Just like that, winter is here.
Here are our top 20 tips for surviving it:
- Stock up! If you can, bulk buy good quality bedding and hay/haylage at the start of the winter. This will mean you are not caught short if the weather takes a turn for the worst and stockists are short of supply. If storage is limited, see if you can find someone to share with.
- If you have to hack on the roads, make sure you have plenty Hi-Viz for both you and your horse (there’s so much on the market now there’s no excuse not to have enough!). This is essential all year round, but even more so on dark, gloomy winter days when visibility is poor. At this time of year, yellow is the best colour to wear to be seen.
- Insulate water pipes to prevent freezing and burst pipes once the temperatures drop below zero. If you know your water supply is prone to freezing, fill one or two big water containers in the evening so that you have fresh water every morning regardless of the temperature.
- Plait the bottom of the tail in a single thick plait to help keep it clean. Spraying with mane and tail detangler or coat shine spray will also help stop mud sticking to the hairs. You could even fold it up to the dock to keep it cleaner, which might be useful if you have very muddy paddocks or a mud monster horse!
- Make sure your horse has one or two good quality, breathable turnout rugs (with a full neck if clipped). Ideally, one lighter weight rug and one heavier rug at minimum. This will help keep your horse warm and comfortable and also removes the need to use multiple rugs which increases the risk of rugs moving and rubbing.
- Invest in some winter breeches to keep you warm, comfortable and prevent chilblains. These tend to be fleece lines and water resistant and are an absolute must have for yard work and riding on colder days.
- Don’t have access to a solarium? Hang a heat lamp up in the stable/wash area so that your horse can stand below it when wet. This will prevent your horse getting chilled and will also save time waiting for them to dry. You can get your hands on these relatively cheaply at most country stores.
- Fill enough haynets for the week ahead every weekend. This means one less job to do on a cold, wintery morning when you may be pushed for time. There’s also something satisfying about knowing you’re already one step ahead at the beginning of the week.
- Select a good quality bedding material which promotes your horse’s health and well-being, like Bedmax. If they’re going to be spending a large amount of time in the stable, you want to make sure you are taking care of their respiratory system, hooves and joints in particular.
- Get yourself a pair of good quality, waterproof over-trousers to wear around the yard. These will not only keep you dry but will act as a wind-block helping to keep you warm when doing outside jobs such as poo-picking and paddock maintenance.
- Invest in a drying rug for your horse. These are excellent for speeding up the drying process on cold, damp days where horses never seem to dry off properly. They are ideal for popping on a sweaty horse after exercise, or after bathing ahead of a competition and will have them dry as a bone in no time.
- Make sure you have a yard kettle and a supply of tea and coffee! It’s essential for cold mornings and very handy to warm up after a bitter, winter’s ride. It’s also very useful
- Stock up on grit or salt before the icy weather strikes otherwise it becomes gold dust! It is essential for keeping your yard safe for both you and your horse in sub-zero temperatures.
- Clip your horse appropriately for its workload. This will make grooming easier and will also reduce the likelihood of sweating during exercise which could cause a chill once the horse has cooled off afterwards.
- Keep a small heater in your tack room and use a timer switch to manage it. This will prevent tack becoming damp and mouldy and will also help dry off any wet equipment after riding in the rain.
- Towel dry wet legs to help reduce the risk of mud fever. Applying Pig Oil and Sulpher to dry, clean legs also helps to repel water and stop mud sticking (but always make sure you do a test patch first).
- Keep the same rugs on in the stable and outside and only change if necessary. This helps to save time and keeps the horse warm. It is also useful for drying wet rugs.
- If it snows, grease up your horse’s hooves to stop snow balling up. You can use any kind of lubricating substance for this from baby oil to vegetable oil!
- Feed a soaked fibre feed to increase water intake when the temperatures drop. You can also use warm water when it’s really cold. This has the added benefit of increasing fibre intake which produces heat during digestion – it’s like an internal radiator!
- Give yourself a break! If the weather is ghastly and you’re going to be miserable riding, chances are your horse is too. Give yourselves a day off!
And remember, it won’t last forever and each day is one step closer to spring!