Equestrian Needs Ltd

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Winter is a particularly trying time for horses and owners alike. Reduced daylight hours make riding difficult and cold spells can increase the workload for the average owner.

Rushing to look after your horse to get home into the warmth can leave both you and your horse feeling harassed, so don't forget to spend some quality time, a little relaxed grooming will be a better experience for you both than a rushed frenzy of cleaning and feeding.

Below are some helpful hints and tips to survive the winter, only a few months and it will be spring again!


Feeding

  • Feed good quality vegetable oil to help improve conditioning and coat.
  • Supplements such as garlic may help to boost the immune system.
  • Colic may be more prevalent in stabled horses so be extra vigilant.
  • If you arenít riding regularly ensure you adjust feeding to suit and step up hard feed with increases in exercise.
  • During the winter, feed can be prepared in advance on a free day, saving time and making it easier on working days.

Health Care

  • Keep a headcollar and torch in your car for regularly checking horses especially those living out, look for wounds, other injuries and signs of mud fever.
  • White legs in particular are more susceptible to mud fever. Towel dry legs if possible, sulphur powder or liquid paraffin applied may also help to prevent the condition.
  • Cut tails shorter than normal in the winter to help keep hind legs and tails free of mud. Furniture polish makes a great cheap alternative to tail detangler and gets through the most matted winter tail.
  • Thatching is an excellent way to dry off tired, wet horses. Put dry shaken out hay under a rug and towel dry ears and legs.
  • Ensure teeth are checked regularly, the inability to grind food properly will prevent a horse getting all its nutrients and they may lose condiition as a result.
  • Donít let hooves become overgrown, trimmed, they chip less and hold less snow.

Riding

  • With the holidays, bear in mind your and your horseís fitness. Consider the amount of work you have both had over the past six to eight weeks. Bones, joints and muscles need about two months to be able to cope with the stresses of a significant increase in work.
  • Consider that any horse that is remotely ďfizzyĒ, probably wonít show how tired it is whilst the adrenaline is pumping. By the time you feel them tire, they will be really exhausted.
  • Warm up horses gradually when riding so muscles have a chance to warm up. Use an exercise sheet to help prevent the horseís muscles becoming cold.
  • Cool down your horse properly, ears should be cool, not hot or cold. Colic and/or chills are a certainty if your post exercise care isn't done effectively.
  • Pick out feet well and add non stick cooking spray or petroleum jelly to prevent balls of snow forming.
  • Be aware of muddy, icy conditions which may be slippery under foot.
  • Lungeing can help keep a horse fit if you donít have time to school.
  • To save time consider riding and leading.
  • Offer water to horses if you are out hunting or at competitions.
  • If you horse has sweated, use electrolytes to replace body salts.
  • If itís very cold, warm the bit before you tack up.

Rugs

  • Use a cotton summer sheet under rugs to protect them from dirt and grease, they can be easily washed in a domestic washing machine.
  • Old duvets are a cheap alternative to improve warmth under stable rugs.
  • You get what you pay for, good quality rugs are worth the money as the fit may be better. Horses can become uncomfortable if they are weighed down with four or five rugs.
  • Remove rugs regularly to check for rubbing and chaffing.
  • Hoods increase warmth and help to keep your horse clean. A little show sheen on the inside of the hood helps to prevent rubbing.

Rider

  • Walkerís head lamps are brilliant for around the yard as they leave both hands free, ideal if you have to bring in more than one horse or there are unlit areas in the yard.
  • To help avoid chillblains on your legs, wear thermal jodhpurs or thick wool tights under jodhpurs. Over trousers or full chaps will help to keep your legs warm.
  • Woollie hats, polo necks and ski clothing help to keep out the winter chill. Consider investing in a quality waterproof lined jacket.

Field

  • Put hardcore or used shavings around field gates to protect the ground and rotate use of paddocks.
  • Keep ice in water troughs broken to ensure continued access to water. Floating a rubber ball or apple may help to prevent freezing.
  • Avoid placing hay near gates or fence lines where the paddock will become poached, always put out more piles than horses to avoid disagreements.
  • Check plastic buckets as they are prone to shattering in the frost.
  • Consider a wind break or shelter if there is no natural shelter in the paddock.
  • Add reflective strips to your horse rugs to help you find him in the field on winter nights.

Stable

  • Does your horse need to be stabled in the winter? Horses will often prefer being outdoors and with sufficient shelter and good quality rugs, they can winter out successfully
  • Lagg your water pipes to avoid them bursting after a freeze. Fill water buckets the night before to avoid problems with freezing overnight.
  • Save water and install water butts, they are a great water supply for general washing and rinsing feed buckets.
  • Plan ahead and ensure you have adequate supplies of hay and bedding. Check stable lights are working.
  • Keeping horses on rubber matting will help to save time and money on bedding. Skipping out and deep bedding may be an option during the week when you have less time and saving a full muck out for the weekend.
  • Ensure your stable is well ventilated to help to keep coughs to a minimum.
  • Keep tack well oiled. A heater in the tack room will help to prevent it getting damp and mouldy.
  • Put salt down to prevent your yard becoming a skating rink for both you and your horse.

Updated: December 2011