Have your best summer ever with the help of these handy horse care hints
Summer is meant to be fun, but soaring temperatures and biting insects can make you wish for colder temperatures. Here are some great ideas to make life more comfortable for both of you...
1. One of the big downsides to the summer are flies. Try beating them from the inside out by feeding garlic, Brewer's yeast or even Marmite. It is thought these substances make the horse's skin give off an unpleasant smell which puts off biting insects. Or, make use of the recipes for natural fly repellent, which you can find online. The majority use cold tea as a base with essential oils such as citronella. This should work out cheaper than buying fly repellent products from a tack shop.
2. Another summer problem is ragwort. Ragwort should have been pulled up long before it flowers, to prevent it spreading, but do act when you spot any of the telltale yellow flowers. Make sure you wear gloves and get up all the roots. It is also important that ragwort is disposed of correctly, you can see the defra guidelines here http://archive.defra.gov.uk/wildlife-pets/wildlife/management/weeds/pdf/ragwort-dispose.pdf.
3. Warm weather and summer showers lead to continuous grass growth. Laminitis isn't something you need to worry about in the spring only: it is important to keep an eye on your horse's weight all through the summer. Consider limiting his grazing by fencing off a portion of paddock, stabling for periods of the day or using a muzzle so your horse can still live out 24/7 but not access the grass as easily.
4. Enjoy long hacks without needing to worry about getting back before it is dark or the next rain cloud heads your way but remember to wear hi-vis gear. Shadows and glare can make it just as difficult for drivers to see you. Also, if you should suffer a fall and get separated from your horse it will make him easier to pick out on the horizon if he is clad in something visible.
5. If you are going away, find the best babysitter for your horse. It should be someone trustworthy and experienced, be that a mobile groom, someone at your yard or a friend. That way you can relax safe in the knowledge your horse is being well looked after.
6. Just like you, your horse needs to stay hydrated in the warmer weather. Add salt to his feeds to encourage him to drink more and electrolytes if you think he isn't drinking enough. You can also soak hay to help him get more water too. In his field, aim to put water buckets in the shade to keep them cool. This will prevent algae growing and also it is much nicer to have cool water to drink on a hot day as opposed to tepid water.
7. Aim to ride in the early morning or late evening when it is much cooler and there are less flies around. This will make the experience much more enjoyable for both of you! If you do hack out or school when it's warm use cotton saddle cloths to minimise sweating and aim to use breathable girths and bandages.
8. It's not just you that needs to slap on the sun lotion. Don't forget horses can burn, especially those with white noses and heels. Apply sun cream every day to prevent them getting burnt. There are products designed for horses or children's high-factor cream or block works well. If your horse does get a touch of sore skin on his nose or heels, aloe vera is excellent at soothing it.
9. Poo pick paddocks daily. It is nobody's favourite chore but removing droppings will prevent flies from gathering, keep the grazing in a better condition and is important in parasite control.
10. If your horse is out for long periods of time in a boring, squarish paddock you could add some interest by finding some logs and branches for him to nibble on. Apple, willow and ash are ideal. Also to make a change from increasingly shorter grass why not get some hedgerow plants such as cow parsley or mint and scatter them round the field. Be careful not to feed him anything he is likely to have an allergy to though.
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