Equo’s north-east brand ambassador, Claire Taylor, shares her top winter management and time-saving tips to help you through the start of the year.

Winter management tips

I find that pig oil and sulphur on legs is great for repelling mud. Not only does this mean your horse’s legs will stay nice and clean but it can help prevent mud fever too. I use it just once a week, washing the legs in an evening and applying the pig oil and sulphur to the legs in the morning before turnout. You can buy the two ready mixed but it may be cheaper and more economical to buy one of each and mix it yourself.

Ok so the last thing any of us really want to do on a dark cold night is clean tack. However, tack can and will go mouldy in damp weather, even if it’s used regularly, and the leather can deteriorate very quickly. Not only will it make you feel better to have sparkling clean tack (honestly it will!) but it will make you check the stitching and condition of the leather regularly.

Try and look after your fields. This can be really hard if it’s particularly wet but good field management will pay off in the end. Putting chippings or similar in the gateways could help prevent them getting poached, especially if your horse insists on standing in the gateway at teatime! 
If you have multiple fields and horses, if possible just use one for a while, then when it gets churned up you can move and give it chance to rest, rather than cutting up all the fields at once. 
Regular poo picking is really important too, if it’s something your yard does. It’s not nice to find yourself with two weeks worth of poo to pick up on a Sunday morning when you could be riding!

If you are on a livery yard, help each other out. Perhaps you could organise something so that a fellow livery turns out in the morning for you, and you bring their horse in at night for them. There are so many ways of cutting down time this way and it’s nice to socialise with like-minded people, especially if motivation is low. It’s also great to have someone else to ride out with! The other plus to this is that when it comes to summer if you are lucky enough to go on holiday and your yard buddy is able to do your horse, you don’t need to worry about finding someone reliable and you can relax knowing they know your horse and his routine already!

Horses need routine, we all know this. However don’t get into the habit of having your horse in at 5.12pm every night if there are occasions when it may not be possible. Within reason, he should have a routine, but if he goes into meltdown and starts galloping about if you’re ten minutes late it won’t help him or you. It could be an idea to vary slightly the time he comes in from the very start so he knows you will be coming to get him sometime, even if you are a little late. Whilst our horses are of course our priority, don’t make your world revolve around them too much!

Time-saving tips

If you are using haynets, fill enough for the week when you have time, maybe at the weekend or on an evening when you aren’t riding. This will save masses of time each evening.

If you have more than one horse, teach him to be led in a pair or a small group. Bringing one horse in at a time from the field can be very time consuming. If they are well behaved and fairly trust worthy most horses will eventually learn to be led in a group. Any more then four isn’t advisable mind!

On a similar note, learn to ride and lead if you have more than one horse to exercise. Practice in the school or a safe environment first before venturing out and try with a longer line to start with. Not only is this time saving but it will be a nice change for them too!

Don’t faff with rugs. Most rugs are very breathable these days and if your horse is coming in at night and the temperature is similar during the night to the day, there’s no need to change his rugs. If he’s dry and warm, leave him in his turnout rug! It will not only save time in an evening but the morning too!

Take your yard clothes with you. If you need to go to the yard after or before work, take your clothes with you to save a trip home to get changed. Plus, if you’re anything like me, I can easily get distracted once home and going back out again in the dark seems daunting!  If it’s raining, don’t forget your woolly hat to save you looking like a drowned rat before work! This is also where a pair of waterproofs can come in handy to pop over your work trousers, depending of course on your job! If it involves working in close proximity to non-horsey folk, they may not appreciate the horse wee smell!

To keep up to date with what Claire and her horses have been up to don’t miss her latest brand ambassador blogs.