To rug or not to rug?
When it comes to rugs and whether or not to rug in winter, there are a lot of factors to take into consideration. Horses are much better at conserving and regulating body heat in the cold than we are, when the coat has been left to grow, it traps a layer of heat close to the body, creating an insulating effect. Providing that horse is well and has good access to shelter, they are probably best left un-rugged. However if you take clipping and elderly horses in to consideration, a rug may be necessary. Old and poor doing horses find it harder to regulate their body temperatures as they don’t move around as much and will forage less, they will benefit from rugs to help assist with them keeping warm in the winter months. If you want to ride regularly during the winter, you may find your horse needs to be clipped, and what clip depends on the work load. A fully clipped horse will need a rug weight that would mimic that hair insulation a horse that is unclipped has. A horse with a blanket or trace type clip will need less rugging, a horse with hair on its back will be warmer than one without. So if you do decide to rug, make sure you use rugs that fit your horse, ill-fitting rugs cause rugs and sores. Make sure you have correct strap lengths to avoid accidents or your rugs being torn. Finally use rugs you can trust and last the test of time, nothing is worse than a leaky rug, Try the Mark Todd collection from Equissimo.
Hydrate, Hydrate, Hydrate
This title appears on my tips for summer blog, and it’s still just as vital in the winter. Some horses prefer not to drink large quantities of ice cold water, or should it be frosty, ice may prevent your horse from getting as much water as it needs. To help try and offer a wet mash that will help keep your horse hydrated. You can even make a warm mash, which is particularly beneficial to an older horse. Don’t forget to check your water regularly, especially in the field, as said above ice can deter a horse from drinking, it may also damage water pipes, so make sure your water troughs are always full/working.
HAY, what’s up?
Now is the time you need to get your hay supply ready. Horses gain heat through digestion, make sure they have access to forage at all times through the colder months. Worried about weight? Try using a slow feeder or small holed haynet. Don’t forget, British winters can be unpredictable, should it snow and your horse has to be in you may find you will be using your hay up much quicker, so always have a little extra on back up.
Weather and shorter days makes for riding during the winter a lot trickier, or sometimes depressing! Try not to lose motivation, if you can’t fit in a full riding schooling session, a 20 minute lunge will be just fine. During the winter when horses are stabled more its important that they get out and move, a 20 minute spin helps with circulation and can help keep the muscles, tendons and joints supple.
Variety is also key, it stops both you and your horse getting bored. Take advantage of any good weather to get your horse out hacking, not only does it clear the mind but it is so beneficial to ride your horse on a variety of different surfaces, it’s very easy to keep going in the arena as an easy option, so try not to let yourself fall into that trap. One groundwork session should be added into your weekly routine, it is great for getting your horse to work over its back and keep that topline. For extra gymnastics and core engagement added varied pole work to both your non ridden and ridden work to have your horse in best possible shape for the up and coming competition season.
Mud and more Mud!
We equestrians spend the winter months complaining about mud. Mud fever is frustratingly common in wet weather. The infection can stay dormant in skin, becoming active when the skin is compromised, usually from long periods of damp or little cuts and nicks. Although it may be tempting, over-washing of the legs can actually make it worse, try to let the mud dry, either with a good bed, towel drying or drying leg wraps and then brush it off the next day. If you do wash the leg make sure you get it thoroughly dry afterwards and if mud fever is present use a suitable topical cream. The best brush for getting off dry mud has to be the Magic Brush that you can find on the Equissimo website. However this shouldn’t be used on the mud fever scabs as it will irritate them.
Take care of yourself
Don’t forget to look after yourself during the winter, it’s too easy to worry about your horse, is he too warm, too cold, has he got enough to eat, that we end up forgetting about ourselves. Here are a few simple tips that will help keep you comfortable through the winter. Like for our horse we need to invest in a good set of waterproofs, a good pair of waterproof trousers for the yard, some waterproof chaps to ride in and a good coat will stop you getting cold, wet and miserable. The Mark Todd Waterproof Long Jacket from Equissimo is a long and waterproof coat that is ideal for the cold and wet winter months. It is great for extreme temperatures due to its 120g padding on the sleeves and 200g padding on the body. It features taped seams, removable hood, waterproof zips and storm cuffs.
Gloves are vital throughout the winter, the not only stop your hands getting cold but will protect them from the elements, there is nothing worse than sore cracked hands. Make sure you have a good hand cream moisturiser too. The best tip is to keep a spare couple of pairs of gloves at the yard as well as home, so should they get wet you can easily dry and rotate them. Then there are thermals, for those extra cold days a good set of thermals will stop you shivering your way through the yard chores. Lastly, don’t forget that winter doesn’t last forever and the spring will come!