Winter presents many difficult to deal with issues for both your horse and yourself, which is why we have compiled this list of our top 10 tips to help get you and your equine companion through the cold months effectively!
WATER BUCKET CHECKS
Firstly it is important to ensure your horse has a regular water supply available nearby at all times to keep them hydrated and help them maintain their body temperature. The difference in winter is that due to the generally lower temperatures, the water may freeze over so you need to periodically check on the water bucket and break any ice build ups otherwise your horse may go for dangerously long periods with no hydration. It may also be worth investing in a rubber water bucket, as plastic ones can freeze over and shatter when you attempt to break ice off them. Rubber water buckets eliminate this issue and are also easier to move around the stable yard or store away.
PROTECT YOURSELF AGAINST THE ELEMENTS
Many horse riders often overlook their own wellbeing when it comes to riding a horse in the winter, but it is important to care for yourself as well as your horse in adverse weather conditions. Waterproof clothing and thermal base layers are key items of clothing you need to add to your winter horse riding wardrobe, as they can help trap heat and offer you protection from rain or snow to make sure you are comfortable whilst out riding or in the stable yard.
REGULAR WEIGHT CHECKS
Your horse may spend a lot of winter wearing stable and turnout rugs depending on your approach to rugging, which may make it harder for you to keep a close eye on their body condition. This issue is especially prevalent in horses that have generally thicker coats, so it may be worth considering trimming your horses coat a bit thinner than usual at the beginning of winter so you can see their body better. We recommend doing regular checks using a weighband or something similar to keep a track of your horses body condition, and adjusting their feed schedule depending on how their weight is looking. Keep track of the results each time you check so you can spot any alarming patterns early and ensure they don’t cause any bigger issues.
Due to the snow, frost and rain, grass is less likely to grow and have the same nutritional value it does in the spring and summer, which means horses are denied their natural pasture and will need you to alter their feeding patterns accordingly. It is worth considering hay and other nutrient packed feeds or supplements to give your horse all the essential nutrients and minerals they need to remain in top condition throughout winter. We stock a wide range of feeds that will cover your needs no matter what they are, so be sure to browse the range once you’re done reading this blog post!
RUGGING THE RIGHT WAY
One of the most common myths that a lot of horse owners follow is that your horse must be rugged at all times during winter. A good rule to follow is just because you are feeling the effects of the cold, that doesn’t mean your horse is feeling the same way. Rugs are important especially for older or weaker horses, but if you are considering rugging your horse you need to make sure you have a stable rug and a turnout rug as the two serve different purposes. Stable rugs are often not waterproof and are designed specifically to spread your horses body heat to keep them comfortable but not too warm, if a stable rug is left on when your horse is turned out in the rain or snow, it would get soaked and leave your horse feeling very uncomfortable and in some cases in pain. Turnout rugs are more geared towards trapping heat and protecting against wet conditions, meaning if they are worn indoors they may leave your horse feeling uncomfortably hot.
HOOF MAINTENANCE IS KEY
Clipping your horses hooves and keeping on top of them yields many benefits, the main one being that it offers your horse added grip and traction in snowy or icy conditions. In addition, shorter hooves are less likely to get chipped and will trap less snow which will keep your horse happier and safer overall. This is one of the most important factors to consider if you are riding frequently in adverse conditions, as poorly maintained hooves can lead to a serious injury for your horse and potentially yourself if their balance is compromised. Supplements such as Kerratex Hoof Hardener are particularly effective during winter due to it's protective features that defend against brittle, cracked and general damage to the hooves.
REGULAR MUD FEVER CHECKS
Mud fever thrives in wet conditions, making it a bigger issue to consider during the winter months. Make sure you are washing your horses legs with tepid water after every riding session or when they have been turned out for a while, and try to towel dry where possible as that has been known to be an effective method of preventing mud fever from becoming a problem. We also recommend keeping a supply of effective supplements such as Global Herbs MudX to help prevent and treat mud fever, as sometimes it is difficult to stop it from affecting your horse.
Your horses may be spending more time than usual in the stables if weather conditions are particularly bad, so it is important to make sure the stables are in good condition and are maintained well throughout the season. Simple methods such as doing regular checks and bits of cleaning to keep everything neat and tidy will go a long way. If the stables are left in poor or unmaintained condition, your horse is more likely to injure themselves whilst in there unsupervised.
MAINTAIN A REGULAR EXERCISE SCHEDULE
Although it may seem slightly tough and daunting to be regularly riding in cold, rainy and snowy conditions, it is imperative to your horses health that you keep exercising them as regularly as possible. A long period with no exercise can lead to weight gain, skin conditions, and general ill health so try to get them out for rides as much as possible as long as the conditions aren’t too adverse. We recommend keeping sand supplies with you or in the stable yard to help manage icy conditions and prevent your horse from losing their balance whilst riding.
We hope you found some of these tips useful and they will help you tackle the winter in better stead, as always if you need any advice on any of the tips or would like to discuss our product range further, please call our team on 01423 332134 and we will be happy to help!