Don't let bad weather conditions make life difficult for you and your horse this winter. Follow our five top tips to coping when it's cold or wet
1. Be prepared when travelling
If you access your yard via country lanes, chances are you'll suffer more in difficult conditions. Flooding can cause roads to be inaccessible, while ice or snow can make driving hazardous.
Vehicles are also more likely to break down in winter - it's sensible to keep some emergency supplies in your car, should anything happen. A torch, a high visibility tabard or vest (for safety when walking down the road), water, extra coats and jumpers, wellies, and dry socks are a must. Keep some snacks in the car, too. They'll be very welcome if you have to wait a long period for a break-down service.
To prevent winter breakdowns, have your car serviced to ensure everything is in good working order.
Ensure lights are working - give them a regular check as you don't always notice a problem from the driver's seat.
2. Share the load
If you keep your horse on DIY or pat-livery, it can be a good idea to set up a rota with other owners where you share the chores. So, you could do your own and a friend's horse in the morning, and they can bring the horses in at night and change their rugs. It's a great time saver when the days are short.
It also makes sense to have a plan in case it snows and you can't make it to the yard. Does someone live particularly close who doesn't mind helping out in an emergency - you can return the favour at another time, perhaps when they go on holiday.
3. Water, water
The most challenging thing about very cold conditions is often the lack of water. Outside taps can freeze up making it difficult to get water for your horse.
To combat this, fill up some containers at home and take them to the yard.You can keep troughs topped up at the yard, and float a ball on top to prevent the water freezing over. If the ice does freeze, you will need to break it. A colander is a useful tool for scooping broken ice out of troughs or buckets.
Insulating taps and pipes with cardboard, polysterene, blankets and anything else you can think of may prevent them from freezing.
4. Central heating for horses
To help your horse cope with cold conditions feed plenty of forage. Horses eat for warmth, so ensure they have plenty of fibre that will last all through the night. A good thick bed and a toasty rug wouldn't go amiss either.
5. Slips and trips
Walking across a frozen yard can be like navigating an ice rink, and is extremely dangerous particularly if you need to lead your horse across.
Prevent this by putting grit or salt down and be sure to empty any water buckets well away from walkways as it will freeze later making them treacherous. If you do spot an icy patch, place some cones and buckets around it, to warn people to steer clear.
It is also possible to buy anti slip studded snow covers that go over your shoes or boots, which can be a great help in keeping you upright.
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