Mud, mud, glorious mud… but maybe that’s only what non-horsey people say – after all they’re not squelching across fields to bring in a horse.
Winter definitely brings its own set of challenges. When it’s not chucking it down with rain or blowing a gale, the freezing temperatures turn the yard into an ice rink. But don’t fear, we’ve got a whole host of tips to help you survive the winter and get you through to summer hacks in the sunshine.
• Keep a hammer at the yard to break the ice on frozen water troughs. A colander can also come in handy to scoop out chunks of ice – no more cold, wet hands!
• Is your horse prone to mud fever? Consider using a pair of mud socks to keep their legs clean.
• Prevent too much damage to your fields by rotating your horse through different sections. You can also try moving water buckets if the surrounding area is becoming too muddy. Alternatively, designate one field for winter use only. It can get churned up but then allowed to rest and recover over the summer.
• Save time by making up feeds and hay nets in advance so that they’re ready for the week ahead and you can prioritize the fun things, like riding!
• Keep your horse entertained in their stable with a toy such as the Hay Ball or Carrot Ball. These are particularly good if winter turnout is limited, or your horse is easily bored.
• Teamwork makes the dream work! Consider teaming up with a friend on the yard to split jobs or do the horses at one end of the day each. This will save time and give you a much-needed break.
• On colder days, allow extra time to warm-up your horse’s muscles before starting your schooling or jumping session. Factor in time at the end too for them to stretch and cool down in walk.
• If your horse is a little sweaty after a ride, sponge them off with water (warm water if you have access to it) and then pop on a cooler so they don’t get chilled.
• Stay motivated to ride through the winter by getting involved with your local riding club. You can also start planning your competition season to give more purpose to your winter schooling sessions.
• Short on time? Consider lunging your horse to quickly exercise them while improving their way of going.
• Base layers are the perfect foundation for any winter riding outfit and a great way to stay warm whilst being active. Layer with a waterproof or padded coat designed for riding and you’re sure to be cozy in the saddle. When you’re not riding, wear a bobble hat to keep your head warm too.
• Waterproof trousers are a must-have for the winter. They not only keep you dry but often come in a fleece lined version too for extra warmth. If you’re heading to the yard before or after work, you can put them on over work clothes to save time. For riding, consider investing in some fleece lined breeches or riding tights – your legs will thank you on chilly hacks.
• Select the right rug so your horse stays warm and dry. Keep a close eye on your horse’s condition and the weather to choose the ideal style and weight of rug. If you need some extra help picking a rug, check out our Turnout Rug Guide.
• Gloves are an everyday essential. Look for a pair with a fleece lining for extra warmth and a waterproof coating for yard use. Keep spares at the yard or in the car so you’re never without them.
If all else fails, stick a photo of your horse from last summer up in the tack room. That way you can dream of galloping along warm beaches and remind yourself why you’re battling the elements all winter long to look after your horse.