Winter Activities for You and Your Horse

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.

Socialise

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.

Be Playful

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.

Combine them with purpose-made feeding toys that make getting at haylage, compound horse feeds, supplements or treats an interesting challenge and your horse or pony will be well occupied.

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.

Chop Chop… feeding a cob!

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

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.

Further Information www.honeychop.com

IMG_20140216_190340 (1)