Banish the Winter Blues
Horse owners look ahead to winter with a sense of trepidation. Riding on a crisp, frosty morning sounds idyllic but in reality it is often more a case of battling the muddy elements just trying to turn your horse out in the field. As the nights pull in so does the sense of dread.
At Grove House Stables LLP based in Misterton, Nottinghamshire, owner Andrew Stennett knows only too well the difficulties of caring for a horse through winter. Running a busy equestrian centre, Andrew and his team have 35 horses and ponies to look after.
Organisation is the key advises Andrew: “We all own horses because we enjoy riding and very often during winter the chores can take up all the time, leaving very little time for actually riding, especially if you are juggling a full-time job with caring for your horse.
“When you are dashing to the yard before work at 6.30am in the morning it is vital that everything is ready, feeds are mixed and haynets are filled in advance. Also, it can be tempting to rush off to work, with the intention of mucking out in the evening. I would always recommend mucking out in the morning and leaving the stable ready for your horse to come in at night.”
That said, not all horses have the luxury of still being turned out all day during winter. If your horse must stay in the stable for long periods this brings with it extra pressure to ensure your horse is still ridden every day or is at least allowed and hour in the field or an arena to guarantee his welfare needs are met.
Think about which jobs are essential and which can be left until the weekend. Grooming your horse is important but when time is limited just removing the mud from areas where the tack might rub is fine if it means the difference between riding and not.
When prioritising jobs, don’t neglect the daily checks. Thick winter coats and rugs can prevent you from spotting wounds and swellings early. Keep an eye out for signs of mud fever. Prompt first aid treatment is crucial to a quick recovery.
Andrew’s top tips to cope with winter:
- Fill a weeks’ worth of haynets at the weekend to save time.
- Stock up on hay and bedding if you have access to storage space.
- Turn your horse out daily if possible and prepare the stable in the morning, ready to bring your horse in, in the evening.
- If your horse must be stabled, try to turn them out in an arena for an hour, while you muck out.
- Just remove mud and dirt from areas of the body to prevent the tack from rubbing.
- Don’t neglect daily health checks.
- Hire an indoor school if your facilities are frozen or water-logged.