With winter on the horizon, ensuring that you, your horse and stable are ready for whatever winter will bring. From severe weather to frozen locks to hay shortages, be prepared with our essential guide to getting ready for winter with your horse. How to get your horse and yard winter proofed offers useful tips to get your horse through the colder and wetter months of the year:
Watch The Weather
While the weather forecasters are not always 100% correct, their reports are generally a good indication of what lays ahead for the week. So, if there is a risk of snow, be prepared in the lead-up and if it doesn’t arrive in your area, then great news, but if it does it means you and your horse will be able to cope and manage the situation more effectively.
Not only is ice dangerous where horses are concerned but turning up the yard to find that the yard gate padlock is frozen and then your water pipes when you finally get into the yard. Have some anti-freeze in the car and insulate your water pipes to ensure you aren’t caught out by a cold snap. If your yard pipes freeze no matter what you do, then fill up as many water containers as you can to see you through the cold snap. Don’t forget to check the water buckets and field troughs on arrival and break the ice so your horse can reaccess water. Here is a really handy tip to keep water in troughs and buckets available to horses in the field: fill 2-litre plastic fizzy drink or plastic milk bottles (peel off their label first) with 1 mug of salt. Then add tap water to about 3/4 way up (more water makes it easier for your horses to push the bottle down in a frozen trough/bucket). Screw the top on securely, shake the mixture well, let some more air in if necessary. Now let this bottle float in the water in your trough or a large bucket. The fresh water freezes but the salt water won’t, as it has a lower freezing temperature… animals push the bottle down and gain access to the fresh water below the ice. It’s an old farming trick.
Feed The Right Stuff
Adjusting the amount of feed you give your horse according to his level of exercise is imperative. If a cold snap is forecast with snow and you don’t have the luxury of an indoor school or covered horse walker, slowly cut down on hard feed but maintain a good amount of roughage intake. With snow on the ground, it’s inevitable that you will be decreasing or adapting your horses’ work so plan as best as possible. Feeding Aloeride is also excellent for digestion and healthy gut function. Find out more about how Aloeride can help support a healthy digestive system. Worthwhile you looking at the video of Victoria Bax who – having used Aloeride for over 6 years – knows just how much Aloeride contributes to condition over the winter months.
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Most horses will spend more time in their stable during the winter months, so ensure that you use good quality hay and bedding to keep dust down to a minimum and keep it well ventilated. Boredom busters can help break the monotony ins the stable. If safe to do so, then walking your horse out in hand in the school for 10 x mins a day will get his circulation moving and give him a welcome distraction being cooped up in his stable.
Dressed For The Weather
Make sure that both you and your horses’ winter wardrobe are fit for purpose. That lovely turnout rug you’ve had for years won’t be so lovely when you find that its waterproofness has disappeared and your horse comes in from the field soaking wet and cold. Now is the time to get your rugs repaired, cleaned and re-waterproofed when necessary. Your own wardrobe needs review too. Investing in rugs and clothing that have technical properties that breath, wick and repel water are all key factors that will make winter for both you and your horse a bit more bearable.
Things To Spare
Having a stash of a spare woolly hat, gloves, socks, fleece and a lightweight waterproof jacket in the boot of the car is a good idea. A towel, blanket and some high energy snacks and bottle of water are also worth keeping in your vehicle, especially if you are driving on country lanes and break down. Waiting for recovery to arrive will be a much more pleasant experience in winter if you are prepared.
If you are lucky enough to have turnout you can use all year round, then placing hardcore or used shavings around the field gates will help prevent poaching. Feeding hay on hard boards rather than directly on the grass will also help save your fields as you head into winter. Most horses given a choice would rather be inside in really cold or wet weather. So, keep an eye on your horse. If he is spending more time standing by the gate calling at you then enjoying his field time, it might be worth cutting down his field time to just a few hours in really rotten weather.
Whatever winter decides to throw at you and your horse preparation is the key to enjoying the season ahead.