There’s no getting away from it, winter is fast approaching. I’ve compiled my top 12 tips for winter survival, Dragon style!
1 – Save your hay! No I don’t mean be stingy when deciding your hay rations, you need to preserve as much as you can once it goes out in the field. Some people prefer keeping it off the ground at all costs. I really like feeding in haynets on ground. Our natives never waste a single stem. You could also try using a compost bin, or an old wheelie bin with a hole cut in the bottom as a hay feeder.
2 – Lost your knife? Use a spare piece of baling twine to cut through another baling a hay / straw bale. Thread the loose twine underneath the twine securing the bale, grasp one end in each hand and alternately pull back and forth quickly and repeatedly. Hey presto, one opened bale!
3 – Be organised – There so little daylight this time of the year it pays to be organised. Make a feed chart so that others can easily help out if required and make all your feeds up in advance.
4 – Keep your feet warm – I always suffer from chilblains on my toes in winter but since discovering merino wool socks I’ve seen a huge improvement. I also have neoprene wellies (Muck Boot Co.) which are also amazing!
5 – Embrace the outdoors! If your horse has company, and your yard allows it, keep him outdoors all winter. Bringing in at night makes for a lot of extra work and your horse will very happily keep himself busy and active outdoors as nature intended.
6 – Take a winter break – No, not you, your horse! Further to the previous point, you can save yourself a lot of misery (if the weather is bad) if you feel obliged to ride all through the winter. Why not give your horse a couple of months off? He’ll come back fully refreshed and ready for more, I promise he won’t forget what he’s been taught! If your horse lives out he’ll keep himself occupied and reasonably fit.
7 – Put your feet up – Sorry not you again! How about taking your horses shoes off if his workload is reducing. It does so much good for their feet to have a few months out of shoes. If you’re worried about him being footsore, this could be a good time to review his diet.
8 – Muddy gateways – As tempting as it is to dump used bedding / hay in muddy gateways to soak up the water, don’t! It will work in the short term, but very quickly you’ll end up with the mess decomposing just like a muckheap, and have a far worse mud / muck problem! Far better to use hardcore / road planings for gateways as a long term solution.
9– Ditch the rugs! Can your horse manage winter without a rug? Most natives in England can manage perfectly well providing they have good access to hay to top up their amazing central (h)eating system! You’ll save loads of time when you don’t have to change rugs twice a day, and if you need to ride in the morning knowing it’s wet, just pop a no-fill sheet on the night before. You can read more about my thoughts on going rugless here.
10 – Avoid layering rugs – If your horse does require a rug, make sure you have a few different weights for him. My pet hate is seeing horses with multiple rugs on. Can you imagine how uncomfortable it must feel especially around the chest?
11 – Beat frozen taps! Keep a good number of full water containers in your tack room or somewhere they won’t freeze. You’ll be grateful if your taps freeze!
12 – Hi-viz hacking! This one really is about survival, always have hi-viz on you and your horse when hacking. What with it getting dark so quickly you could be caught out, and when the sun is out be aware that when it’s low in the sky it can really obscure a drivers view of the road. Give yourself and your horse the best chance!
Do you have any top winter survival tips of your own? Do share them in the comments below 🙂