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.
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.”
A few years ago I used to work as a fashion lecturer… yes… seems like another world to that of dirty nails, hat hair, eau de muck and all those other equine fashion statements. Never-the-less I still have a real interest in fashion, style and the constant battle of defying my age.
I am lucky as I’ve been able to learn from the best, including one friend, the talented Make Up Artist Clare Barber. In a departure from my usual blogs I’ve asked Clare to provide her top tips to keeping your skin looking and feeling great.
As ever, the diva herself, Wanda my trusty steed has to have a say and has included a budget face pack recipe using her favourite ingredients – apples and oats.
Stay looking great guys and girls
Nikki and Wanda
Clare’s Top Tips To great Skin
Exfoliation: Start with incorporating exfoliation into your skincare routine twice a week. Regularly sloughing off dead skin cells keeps your skin glowing and allows moisturisers to sink in and do an even better job at protecting you from the elements. Try to choose an exfoliant that is gentle on your skin to avoid irritation and be careful not to scrub the skin too hard causing damage. Gentle circular movements over the face is sufficient.
Moisturising: Skin becomes drier in cold weather, especially if it’s windy, because the moisture off the skin is evaporated more quickly by the wind, and the skin doesn’t produce as much oil. Try using a slightly heavier moisturiser which includes Hyaluronic acid for keeping the skin looking plump and a SPF. Moisturise morning & night and you can also use a serum combined with your moisturiser to give your skin an added layer of protection particularly for those who have dry, flaky or redness to the skin.
Lips: Treat your lips to a routine just as you would your face. Typically, they’re the first to show signs of dehydration and winter abuse in the form of cracks, chapping and flakiness. Regularly apply a lip balm that offers moisturising properties as well as SPF. And you can apply Vaseline/petroleum jelly to your lips as this creates a protective barrier between the cold air and your lips.
Make-up: Following the above tips will prevent you from starting your make-up application with a flaky base. In the colder months creamier products will prevent your make-up from drying out. Use a cream concealer with fuller coverage to prevent winter redness splotches, and then use a cream foundation. You can also mix a bit of cream foundation with beauty oil to get a glowing complexion. Topping it off with cream blush will add some life back into the skin.
Stay Hydrated: Hydration is key if you want to keep your skin looking and feeling great throughout the colder months, especially when you have to worry about cold winds. Try having a bottle of water with you at all times so that you’re more likely to sip from it throughout the day. Keeping your body hydrated and your skin glowing.
Wanda’s Apple & Honey Face Pack for Dry-To-Normal Skin:
This is probably the most popular apple face pack as it contains honey. Apple and honey are used as main ingredient in many skin creams, skin packs, face washes etc.
Take 1 teaspoon of the grated apple in a bowl and add ½ teaspoon of honey
Mix well to form the pack and apply it all over the face.
Keep for 15 minutes and rinse off with warm water to reveal softer and smoother skin.
Wanda’s Apple and Oatmeal Scrub:
Mix two tablespoons of crushed oats along with pureed apples and add honey. Apply the paste on face for 20 minutes, and wash it with warm water. The oatmeal in this mixture exfoliates your skin while the apple and honey make it supple and glowing!