Equestrian Blog

News and thoughts from around the equestrian community

Winter Horse Management

Winter is well and truly here and you may be feeling that your visits to the stables are pure hard work and toil. Stable yards tend to be in quite exposed areas and so can be subject to severe weather, it is therefore wise to take as many preventative measures as possible to protect yourself, your horse and your stables from the effects of the wind, rain and cold. This time of year is always the most difficult, with wet, windy or cold conditions to contend with, and sometimes all three! We've come up with some handy hints and tips to help make your Winter easier and more comfortable for you and your horse.

Filling haynets and preparing feeds is a time consuming chore, why not buy some extra nets and feed buckets then, when you have extra time, you can bulk prepare hay and dry feeds to save time after work/school. Don’t add any water/sugar beet or other wet feed components though. Keep feeds covered and remember to store them somewhere that isn't damp and where rodents can't get to them. If you need to soak the hay you are feeding try to arrange for a water container to be left in a barn or feed room where it is slightly warmer than outside, this will help to prevent the water from freezing.

Keeping your tack room and feed room tidy and organised will help you to find what you need quickly and easily. It will also mean dirt and mud from the floor doesn't end up in your grooming kit and on all your other equipment.  

Using an exercise rug will mean your horse stays warm when out on slower hacks, waterproof sheets are perfect to keep your horse dry if you get caught in a sudden wet weather, and will prevent you having to wait for him to dry off before you can put his stable or turnout rug on. Cut down on the washing of bulky rugs by putting a summer sheet under your stable rug, this will collect all the dirt and grime from your horse's coat, then you can quickly and easily wash this thin rug whilst your stable rug lining stays clean.

Riding out in winter often involves a lot of roadwork, if you find your horse slips on the tarmac it may be worth asking your farrier about fitting stud holes to your horse's shoes. You can then fit small road studs when you want to hack out, these will provide your horse with extra grip. You will have to take care to keep the stud holes clean and free of debris when studs aren't fitted. Brushing boots and knee boots also provide protection to your horse's legs in the case of an accident. Always try to avoid riding out if there is any frost or ice though, to limit the risk of injury to you or your horse.

When you are short of time, try putting lightweight, waterproof layers over your normal clothes. You’ll stay clean and dry but still be able to do all your horsey jobs with ease. Wearing the right clothes for the weather makes a huge difference to how warm and comfortable you are. In cold weather put a thermal layer under your usual stable or riding clothes, this will help to keep you snug no matter how cold it gets. Keep several pairs of spare gloves handy so you can swap if your hands get wet whilst doing your chores in the rain. Similarly you may find that wearing a pair of wellies or muckers will help to keep your feet dry on the yard, and then change to your usual boots for riding. Keeping some hand cream at the stables will mean you can replace the moisture lost in cold, windy weather.


Hot water is vital in winter time to help defrost taps and water buckets. Having a kettle on hand also means you can have a nice warm drink on cold days too! Prevent pipes being exposed to the cold weather as much as possible by wrapping all visible pipes with lagging (available from most DIY stores). If you find that the water in your field troughs keeps freezing, try leaving a football in the water, this causes constant gentle movement of the water and helps to prevent it from freezing.

Smooth concrete yards and paths can become very slippery in cold weather making it dangerous for you and your horse when you try to walk over it. Try not sweeping the straw and debris up, this will then freeze to the surface creating a more textured surface.

Heavy rain over prolonged periods of time can penetrate even the most waterproof of rugs, try to keep at least one spare turnout rug to use whilst your other dries out. Hanging your wet rugs somewhere they can be spread out as much as possible will help speed the drying time. When turning your horse out in snow, try greasing the inside of the hoof with Vaseline, this will help to prevent the snow balling up inside the hoof which can be painful for the horse and make it difficult for him to walk.

Take care when the weather does warm up as this can produce a flush of fresh grass which could trigger laminitis and colic.

Wet weather can mean fields become waterlogged and unsuitable for turnout, this often results in horses remaining in their stables for prolonged periods of time. Stable toys can help to relieve the boredom this creates, various designs are available. Some toys are designed for your horse to pick up and play with, others can be filled with treats or pony nuts which are slowly released as it is pushed around the stable. Various holders are also available which can have stable licks placed in them.

 A stabled horse provides a lot of extra work for you, regular skipping out of the stable can greatly reduce waste bedding, ask friends at the stables to skip your horse out if you're not there and do the same for them. This prevents droppings being trampled in to clean bedding, you may also find that with frequent skipping out throughout the day you can then just do a full muck out at weekends or when you have time. In very cold weather it is possible that the water in your horse's stable can freeze up, try carefully packing some extra bedding all the way round each bucket, this will help to insulate it and keep the water above freezing point.

 With some careful planning and a little help from your stable friends, wintertime doesn't need to be all hard work, try to be as organised as possible to save your time and energy. I always try to make sure I don't walk along the stable yard empty handed, this means I make the most of every second I'm there and get time consuming jobs done more quickly. I then have more time to do the fun things with my horse that so often get missed in winter. If you can make sure you and your horse are warm, dry and comfortable you are sure to enjoy your time at the stables more and the chores will seem less hard work.

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