With an abundance of short days ahead, the winter can seem very long and a reduction in activities and general stimulus can cause horses and ponies (and even their owners!) to become bored and restless.
Help yourself and your horse to shun the winter blues and stay in great physical and mental shape by filling the days and weeks ahead with a variety of fun activities.Here’s a few ideas:
Get Some Exercise
Cold, unpleasant weather can mean that horses spend long periods of time in stables, but this can contribute to boredom and more importantly, poor digestive and respiratory health so get outside with your horse as often as possible for some exercise.
Before heading out, take care to protect yourselves from slips and trips by gritting your yard regularly and sweeping up any mud and debris, and remember to dress yourself and your horse or pony appropriately for the conditions.
Before any hacks or arena sessions, allow extra time for a warm-up to limit the risk of any injury.
A turnout or exercise rug will help your horse stay warm and prevent muscle stiffness but if he’s prone to sweating, you may need to clip your horse or dry him thoroughly after exercise to prevent any moisture from lowering his body temperature, causing discomfort or other skin conditions such as rain scald and mud fever.
Horses, just like us, are social animals and their grazing time, even in winter fields when the grass is sparse or of poor quality, gives them the opportunity to socialise with other horses so maintain their pasture time as far as possible.
However, your horse needs opportunities to socialise and bond with you too!
Get the best of both worlds by riding out on group hacks or spending time at the yard on wet days to groom, massage, feed and nurture a trusting and positive relationship with your horse.
New Equestrian Skills
If the winter forces you to make significant changes to your horse or pony’s daily routine then boredom can quickly set in, but every horse, regardless of their usual activity levels can benefit from using the spare time to learn new equestrian skills and so can their owners.
If you have suitable indoor space, winter is the ideal time to begin or develop your grooming, dressage, jumping or broaden your knowledge of equine care by completing a formal qualification.
Help your horse to alleviate the stress or boredom caused by hours spent in the stable by providing them with some activity toys.
Heavy-duty play balls that horses can kick or toss around as well as chew toys that can save your wooden fixtures from being gnawed and make great boredom busters.
Much like doubled up haynets, feeding toys slow down your horse’s eating to both satisfy his requirement to chew and ensure that the additional nutrients and energy he needs to maintain a healthy weight and condition during the cold winter months are available.
This week the winners of the SPOGA Innovation Award in 2016, Equisense, have launched another high-tech equine centric product.
Imagine being able to accurately measure your horse’s daily activity, build a picture of his health and well-being, track any changes and be alerted in the event of an accident or if colic is suspected?
Equisense Care is a connected equine bodysuit created for all horse owners who have an interest in the health and wellbeing of their horses. Created to be linked to a mobile application that not only evaluates the horse’s wellbeing and state of health in real-time (thanks to 3G connectivity) but this clever piece of kit also enables the owner to optimise their horse’s lifestyle, enabling them to take action in the event of a problem. Created by a team of passionate equestrians, technology experts, vets and biomechanical engineers, this product is set to change the way we understand and observe our horses: From evaluating his well-being over days, weeks, months and years through to monitoring his recovery post trauma or during illness.
This wearable tech is the result of careful research and planning and has been carefully adapted to guarantee his comfort and safety all year round courtesy of an anatomically designed bib that can worn all year around both in the stable and field and under rugs (A lightweight honeycomb summer bib and a shoulder protective winter version designed to be worn under rugs are available)
Equisense Care works in two ways:
* Without a subscription you can retrieve all your data as soon as you connect your smartphone to your sensor via Bluetooth.
* With a small subscription (€19.90 per month) thanks to 3G connectivity, you will always have access to the data in REAL TIME, which means that you will receive alerts from the device on any noted changes as they are happening and enabling you to take appropriate action, whether that’s paying a visit to the stables to check on your horse, monitoring his progress on a journey or calling your vet with concise and accurate data to highlight a possible issue or concern.
Currently this device is available for pre-order and the team plan to go into large scale production next summer with delivery of Equisense Care Kickstarter orders being sent out in the Autumn of 2017. To pre -order via Kickstarter click here
The Equisense Care device will be able to analyse time spent moving, time spent at each gait, distance travelled, time spent sleeping, heart rate and heart rate variability, respiratory rate and perspiration with additional free upgrades planned to monitor body temperature, agitation and time spent eating.
For further information on this revolutionary equine technology click here
Running a charity project for the second year running, to show support for the campaign is luxury boot and shoe manufacturers Fairfax and Favor.
During October the brand will be selling their limited edition, Breast Cancer Awareness leather tassel with all proceeds going to Breast Cancer Care UK.
The tassels are a limited edition piece is crafted in Fairfax and Favor’s signature tassel style combining supple powder pink leather with a custom gold shield, all finished with a beautiful cotton gift bag to keep them in the best possible condition.
Designed to be worn with the FF Regina boots, or used to adorn their handbags or an accessory of your choice.
The limited edition tassels are priced at £30.00 and can be ordered here
While many owners get around to clipping in late October, many, particularly ones with hairier natives, are clipping more regularly. Wanda really struggles in the heat and she gets a good trim every 4 weeks and a full clip every 6-8 weeks, depending how quickly her hair is growing. By keeping her coat shorter I feel she performs better, is easier to keep super clean and looks tidier. However, it is possibly my most irksome yard job as Wanda isn’t great at standing still and being patient (if I was rich it would be the one job I would pay someone to do!). We have our methods to keep her quiet – more on that later – and contrary to normal practice she usually gets clipped after work, but when she has cooled down and isn’t sweaty. So after all these years of trimming, snipping and clipping what are the top clipping tips I can offer?
Many a good clip has been spoilt by over clipping, just to try and get symmetrical leg, tail and saddle patch lines. We have all been there… just a little more off this… oops. I like to mark-up Wanda as it makes clipping a no-brainer. I use a damp chalk block on her black bits and charcoal on her white bits to draw up any clipping lines. She has ‘everything off’ apart from her saddle area and tail point, which makes things easier, but I still mark up as it reminds me where to stop! I also use a piece of bailing twine to measure as it makes the job quicker and more accurate. Some people also draw around their saddles to give a perfect saddle shape to clip to, clipping slightly in from your line. A saddle is easier to use as a template than a saddle cloth which doesn’t lay in an accurate shape to draw around. I tend to leave a curved off rectangle shape across her back as it’s easy to clip, but it really depends on your style and how cold backed your horse can get in the winter. My top tip would be not to try and use saddle soap to mark-up – been there and it makes a real mess of your clippers!
Keep your horse warm…
I use a fleece exercise sheet to cover Wanda up and keep her warm, but not hot. It’s easy to move out of the way and wash afterwards. It helps to keep her coat flat and also helps with her fidgeting. I also wear clothes that are easy to wash afterwards and layers as clipping is hot work. I tie my hair up and wear a cap since ‘that’ incident where I ended up with haircut too! I also make sure I have robust boots on since ‘that’ incident where Wanda stamped on my foot and broke two toes… yes, it’s an occupational hazard, but worth staying safe!
For Fidgety Horses
I start with Wanda’s shoulders and move on to the head early on, using lots of oil so the clippers stay cool, and changing the blades if they become hot. Wanda hates having her chin clipped. I’ve tried all sorts of methods, including twitches, but on a bad day nothing will help to make her stand quietly – not what you need when you are trying to clip around her eyes! What I have found, taught to me by my friend Fiona, is that de-sensitisation really helps. So I accustom Wanda to the noise and vibration of the clippers. If she stands quietly I remove them from her cheek, so it’s a ‘touch – release’ method. This way I can gradually clip her head, with no stress and foot stamping. It may take slightly longer but I have found I can do a better job. I’ve also found giving her a haynet to eat while I do the ‘kicking end’ helps, as does putting on her Equissage which tends to relax her and has similar vibrations to the clipping, so desensitises. With my young 3 year old filly, I’m already bringing her up to the yard during clipping time and she will be introduced to small clippers soon. Fortunately, she is 1/2 Thoroughbred so doesn’t suffer quite as much with furball issues!
The Fiddley Bits!
I don’t always have a helper with me so have to be inventive. Wanda sometimes has a front foot placed onto a sturdy bucket so I can clip her elbows and fetlock areas. She looks rather like a performing elephant but it works! I also have a sturdy mountain block to do her ‘higher parts’ – after ‘that’ experience when she sent me flying from a wobbly upturned bucket!
Another tricky area is going up the mane line – no accidental hogging allowed! I sometimes section off Wand’s mane with plaiting bands to keep it out of the way. If you then one hand to hold down the mane on the opposite side, and hold the blades at a slight downward angle to get the perfect line.
Look after your kit
My last pair of clippers lasted an incredible 23 years! It shows that regular servicing and care can really help make them last. I send my clippers away in ‘low season’ so I get them back quickly. I also have fine, medium and coarse blades. The fine ones are great for faces, but too fine for legs, the coarse are great for thick winter fluff and legs, it all really depends on your horse’s coat. I the blades sharpened every 4 clips and store them wrapped, with lots of oil. I also really thoroughly clean down my clippers after use, with an old rag and a decorator’s brush. I wipe over the flex before they are packed away to check for damage, and always ensure the trip switch they are plugged into is working.
Most of these tips are common sense, and clipping as a skill is one that improves with practice. Everyone has their own tips and techniques so it’s worth watching and helping someone with a lot of experience as you can learn a lot.
If you are looking for new clippers it may be worth checking out the new Clipperman range…
I was interested to hear the new Clipperman range of clippers and trimmers has hit the shelves and is ready for the coming season. The extensive range is available through retail outlets and via their own website here The collection comprises of nine different types of clippers, trimmers and shearers, as well as related accessories, and eleven different types of blade to suit all needs.
“Clipperman has been created with expert Eddie Palin, to provide a top quality product range that delivers excellent value,” said Jessica Balmer of Clipperman. “The range consists of mains and battery powered clippers and trimmers that are ideal for single horse owners as well as yards in need of powerful clippers to clip many horses throughout the season. We also have a supporting range of accessories, such as battery packs, oils and blade wash, and a range of different blades to allow everyone to get the perfect finish.”
The entry level Clipperman Jewel Trimmers have a retail price of just £38 and come with one rechargeable battery, a set of blades, two plastic combs, a charger, clipper oil, brush and instruction manual. The premium clippers in the range, Clipperman Dragon, are totally wireless and come with two rechargeable Li-ion batteries that provide up to four hours of running time between the two batteries. These robust clippers have a cutting speed of 2500RPM and are 12V. Clipperman Dragon clippers are comparable to 150W mains clippers, but are totally cable free, giving the power and the freedom to fly through hair. They have a RRP of £285.
“We’ve been working on this collection for a long time, and we’re confident that every detail has been considered and addressed. As horse owners, we understand what clippers have to do, and the annoyance that a substandard pair can cause to horse and owner.”
With a social media leak earlier this week, Woof Wear fans had a taste of things to come with their inspired new medical hoof boot, which will be available from UK Stockists from September. Social media was alight with the news, with Woof wear deciding to push the product to launch earlier than expected. I am pretty certain this will be an award worthy product to look out for, filling the gap for intelligent and contemporary design, for an age old problem. No more gaffer tape!
To see this amazing piece of kit in action follow the link here
The leak sadly overshadowed the release of another new product, the new Woof Wear Dressage Wrap, a quick and easy alternative to bandaging and offers support to the fetlock and tendons.
Smart and flexible, the Dressage Wrap allows full flexibility of movement and the 7mm breathable neoprene keeps joints and tendons cool. The plush outer material allows for a wide range of strap adjustment around the leg.
Suitable for everyday use including schooling, warm up, training and clinics. Priced at £33.00 per pair they are an affordable and well designed option for the amateur or professional rider. In my own experience Woof Wear boots are also extremely robust, so they most definitely fulfil their tagline ‘Protection by Design’.
Sized at S, M ,L and XL in White, Turquoise, Brown or Black. For more information click here
Priced at £65 for a set of 4 brushes, the HAAS collection is a top end choice for riders wanting the ultimate in brush tech for their horses. Made in Germany, the HAAS website explains that many of their brushes now use specially selected synthetic materials as the basis for all brushes and combs. You may think this lessens the quality and makes them feel a little ‘plastic’ but by using synthetics their brushes can offer better hygiene (as all products are washable), increased reliability and longevity, comfortable handling (they all have a hand strap like a body brush), water resistance, retention of bristles and a stronger build quality. Looks wise, I couldn’t tell the difference between these brushes and some of my natural ones and they were certainly easy to use.
So it makes total sense that the way forward is synthetic. Add to this the very engineered manufacturing process where the hand loop together with the bristles are directly incorporated with the body of the brush. HAAS brushes don’t use nails, spikes or screws when making their brushes so this lessens any risk of injury. There is also no glue, so nothing can fall apart. So they certainly build a great description of informed design and manufacture…
BUT… how do they work in reality? Watch our video review HERE and see the brushes in ‘real life’ here (excuse my German pronunciation!)
So you like the sound of HAAS and would like to buy some yourself? There are 3 UK stockists which are listed here.
I purchased my set of HAAS brushes from Eqclusive who offered a prompt service and the brushes came in a really smart black card box – very luxurious! They are also the only supplier who sells sets of 4 brushes – a new inititative and a fantastic idea!
If you order from Eqclusive in July and use the code JULY all UK orders will receive free shipping and orders above £100 will receive a tub of Equinox.
You can watch the HAAS promo video here and read more from their website here They literally do brushes for every need, an amazing collection in many sizes, colours and bristle types.
HAAS is also on Facebook… @haasbuersten and if you have any questions about my experience of the brushes send me a message.
With the wet winter our paddocks and hacking fields are less than desirable and it’s been tough keeping my horses in nice condition – even Wanda the super cob is fed up with mud and all that is entails. Our new farm in Suffolk sits on clay which makes it really hard to keep the horses clean. Although the heard have the odd ‘duvet day’ when they stay in, I do think it’s important that they get some time to leg stretch and graze, but this means I have to stay on top of their grooming and with less daylight hours I rely on products that works. So here is my no frills, easy peasy guide to the best products out there for the winter months.
Step 1 – Tails
I’ve been using Absorbine Show Sheen hair polish and detangler regularly on the horse’s tails. After exercise I spray their tails thoroughly, leave for a few minutes and then brush through. I’ve found that the spray really helps to repel the mud and if done regularly their tails only need the occasional wash. I’m also a fan of using baby oil which I apply from the tops of their tails and brush through with my fingers. Again it seems to keep the mud off and condition in.
After brushing through I put the girl’s tails into big plaits and tie them up with a chunky hair band, making sure I don’t put the band over their dock area. This keeps shavings and mud out of their tails and makes pre work grooming super-fast! The ponies out on the field also have the same treatment… they are quite spoilt!
Step 2 – Wash down
As I have moved home I sadly don’t have a hot wash area, however, I don’t like to over wet warm horses and like to get them cooled and dry as soon as I can. Sadly, I am still saving for a horse solarium and one day might be able to luxuriate under one with the mares after work! As a poor woman’s alternative I heat water in a kettle and use a couple of small capfuls of Naf’s Love the SKIN he’s in Skin Wash. A little goes a long way and you need to use minimal water so it’s easy to clean your horse and get them dry before they chill. Love the SKIN he’s in Skin Wash is a gentle unique blend of herbal ingredients, including Aloe Vera, designed to help support damaged or challenged skin affected by lumps, bumps, rashes or mild irritations. So great for the winter on a clipped horse like Wanda. I keep all of my old towels and have them cut into useable sizes for drying off and polishing… harder graft than a solarium but good exercise!
Step 3 – Foot care
With the wet and muddy winter all horses are prone to getting thrushy feet and loosing foot condition. As a daily post exercise routine I clean my horse’s feet and apply Kevin Bacons Hoof Dressing. The waxy formula protects heals and keeps the hoof wall in great condition. This product is really easy to apply and takes minutes, so I know I’m doing the best for my horse’s and keeping them primed and prepped for the 2016 eventing season.
Step 4 – Keep the mud off… buy a hood!
All of the horses are turned out in rugs with detachable hoods and liners to accommodate our changing weather. I personally use Premier Equine as the quality is very good and they fit Wanda’s wide shoulders very well. I also use Snuggly Hoods Turn Out Weatherproof Horse Head . I’ve used these for a couple of years now and find them hard wearing and great for keeping the mud off ears and difficult to brush faces. Wanda looks a little like mickey mouse in her hood but appreciates not having me brush her ears for hours!
Step 5 – Invest in Some Golly Galoshes!
At first sight I did wonder how Golly Galoshes would really help my winter regime but I was soon proved wrong. The galoshes are designed to be worn over your training or hacking boots or bandages. They are quick and easy to wash and so save your expensive kit from getting damaged by wet and mud or a damp sandy school. I’ve found by using Golly Galoshes my boots last for longer, are easy to keep clean. I have also used them to protect bandaged wounds on turned out horses. I own the fluorescent pink style which also is high viz – so great for hacking safety too. A piece of kit I wouldn’t be without and worth looking into investing in as they are British made and robust!
SO that’s it… Add in some brushing with good quality brushes and a cactus cloth mitt to remove stubborn mud and we are done. Nobody likes mud and cold winter riding but with these products you feel like you are treating your horse and contributing to their well-being. It’s a win – win!
Note… These are products I use on a daily basis and I receive no financial gain as an incentive to endorse them.
Poor Wanda has been suffering with rather scabby legs recently – the start of Mud Fever I think. The lovely team at Equimins have provided us with some products to test so we can try to get her legs healed and protected in time for the really nasty weather. Watch this space for some video reviews coming soon!
Here is a heads up on the products we will be using:
Feeding a cob can be quite a balancing act. Wanda needs fibre and the right amount of nutrients in order to keep her in tip top condition, but she also can bloat and put on weight very easily. Over the winter there has been little grass available and I’ve needed to supplement Wanda’s diet with a high fibre feed as well as her hay and endurance mix. I normally feed a simple grass chop, but to be honest it looks quite unappetising (from a human perspective) and even greedy Wanda leaves a little bit behind in her bowl. I was introduced by HoneyChop Calm and Shine by a friend and have recently trialled this product with great success. www.honeychop.com
HoneyChop Calm and Shine is a blend of high fibre oat straw, dried grass, marigold, nettle, mint, camomile and oil which can help towards a shiny coat and added condition. It is a low sugar dressed short chopped oat straw with added dried grass. Like some products it isn’t sickeningly coated with molasses so is suitable for ponies and those with weight issues. Honey Chop also produces a completely untreated oat straw chop which I have used for the children’s ponies with great success. I’ve found Calm and Shine it a useful addition to Wanda’s feed as it keeps her occupied for longer when eating, which given Wanda’s love for her food is a good thing!
Honeychop Calm & Shine is low in sugar and starch, providing a slow realise of limited controlled energy from high quality, digestible fibre and oil based ingredients, making it an excellent feed for horse and ponies that are easily excited or like Wanda need a slow release feed for maintained energy levels.
About the added Herbs…
The one thing that I really liked about Honey Chop is the addition of herbs. Not only do they make the chop look and smell more appetising to horses but they have nutritional benefits. It is just a bit more than your average chop…
Marigolds are known to contain antioxidants, which help against digestive inflammation. They are a rich source of vitamins A and C and are high in oil. This means that not only will your horse or pony benefit from external coat shine, but they will also receive internal benefits from these little yellow flowers.
Camomile soothes the nervous system and helps horses or ponies to relax and sleep better. It is great at soothing an upset stomach by helping to relax the muscle and lining of the intestines. Camomile can help with poor digestion and can aid calm muscle spasms. It induces a calming effect which helps relieve stress, tension and settles nerves. Camomile is not only great at calming but it also has an antibacterial property that can help protect against bacterial related illness or infection. It also promotes a healthy coat with its anti-inflammatory and anti-septic properties, and can help in clearing up skin irritations and allergies.
Nettle is one of the most natural beneficial herbs, containing protein, calcium, phosphorus, iron, magnesium, beta-carotene, along with vitamins A,C,D and B complex. This means nettle helps promote coat shine and has calming properties.
Mint is germicidal and a breath freshener. It takes care of oral health by inhibiting harmful bacterial growth inside the mouth by cleaning the tongue and teeth. Mint is a good digestive aid and an excellent appetiser making it very appealing to fussy feeders. It gives the chop a really rich aroma and Wanda can always smell her dinner coming!
Honeychop Calm & Shine also contains limestone flour which is a calcium supplement for horses and vital for healthy growth, strong bones, teeth and hooves.
In sum, I’ve been really pleased with Honey Chop Calm and Shine and will be continuing to use it. I’ve found a bag lasts quite a while and at approximately £7 for a 12.5kg bag, it isn’t overly pricey. There are other ranges on offer from Honey Chop – with the addition of garlic, apple, herbs and senior specific blends; so something for all horse owners. Honey Chop is also based locally to me in Suffolk, so it’s great to support local businesses while ensuring Wanda gets the best feed for her needs.