Tag Archives: 24/7 turnout

Horse owners winter survival tips

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.

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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!

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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.

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Spot the difference

 

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.

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Mega-floof courtesy of Misty Moo

 

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!

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Spot the horse rider…

Do you have any top winter survival tips of your own? Do share them in the comments below  🙂

 

Emma & Saf x

A natural lifestyle and why it’s important to me

So, a little more about this whole natural lifestyle I’m always raving about. Why is it so important to me and so important to the horses? Maybe I’ve just been lucky over the years, but having native ponies, that is, ponies bred in the UK for their hardiness and versatility, it’s just happened naturally. As such, any subsequent horses (even though they will likely have a large proportion, if not all Welsh blood) will surely gravitate towards that lifestyle. Horses, being nomadic creatures, wish to roam vast distances in search of food and water. They require the company and security of their own kind.

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Modern horses often live a life far removed from their not-too distant, wild cousins. Small paddocks for turnout (if any) often pristine and free from ‘weeds’ with just one or two types of grass on the menu. It does frustrate me when I see such pristine lawns. For an animal which is designed to graze for 17 or so hours per day, how dull it must be to have only one or two grasses on which to browse. Nettles? Thistles? Docks? Why they are weeds, unsightly, and must be exterminated! Humans have a perfect, flat, green field which pleases us, but can’t be stimulating for the horses.

We are lucky at our livery yard. In summer there are all manner of ‘weeds’ growing. Nettles around the edges, dandelions dotted about, chamomile by the gate, comfrey down by the river and a few milk thistles every now an then. It is a joy to watch the horses browsing and clearly enjoying the variety.

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Saffron enjoying the nettle & thistle hill (aka the muck heap!)

24/7 turnout is also something I feel quite strongly about. I know a lot of people who do stable their horses at night, and I appreciate they have various reasons for doing do, however personally I would aim for none of mine to be. I realise I have an advantage as such, given that the herd are all natives and better equipped to deal with whatever the British weather throws at them. I just feel that we humans anthropomophise horses too much. Horses are happy to spend their time grazing, wandering about the field, playing etc. and sleep for about 4 hours in 24, not consecutively, but in small ‘cat naps’.

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The girls having a post-breakfast snooze

Do any of you keep your horses naturally? Leave a message in the comments.