Keep horses at home in winter
Many horse owners will agree: it is no laughing matter to keep horses at home in the winter. You can choose to house your horse in a boarding stable or riding school during the coldest months of the year, but for horse owners who still want to keep their beloved four-legged friends at home, there are some important things to consider.
During the summer months, there is nothing more fun for horse owners than being able to keep their horses at home. They walk on the pasture, require little maintenance and it is fantastic to watch your horses from your garden on a beautiful summer afternoon. Unfortunately, in Belgium and the Netherlands we also have a number of months a year when it is less pleasant to keep horses.
The misery usually starts during autumn: it rains more often and the meadows or paddocks are wet and muddy. Certainly the places where the horses often stand, such as at the entrance to the meadow or in front of the shelter, quickly turn into a real mud pool.
If your horses often stand on a wet surface, it is important to regularly check their legs for mug. Mok is a collective term for skin irritations and inflammation in the pastern cavity of the horse. The irritations arise more quickly if the pasterns get wet regularly and are not given enough time to dry out completely. If the horse is mugged, a quick and accurate treatment with disinfectant and a good mug ointment is necessary to prevent the horse from getting a lot of pain and crippling. Always try to offer the horses a dry (shelter) stable so that they do not have to stand in the mud all the time.
It can be useful to lay crushing sand or stone bulkheads in the wettest places. If the horses can walk freely in and out of their stable or shelter, a paved strip in front of the entrance to the stable is certainly not a superfluous luxury. It is more pleasant for the horses but also for those who have to feed the horses or clean the stables. You can make the paving with stone partitions, concrete or concrete slabs. Keep in mind that concrete can become slippery in freezing weather.
Ice and snow
When winter really comes, a snow shower is not excluded. Be very careful when putting horses out in the snow, especially if the horses have horseshoes. The snow clumps in the irons and reduces the grip of the horse’s hooves on the surface, which can cause slips. A fall on a slippery surface can lead to serious injuries, so you want to avoid that. When it snows and freezes hard, the snow clumps can also freeze into the horseshoes, preventing the horses from setting their hoof on the ground naturally. This too can result in injuries.
Is my horse cold?
Horses are less cold than humans. Their comfort temperature is between -5 and +15 degrees. If the horse has been able to develop a winter coat, it will be able to keep itself warm. If the horse still has a short coat or is shaved, it is necessary to provide him with a warm blanket. It is also very important that the horses get enough roughage, so their ‘internal heating’ continues to work sufficiently and they do not get cold.
If the horses are outside in chilly wind and rain, it can be useful to dry them when they return to the stable. A fleece blanket can help dry up and warm up.
More often in the stable
It is almost inevitable that the horses will spend more hours in the stable in the autumn and winter period. If you have enough land, you can choose to create a piece of winter pasture, a piece of land that can be destroyed during the winter months. However, if it gets too wet or too slippery, the horses will still have to stay in the stable more often. Provide sufficient roughage so that the horses are less bored and hang a lick stone or a piece of stable toys if necessary. Always provide the horse with clean bedding so that it can lie down quietly, warm and dry.
If it is not possible to give the horses free movement in the meadow or paddock, you can choose to lung or to walk by hand. Keep in mind that horses that are stabled more often can be cooler in the winter and can therefore react a bit more explosively when training. If you are unsure whether your horse will be good, you can take a moment before riding so that the worst freshness can dissipate before you get on.
With horses on the road
If the weather no longer allows you to train on your own outdoor track, you may want to visit an indoor track regularly to ride there. If you take your trailer or truck out on the road in the dark, always make sure that all lighting is working properly and adapt your driving style to the circumstances. In the coldest months it is recommended to put a light blanket on your horse during transport, but avoid transporting the horse with its normal winter blanket. Many horses get warm more quickly on the trailer or truck and can therefore sweat under their thick blanket. A fleece blanket, wool blanket or very light stable blanket is better and can be replaced by the thicker winter blanket when you return home.