Winter time saving tips from LegUpforTalent Rider Dani Letherby.
We’re nearly halfway through winter! Winter solstice is the 23rd December this year, after which we’ll get an extra 2 minutes of daylight every day until the clocks go forward on the 26th March 2023. I’ve put together a little blog about how I manage through winter with the 2 horses and 2 donkeys that are stabled overnight and I try to turn out during the day as much as possible. I have to keep them all in during horrible weather due to being on clay, on a flood plain and having donkeys that shout quite loudly if their ears get wet and a little mare that jumps out to bring herself in when it rains, despite being well rugged. All whilst working full time. I can’t say it’s always successful, but these routines help me out. Read on for some of my top winter tips!
· Set aside an hour once a week to get ahead. This could be on your horse’s day off if you’re brave enough to keep your horse in full work through winter!
· Get all your hay/haylage/fibre prepped for the week. I use haynets, but you could use old bedding or feed bags to stuff if you feed from the floor or from a hay bar, as they’re easier to tip out. This also helps prevent waste as you can clear up from the bale as you go.
· Make your feeds up in advance. I use colour coded buckets, but could be Tupperware, old ice cream tubs or even carrier/Ziplock/Freezer bags.
· Have a dustbin or 2 of water in the feed room. This isn’t just for using to soak feeds (use a scoop to transfer), it’s also incase of a cold snap making the water sources freeze so the horses can still have water (and you have something to boil in the kettle to try and defrost things). Keep a colander by this to get ice out of buckets as well.
· Keep your hosepipes inside!
· Use a bedding that you can deep litter with and just take wet out when you can see it! I use easibed for this and top up once a week when I take the wet out. It also means just one trip to the muck heap for the 3 stables during the week.
· Oil your horse’s legs and tails! It helps prevent mud sticking which will save time leg washing if you do this and will stop bits of mud getting everywhere!
· Clip your horse appropriately if they sweat when working regularly to prevent them catching a chill. Make sure you then rug appropriately to compensate for this. If you have a good doer, you can use this time to not rug quite as warm to help them lose some weight through winter.
· If you’re wanting to keep your horse unclipped as they’re only ticking over with a hack at the weekend, have a look at no sweat to help them dry off quickly, so you can rug a dry horse up again if needed!
· Put your wheelbarrow inside the stable when mucking out to save mess for sweeping. If you have to muck out around your horse due to adverse weather (eg snow meaning you cant leave them tied up outside and only want them to have a walk in hand to avoid silliness), use a skip bucket to muck out into. Its also easier to empty this than push a wheelbarrow if it’s thick snow! Same goes with picking out feet – use a skip bucket instead of the floor!
· Make sure everything has a place and goes there. I use a chest freezer for feed, a garden storage box for rugs, a tack locker for the horses tack and my hat and a handy set of drawers for hi viz, stable bandages and exercise sheets. The first aid kit is also under the tack locker in an under-bed storage box so I can pull it out and grab it quick if needed.
· Leave horses in their turnout rugs if they aren’t wet through. They dry quicker and stop you getting as smelly when you’re doing a quick turnout before work.
· Get a head torch (or 5)! I also have a little 12v rechargeable torch that stays on charge in my cars cigarette lighter hole as I’m driving. It’s small and bright and won’t run out of batteries!
· Wear a decent waterproof coat, a woolly hat, warm socks and a snoody type neck warmer. Gardening gloves over warm gloves also help keep your hands dry and warm. And remember that lots of thin layers are warmer than one thick layer!
· Invest in decent and light yard tools. A good wheelbarrow, a lightweight fork, a good broom and a decent shovel will make life so much easier.
· Don’t stress if your horse isn’t working as much. As long as they’re still getting out their stable for a bit each day for turnout, hand grazing or just a mooch around the school whilst you’re getting their stable done. They don’t need to be super fit in the middle of winter.
These are just some of my tips as a LegUpforTalent Rider juggling being an amateur rider, working full time and doing life in general! We’d love to hear some of your top winter survival tips at LegUpforTalent as well though.