthy Horses
  • Manure Impacts on Surface Water Quality
  • The Massachusetts Wetlands Protection Act and Single Family Home/Horse Ownership
  • Mud and Pasture Management

All DEP brochures can be found at

I would like a career working with horses in some way. What studies are available through the University of Massachusetts?

I have horses on my farm. What other websites would you suggest?

Massachusetts Natural Resources Conservation Service

The Natural Resources Conservation Service, (NRCS) is a federal agency that works hand-in-hand with the people of Massachusetts to improve and protect their soil, water and other natural resources.

UMass Amherst Extension – Crops, Dairy Livestock and Equine Program

Information and contacts, for the departments, publication, and specific equine links.

UMass Amherst - Department of Veterinary & Animal Science

Program Information and contacts for the department.

Massachusetts Farm Viability Enhancement Program, Department of Agricultural Resources

The purpose of the Farm Viability Enhancement Program, ("Program") is to improve the economic bottom line and environmental integrity of participating farms through the development and implementation of Farm Viability Plans ("Plans"). These comprehensive, yet focused farm plans, which are to be developed by teams comprised of farmers and other agricultural, economic and environmental consultants, willbe aimed at suggesting ways for farmers to increase their on-farm income through such methods as improved management practices, diversification, direct marketing, value-added initiatives and agr-tourism. In addition, the Plans will make recommendations concerning environmental and resource conservation concerns on participating farms.