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.

5 steps to a clean winter horse!

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.

 

Trying to beat Mud Fever with the help of Equimins!

Poor Wanda has been suffering with rather scabby legs recently – the start of Mud Fever I think. The lovely team at Equimins20151114_094818 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:

Winter Leg Scrub Concentrate

and

Mud Block Lotion