Tips on dealing with your horse in winter
Winter is a tough time when you are caringfor horses. Not only do you never have enough daylight hours, meaning you onlyever see your horses in the dark, but you and your horses also have to contendwith the weather.
Depending on your set up, you may bringyour horses into stables at night. However, it’s still important they spend atleast part of the day outside, as a horse is not designed to be cooped up all day.One solution is to have a winter paddock, which you sacrifice to the elementsand then rest during the spring months so that it can recover. Of course, ifyou are lucky enough to have acres and acres for your horses to roam, this isnot such a problem, but let’s assume you have limited land during the winter –just how do you cope?
One of our top tips is to prepare your landin advance. It’s hard to think about the depths of winter when the sun isbeating down, but that is the ideal time to lay down hardcore in the areas thehorses congregate. This includes the water tanks, the gateways, and hayrackareas. You could also invest in some grass mats, which are hard rubber andallow the grass to grow through – these look great and protect the land, but dohave a higher price tag.
Positioning of your water trough is key;don’t stick it in a corner where the ground will get churned, or under trees orhedges where it will get full of dead leaves. Place it somewhere with goodaccess and make sure the ground around it has a good hardcore surface orsimilar.
If you use automatics, make sure the pipesare lagged well against frost, and have a contingency plan in case the pipesfreeze (ie a hose within easy reach if you don’t want to haul buckets across ona freezing morning). During cold weather, it’s essential to check the water andbreak the ice, removing as much of it from the surface as you can. There’s noneed to give warm water to your horses or top it up with warm; it will stillfreeze as quickly and horses cope fine with cold water.
Argh, mud – the bane of every groom! Ifyour horse is prone to mud fever, this can be your worse nightmare. Try andkeep your horse off the mud (we appreciate how hard this is during a Britishwinter!). Too much washing off of the mud can exacerbate mud fever, so instead,let them dry then brush off. If you do get a flare up, follow our advice here and useAqueos products for best results.
If you’ve prepared your field well,hopefully your mud will be at a minimum. If you are riding regularly and findthe mud hard to deal with when grooming, use a full neck rug. You can also usecoat and tail conditioner which helps keep the mud off to a certain extent.
Feeding hay in the field during winter isoften necessary if you have no grass, but it can be messy and wasteful. Hay onthe ground is the most natural method of feeding but gets trodden into the mud.It’s not only unsightly, it takes a look of clearing up come spring, as well ascosting extra money in wasted hay.
Haynets are not recommended, as when emptythey hang lower, and can be a hazard. Haylage rings or hay racks keep the haymore contained, but make sure there is room for all your horses to circulateand get to the hay without fighting. If using, prepare with hardcore aroundthese areas to prevent mud. You can always re-seed under the haylage ring inspring if need be.
In the depths of winter, you will probablyquestion your sanity at times in keeping horses - but just remember when youare wallowing in mud, or you’ve just spent an hour grooming – spring will soonbe here!