Horse Owners - Are you ready for winter?
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Horse Owners - Are you ready for winter?

As the days shorten and the light fades, all horse owners know that winter lies ahead, are you ready and prepared? Take a look at our handy winter guide and check out whether your preparations are on target for the colder months ahead.

Clothing for you and your horse

  • Wash, repair and reproof all your rugs. Throw out or sell anything that has seen better days
  • Layer rugs rather than having a different rug for every day of the week, its much quicker and easier than constantly changing rugs particularly if you have loads to do.It allows you to rug in the afternoon when the horse comes in and then just add another one on top for overnight when the temperature is at its lowest
  • If you have a rug wrecker, put a thin cheap rug over the top which you won’t mind throwing away if it gets trashed – it will help protect the rugs beneath
  • Organise somewhere to dry your rugs if you don’t already have a warm room or a rug dryer – this will prolong the life of your rugs as well as keeping your horse warm and toasty in bad weather
  • Service and sharpen your clippers if you intend to clip this winter, an overhaul will ensure they are in perfect working order when you need them
  • Check your own clothing – warm coats, boots, hats and gloves. Overtrousers can be really useful in persistent wet weather and will keep you dry for long periods spent outside in the rain

The Yard

Grit or rock salt is a good option for icy paths and yard surfaces. In persistently cold weather, you can muck out a line of bedding as a walkway for horses and people. This is non-slip and retains just enough heat and texture not to freeze if you can avoid throwing water over it

  • Insulate taps and water pipes with lagging to prevent them from freezing up in sub-zero conditions
  • Clear guttering and downpipes of autumn leaves and debris and ensure drains are free-flowing
  • Equip yourself with a large handheld torch or flash lamp which can be carried or has an integral stand to rest on something solid if required in the event of power outages
  • A couple of miner’s lamps are very useful either during a power cut or in poor light if you are trying to examine a wound, for example, directing a strong light onto a precise area and leaving you with both hands free
  • Have a couple of plastic sledges available – these are great for moving bales or other items when a wheelbarrow is just too difficult to use in icy or snowy conditions
  • Keep lock de-icer and WD40 readily available in a location which is room temperature, these will de-freeze padlocks
  • Covering padlocks with a plastic food bag helps keep them warmer and delays freezing
  • Stock up your veterinary kit with poultices, vet wrap and treatment for mud fever and an iodine spray. All horses are more prone to abscesses and wet weather conditions like thrush and mud fever during the winter months

The Field

Keep a plastic sieve handy to fish out lumps of ice from water troughs, it keeps the water clean and saves you freezing your hands

  • If your water is piped to the field, figure out an alternative method of carrying water in the event the pipes freeze
  • Put hogging down in gateways to help protect them from poaching when the conditions are really wet
  • If you are using a field shelter, check that is sound and make good any repairs or defects
  • Ensure gates are solid and well supported by their hinges, opening and closing freely.There is nothing worse than wrestling with a dropped field gate in windy and wet conditions whilst a sharp horse dances round you on the end of a lead rope
  • Check fencing is sound and durable and make any repairs as needed
  • Decide how you are going to feed hay on the field, are you going to use nets and in which case, where are you going to hang them from or would a round bale feeder be more practical?

Feed and Bedding

  • Try and organise a hay delivery to cover the colder months. It’s good peace of mind to have your hay for the entire season and usually guarantees consistency as well which is very important for the horse’s digestive system
  • Ensure your feed is kept in sealed, vermin-proof containers. Cold, wet weather encourages rodents to look for food and seek warmth and shelter in yard buildings

Managing through the winter months is largely about organisation and preparation. We can’t control what type of weather comes our way as horse owners but we can ensure we are as prepared as possible for what lies ahead, whatever it is.

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