As summer turns into winter, it is important to remember a few things to keep you and your horse safe and well...
Trade in that body brush and everything will be dandy!
As the weather gets wetter, we want our horses to be as warm and waterproof as possible, when we use a body brush, we bring the oils in our horse’s coat to the surface of their fur (which is what makes them shiny after use), the downside of this is that, with the oils near the surface, they are likely to be washed away, leaving our horses susceptible to rainscald. To avoid this, use a dandy brush (or even a ‘magic’ or 'ultimate' brush, Lincoln make great little brushes which come in packs of three)
Don’t rug up too soon!
Be aware of the weather each day and try to rug up accordingly, if you put heavyweights on your horses while the days are still warm, you’re going to be stuck when you reach mid-winter. You can only fit so many rugs on!
It’s what you feed, not how much!
Your horses can’t eat masses of hard feed so you should focus on what you feed rather than how much - See our blog post Feeding Top Tips! for more information.
Make sure your horses have
Horses are grazing animals so it’s important not to leave them without something to eat. Combat this by doing plenty of checks during the time that they are stabled and/or giving them more than one haynet. (pictured right is a double netted haynet, easy to do, just buy a big haynet and insert the smaller ones. If you have a large holed haynet, be sure to tie them so that your pesky pony can't pull the whole nets out!)
Leave your horses out in the field as much as possible.
The healthiest place for any horse to be will always be outside in a herd. Unfortunately that isn’t always possible, especially not if they drop the weight when it starts to get cold. However, we can compromise by leaving them out for as much of the day as possible… Being out in the day means that our four legged friends get to socialise with other horses, shake out their friskiness and generally be in a healthy atmosphere all day. I couldn’t possibly list all of the benefits of turnout time but if you have any questions, contact us!
Be aware of Mud Fever!
Mud rot is common in winter, especially when your horses are waiting to come in for feeds, if mud rot occurs, do NOT wash your horse’s legs or feet. Instead, keep them dry and use an oil based cream to prevent further bouts.
Make sure your horse has water.
It can be difficult (what with frozen pipes) to ensure your horse has water at all times but it is vital, installing a simple, no freeze device (like a plastic ball floating on the surface of the water) to your water trough/bucket can save yourself a lot of time.
Shelter is a must for winter, especially for those hardy ponies who aren’t brought in. If your field has good trees around the perimeter, you’re very lucky! If not, it’s very important to provide a field shelter or shed. Need help with sourcing a field shelter or advice on where to put one? Comment below!
Stick to a routine.
Whether you feed or bring your horses in, try to keep things the same (same amount of feed at roughly the same time) because horses thrive off routine.
Bank your stables.
In the winter, when horses are stabled more, they have a higher risk of getting cast. To avoid this, you should bank your beds so that your horses don’t get stuck in the corner of their box when they roll and have nothing to push themselves back up against.
Get enough exercise
It’s harder to exercise your horses in the winter, what with shorter days and horrible weather, but it still has to be done. Trot work is great in the winter to keep you and your horse warm. Be careful when riding, if it’s icy or wet, your horse could slip so if the conditions are too bad to ride in, do groundwork in his stable, maybe go back to basics or teach him something new. Remember: Always make sure that your horse is dry before turning him out, If he’s wet under his outside rug, he could drop weight or get a chill.
Be wary of fallen leaves.
Fallen leaves can be dangerous, You may not realise if a neighbour's tree is poisonous until it's too late so it's important to check the ground in your field for things like sycamore seeds, acorns or Oak leaves as these may have been caught on the wind and are a danger to horses. Protect against this by taking a walk (or even a ride) around your field and, if you spot anything dangerous, rake up the leaves/seeds and dispose of them to make sure your horse doesn't ingest them!
Change rugs when stabled.
Always put stable rugs on the horses kept in as it can get cold at night and they have less space to move around and keep warm. It's also important to take off their New Zealand rugs once stabled and replace them with inside rugs to avoid rubs on their withers or the possibility of your horse getting too warm. If your horse is wet or sweaty, dry him with a wicker or sweat rug before putting any other rug on.
Be aware of breathing problems.
If your horses are coughing a lot, it could be dust in their hay. You can soak the hay but with the cold in winter, that can make matters worse. Instead of immersing the hay in the water; try running a hose over the haynet quickly. You can also switch to wrapped hay/haylage or try giving your horse treats containing eucalyptus oil (such as the respiratory horselyx).