All too soon those leisurely summer rides along mud-free bridleways and the good life of ample grass and 24-hour turnout will be forgotten as winter arrives again.
This year, don’t get caught out! Take time out now to get your yard ready for winter with our top ten tips!
1. Ice, ice baby!
Preparing early for winter can save you money.
The price of salt and grit tend to rise alarmingly as soon as the mercury plunges, and if the country is hit with a cold snap, stocks do run low.
Order supplies of rock salt, and store them somewhere dry and easily accessible.
If you live in a region where you get snow during the winter, check that your snow shovels are in good condition and that you have enough on hand to clear your yard of snow and ice when necessary.
2. Frozen pipes
There’s nothing worse than arriving at your yard early in the morning when it’s dark and freezing cold, only to find that the pipes are frozen and there’s no water.
Take steps to protect pipes and taps by using foam lagging to insulate the pipes.
Old duvets can be used to wrap around faucets to prevent them from icing-up and freezing.
You might also want to consider investing in a connector that will allow you to run a hosepipe from an internal tap.
It’s a good idea to fill a kettle with water at night before you leave the yard so that you have some hot water for de-icing taps in the morning.
When the weather is really bitter and frozen pipes are inevitable, buy a few large water containers that you can take home and fill ready to take with you the following morning.
3. Prevent water troughs from freezing
If you have a large budget, you can invest in submersible tank heaters for your water troughs. Insulated troughs are also available from farm supply stores.
For a simple, cheaper alternative, leave a football floating in the trough. That will stop ice from forming in all but the harshest conditions.
4. Stop your arena surface from freezing
If you don’t have winter turnout, a frozen exercise arena and icy roads can be your worst nightmare, leaving you with horses stabled 24/7.
Water that’s trapped in the arena surface material will freeze solid, leaving you with an unusable arena.
A compacted surface will prevent water from draining freely, so be sure to harrow your arena the day before, ideally as the frost is catching.
Set the tines on your maintenance machine a quarter to a half-inch deeper than usual to ensure excess water disperses.
In the morning, roll or rake the arena surface to disrupt and disperse any ice crystals that have formed.
5. Flood prevention
Flooded fields are a familiar problem faced by horse owners every winter. If your fields don’t drain properly, you’ll be left with a sea of mud and its incumbent problems, including mud fever and lost shoes.
There are a few steps you can take to prevent your fields from becoming waterlogged.
Start by clearing out all drainage ditches and unblocking any culverts or pipes (open drains beneath the road). If your fields are prone to flooding, you can help to cure the problem by having a series of land drains laid across the fields, running to a suitable outfall.
6. Field preparation
At the end of summer, there are usually areas of your fields that are compacted and devoid of grass, especially around gateways.
If possible, fence-off poached areas so that they can be re-seeded during the spring and fall.
Move feeders, hayracks, and water containers regularly throughout the year to prevent the surrounding ground from becoming poached.
You can also protect vulnerable areas such as gateways while the ground is dry. Don’t wait until the gateways are wet and cut up! Although you can use hardcore, honeycomb mats are better, as they don’t sink as easily as stone does, and the grass can still grow up through them.
7. Mud management
Prevention is better than cure. So, if possible, rotate your grazing during the fall so that your fields have a good covering of grass before the winter sets in.
Field rotation is also a useful mud prevention tactic to use during the winter months.
During periods of very wet weather, you may need to restrict turnout to a couple of hours each day. That’s long enough for the horses to enjoy a leg stretch and a nibble of grass and means that you won’t end up with bored, wet horses hanging around in the gateway and contributing to the mud problem.
If possible, turn your horses out after they’ve been exercised so that they’re less likely to gallop around and tear up the field.
If you have horses that are prone to mud fever during the winter, replenish your supplies of antibacterial leg wash and barrier creams.
8. Stable checks
Towards the end of the summer, you should carry out a few maintenance checks on your stables and outbuildings.
- Make sure that roofs are in good repair with no missing slates or torn underfelt.
- Stable doors should be in good repair with bolts that work smoothly.
- Broken glass should be replaced.
- Check that stable and arena lights are working and replace spent bulbs as required.
- Woodwork should be treated with waterproofing every two years.
- Clear out gutters and yard drains that are blocked.
9. Rug repairs and cleaning
Take a close look at all your rugs to make sure that there are no tears, missing buckles, or rodent damage.
Have any repairs attended to, and arrange for all your rugs to be cleaned ready for the winter months.
10. Service your clippers
Have your clippers serviced and blades sharpened ready for the clipping season.
Remember to replenish your supply of clipper oil, and replace circuit breakers, batteries, etc., if required.
The majority of horse owners don’t look forward to the approach of winter, but you can take steps to make the season less onerous.
Pay attention to field management, the maintenance of your arena and buildings, and make sure that your horse’s rugs are in good order.
Do you have any more tips on getting your yard winter-ready? If you do, share them with us and other readers in the comments box below.
- How to Manage Mud Fever in Horses
- How to Clip Your Horse
- How to Take Care of Your Horse’s Tack to Ensure it Lasts
- How to Get Your Equestrian Yard Ready for Summer