As winter is well and truly underway (and we’ll be commenting on how dark it is until at least February) Equo’s north-west brand ambassador, Bonnie Fishburn, shares her winter management tips to help you tackle winter hands on.

In the winter it is important to save as much time as possible. Managing your time well allows you to fit more into your day, and consequently get the most out of the valuable daylight hours. Combined with good winter management I find that the following tips work well:

  • If possible ride before you muck out so that you can get the horses out in the field for longer
  • Leave field rugs on at night in the stables to save time changing them
  • If the horses aren’t really wet and messy in their stables just pick up their droppings and any obvious wet bedding throughout the week and give the bed a proper muck out at the weekend
  • If you have sensible horses and quiet hacking areas, riding and leading is a great way to save time, however I wouldn’t recommend it for cheeky horses or busy roads
  • When you bring in the horses at night, only change into their stable rugs if their outdoor rugs are wet through, it means you keep the heat in, if they are wet on the outside they will dry quicker and it saves loads of time

I find that the above tips really help me save time around the yard. However, the following winter management tips are also a huge bonus:

  • Use warm water in feeds… my horses love it
  • If you can help it don’t wash horses legs off every day that they come in out of the field, I find it encourages mud fever when you’re constantly wetting your horses legs. If you really need to wash them, towel dry them off afterwards
  • If you are local enough to your yard, pop back to the horses at around 9-11 o’clock to give them a final hay net. It’s a long time to go from say 6 o’clock at night ’til 7 o’clock in the morning without checking them. Some horses are also real pigs and scoff all of their hay down in one go, so it helps slow down their eating too
  • Only wash the horses of after exercise if they get really hot and sweaty, if you can get away with just brushing them off afterwards that is much better then getting them wet and allowing them to go cold

As well as managing your time well it is also important to keep your horses fit over the winter months. Obviously the more time you save around the yard, the more time you have for riding. Here are my top winter training tips:

  • Keep event horses mentally prepared for jumping skinny fences cross-country by adding skinny showjumps or barrels into your training at home in an arena
  • Try to keep training varied so your horses don’t get bored, don’t just school day in day out. Do pole exercises, grid work, lunge etc.
  • If you haven’t got any fields that are dry enough to do your canter round, you could always do some interval training in your arena. You won’t be able to use the same sort of speeds as you do in a field, but steady canter for longer periods of time can really help with stamina for both you and your horse

I also find that the following must-have items are a life saver to have around the yard in winter. They certainly make my life that little bit easier:

  • Waterproof clothing for your body and a bandana for your head whilst clipping to keep the hair away
  • Ski trousers for when it’s really cold
  • Sieve for taking ice out of frozen water bowls
  • Hand warmers for those really cold days when you just can’t warm up
  • Head lamp for when the dark catches you out and you still haven’t fetched the horses in

I hope that these winter tips will help you out around the yard. Have a great Christmas and a happy New Year! 

Make sure that you keep up to date with Bonnie Fishburn’s brand ambassador blogs.