Winter management tips and advice

banish the blues

Winter is not always the most enjoyable time to be a horse owner, what with miserable wet and chilly weather and diminished light. It can seem as though a cold snap is never ending and the routine chores take twice as long, whilst you spend half the time to enjoy the fun of riding. However, with some careful forward thinking, planning ahead and some useful tips from Horslyx you can relax this winter and look forward to spring!

Exercising your horse:

  • A 20 minute lungeing session can help to keep your horse fit if you don’t have the time to school.
  • A horse-walker may be a luxury, but it can help to ease the pressure of having to exercise your horse when hours of light are reduced.
  • Variety is important in keeping your horses entertained as well as fit. Take the opportunity to hack where possible and vary schooling, taking time to include jumping or pole work if it fits your horse’s requirements.
  • If your arena allows it consider loose schooling to change things up a little bit. You can use the time to bond with your horse and allow them some free time to lose a bit of energy!
  • Riding horses as often as possible in chilly weather is great for improving the circulation and heat generation, but if you can’t ride, make sure to feed accordingly to avoid any unwanted fizzy behaviour. Plus, over-feeding without exercise to compensate for surplus energy can increase a horse’s risk of tying-up.

Healthy horses:

  • Remember to feed enough good quality forage, such as hay or haylage, to replace the reduction in grass growth and drop in nutritional value. Forage helps to keep stabled horses healthy and happy, as they have a psychological need to chew and may other wise develop stereotypical behaviours such as weaving and crib biting in order to cope with stress and boredom. Feeding fibre also acts as a central heating system, as it takes hours to digest!
  • Replace lost vitamins and minerals to maintain optimum health and condition. Horslyx offers a balance of high specification vitamins and minerals to help replace grazing deficiencies and the trickle feed lick allows horses to self regulate and consume Horslyx as and when it is needed. The palatable lick is also well suited to fussy eaters or those prone to weight gain, as there are no chemical hardeners, artificial colours or preservatives included, so nutrition is balanced, whilst an even temperament is maintained.
  • Feeding a good quality oil source is great for the coat and maintaining condition, particularly throughout the winter months. Every Horslyx has a high oil content.
  • Cut down on dust in the stable by using good quality forage and dust-free bedding. Also ensure that stables are well ventilated to minimise the risk of horses developing respiratory problems and try to provide some turn out time each day, for fresh air and social contact.
  • Check horses over each day and remove rugs, even if they are living out to check for signs of injury or loss of condition.
  • Remember to break the ice on any water troughs or drinkers, as horses may go several hours over night without water in sub zero temperatures.
  • Regularly clean and dry the horse’s legs if they have been turned out to avoid mud fever, but remember very cold water may cause cracks and skin abrasions and hot water will open the pores and allow bacteria from the mud to enter the skin.

On the yard:

  • Check that water pipes are properly lagged to avoid bursting after freezing, leaving your horses without water. If pipes are likely to freeze, fill some large water containers and leave them indoors ready to take to the yard in the morning to provide horses with fresh water.
  • Put hard-core or used bedding down in gateways to avoid poaching or slippery ground due to ice.
  • Stock up on enough forage and bedding to last the winter, to avoid a last minute panic if supplies diminish.
  • Make up feeds and haynets a week in advance to save you time each day.
  • Rotate turnout paddocks to avoid all of your grazing becoming poached and ruined and allow each field a chance to rest and recover.
  • Carry de-icer with you at all times to use to thaw out bolts and padlocks, without needing to resort to bolt cutters. Also, cover padlocks with plastic bags, as this helps to prevent them from freezing solid.
  • Keep an eye on the weather forecast and take precautionary measures if sub-zero temperatures are due to occur. Put down plenty of rock salt in any areas that are likely to freeze and pose a potential danger.