How to look after your horse through winter - Surrey equestrian
- Credit: Horse&Rider
Editor-in-chief at Horse&Rider magazine, which is based in Grayshott, Alison Bridge brings us all the latest from the Surrey horse world...
Whether it’s thick snow, freezing cold or pouring down with rain, winter can be, ahem, rather trying if you look after horses.
The lady who runs the yard where my cob Harry lives has got it down to a fine art and all the horses thrive, tucked up in their winter rugs, even during the worst weather. Her top winter must-haves include really good waterproof, windproof clothes and a quad bike to reach horses in far fields.
Here are some more great tips, gathered from experienced horse keepers, to ensure everyone who has animals to care for in winter keeps a smile on their face – and that’s whatever the weather!
1 When snow falls, clear paths around the yard for the horses as soon as possible and sprinkle down salt or grit. Once it’s trodden down, it’s more slippery and difficult to move. Making walkways out of used bedding can also help.
2 Place a ball in water troughs to help prevent them freezing. When you break ice, remove the loose pieces floating in the water so it will take longer to refreeze.
3 Horses can be reluctant to drink very cold water, which presents a risk of colic, so add warm water to his bucket to take the chill off the water and encourage him to drink more. Take a Thermos flask to the water troughs if the horses are kept in the field.
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4 To help prevent water buckets freezing in the stable, put the water bucket inside a larger bucket and pack the space between with bedding or hay. You could even put some warm manure in the bottom of the large bucket to keep the water bucket warm from underneath!
5 In snowy weather, sledges are more effective at moving things around the yard and fields than wheelbarrows.
6 Wear thick, waterproof rubber gloves over your thermal gloves to help keep your hands warm and dry.
7 If adverse conditions mean that you aren’t able to exercise your horse for any length of time, remember to alter his feed accordingly.
8 Make sure your horse has access to plenty of hay during cold weather – it will warm him up from the inside.
9 Repair leaking taps and hoses, as any water that leaks onto the yard will freeze and become a hazard.
10 If possible, on very cold nights, turn off the water to outside taps at the isolation valve, then turn the taps on to let them drain and leave them on. This should help prevent burst pipes. Fill some buckets with water the night before a predicted freeze and put them somewhere they won’t freeze, just in case.
11 Try to prevent your fields from becoming boggy by rotating grazing regularly, changing access points into the field and regularly moving the areas in which you feed your horse. Putting down hardcore in high-traffic areas, such as gateways, will also help to keep the ground mud-free.
12 Ensure you have plenty of places at your stable to hang wet rugs so that they can dry efficiently and be ready for the next rug change.
13 On really cold nights, applying stable bandages to your stabled horse’s legs will help to keep him warmer.
14 If you’re going to a show and it’s too cold to bathe him, give your horse a really good groom with the curry comb, then rub the coat with a few Bounce fabric (dryer) sheets and brush him with a soft brush. Repeat with more fabric sheets, then brush again. This eliminates the static that helps the hair hold the dust. Finally, use a damp rag or one sprayed with coat conditioner to wipe him over.
15 Leave food, water, a blanket, a torch and a shovel in your car in case you get stuck on your way to feed and muck out your horse, and always carry a fully-charged phone. A head-torch is invaluable, too, so you can keep your hands free when working in slippery conditions.
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