Top Tips for Surviving the Winter Season
Winter is the toughest season with horses and I often wonder why I didn’t take up tennis!! I guess the summer months just make up for it!! Well I have been putting together with a little help from my friends some top tips to help us all get through these winter months!!
- Place a large bin or barrel under the tap and fill to the brim during frozen periods to ensure you have plenty of water for the beasties!
- Provide a free-choice salt block. Many horses are more reluctant to seek water out in the winter season than during the warmer months. Salt can be a great tool for making your horse feel thirsty
- Make sure fresh water is always available by breaking any ice in the fields.
- defrost automatic water drinkers with warm water from a kettle don’t just break the ice as the float may be frozen as well inside the warm water will warm the water drinker up and allow fresh water to come through
- Add warm water to feed this makes the feed smell more appealing and due pasture being high in water content and pasture access being reduced will ensure the horse stays hydrated
- If your grazing is sparse and covered by snow put some hay or haylage out to compensate. However, if your horse is not used to hay or haylage as part of its diet, you may cause problems by suddenly introducing it so if snow is persistent, introduce the forage gradually over a number of days.
Check your fence line for wear and tear, and make repairs before the ground freezes.A little common sense and planning go a long way here. Ensure there are no rotted or unstable boards or posts and that your fence is able to withstand any strong winds or drifts of snow that might come along. A constructed shelter or hedge will ensure that your horse can find protection from the elements.
- Check your fencing regularly and remove any snow and ice from electric tape as the extra weight can bend and break plastic poles
- Fence off areas of your horse’s paddock that appear slippery. Even paddock footing should routinely be inspected for safety. Horses do well in the snow, but ice can be bad news wherever you may find it.
- Remember that when the snow melts, the ground will be soft and easy to churn up. To avoid injury and mud fever, take steps to stop the ground being disturbed. Moving your horse to different fields to graze will help. Or you could change the point at which you enter the field so that you don’t disturb the same area repeatedly. Move water troughs regularly if possible and cover particularly muddy areas with straw or sand.
- Adjust Feeding Programs: Even in areas not affected by snow cover, grass often stops growing and the nutritional quality may decrease. As pasture quality or accessibility declines consider increasing hay and concentrates. That way, your horse won’t lose weight during the winter or lack important nutrition.
- Treat every horse as an individual; Not every horse will require the same amount of feed or the same amount of rugs on. Just because your friends horse has 4 rugs on doesn’t necessarily mean yours does , yours may just need a heavyweight rug!
- If your horse has to be rugged, always have a spare one available so you can swap if it gets very wet. It’s important to remove and re-adjust rugs every day so you can check your horse thoroughly. Be careful not to over rug your horse. It could overheat and too many rugs will prevent air circulation.
- Check the horse regularly for any changes in bodyweight by using a weighbridge or tape. You may be riding less, or increasing the amount of time that your horse is stabled, which means that it is burning fewer calories.
- If your horse lives out 24/7, keep a close eye on their legs. In deep and prolonged snow, their legs are not able to fully dry off, which can cause skin conditions. Remove mud from horses legs to avoid fungal and bacterial infections
- Be extra attentive when cleaning hooves out as ice needs to be removed and check for any lacerations that can be caused by ice in the foot
- Apply petroleum jelly to the underneath of the horse’s hooves – particularly during exercise – to prevent snow balling up. Remember to remove it all afterwards as it can be a breeding ground for bacteria in warmer weather.
- Save time: Get an old clean bin and have small screws or hooks facing outwards on the outside then you can hook your haynet inside making it quick and easy to fill!
- Good hand cream is a must
- Get rubber riding boots as leather is expensive and gets ruined in the wet
- Have a hole in your boot?? get the cheap carrier bags and place them round your foot then slide into your boot also makes them easier to get off!
- Wear lots of thin layers rather than a few thick ones
- Use leggings under breeches not tights as tights go too tight on your feet and make the feet cold
- Body Protectors are also good for keeping you warm!
- Wear Hi Viz even in the day to ensure you can be seen!
- Don’t use Girth hoops/straps on exercise sheets make sure you fold up the front corners under saddle so if the rug was to catch on anything it can come out freely from under the saddle!
Happy Winter guys!!!
Thank you to : Wayne Garrick – Interntional Event Rider, Carrie Sanderson, Lauren Thomson, Louise Tweedie from Dalgleish Racing yard and Guildhouse Sport Horses