Tag Archives: Horse care

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

Ground level feeding, my lightbulb moment

So, I’ve blogged about natural lifestyle, and now I’d like to say a little about natural feeding. I feel that this is a two pronged subject, the obvious point being what food goes in, but firstly I want to talk about how the horse takes in the aforementioned food.

We all know that horses are designed to graze for 17 or so hours out of every 24. They are designed to mainly eat with their heads down, with occasional browsing higher up on trees and bushes. I am always perplexed by the use of haynets (and I was a user of them in the ‘traditional’ way myself – more on that in a minute), and wonder how the inventor of them thought they were a suitable method of providing hay. It’s a classic human convenience instead of it being for the horses benefit. I cringe when I think back at my use of a wall mounted hay rack for Misty, a pony who we would later discover has COPD (or RAO as it is now known). It wasn’t even at head height, but above, so the poor girl had to reach up and most likely suffer the dust etc. dropping down. Thankfully they seem to have mostly fallen out of fashion.

In dressage, and riding in general, we strive to have the horse muscled correctly over it’s topline. A muscled underneck is not ideal, yet this is the muscle the horse is working when pulling hay upwards from a net. Apart from that, I can’t imagine it’s terribly comfortable doing that hour after hour.

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Before our ‘light bulb’ moment

Eating at ground level stretches the topline, a relaxing action. It ensures correct alignment on the top and bottom jaws, which in turn, aligns the teeth for correct wear. Lastly it allows the sinus and guttural pouch to drain effectively.

However the haynet isn’t necessarily the bad guy. An idea shamelessly stolen from a barefoot Facebook group, last year we started feeding our a haynets on the ground. Now don’t panic, I know we’re breaking all the BHS rules but hear me out. I cannot stress enough that this is only really suitable for barefoot horses, otherwise there is a risk of getting the net caught between the shoe and hoof. It is also important to use haynets with as small holes as possible, we use 2″ as anything larger isn’t going to be safe. We fill the net, pull it tightly closed, then daisy chain the rope and tuck it back in the net. The horses love it, I’m happy seeing them eating with their heads down, we’re wasting less hay than we would if we placed the hay directly on the ground, it’s slowing them down, and they’re enjoying working a little harder for their hay rather than just eating it like spaghetti.

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‘Hooves up’ from the girls!

 

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Would love to know your thoughts on our unusual use of haynets! Have you come up with any different uses for horse items?