As most horse and pony owners are beginning to adjust to starting the morning routine before sunrise and the likelihood of an increase in wet weather, here's what’s worth doing to help make the next few months a little more bearable:
Heavy rain is a real enemy
Paddocks quickly turn from smooth, grassy grazing into brown poached areas with pools of standing water. To help manage the effects of the inevitable downpours, check all drains and drainage channels are clear from fallen leaves and other debris which will limit their usefulness. If there isn’t any field drainage for the worst affected areas of paddocks, which tend to be around the gateways, where fodder is fed, and by water troughs consider digging out some of the turf and replacing with grass matting (the best time to install this is in the spring); wood chip or gravel can help minimise damage in the short term.
All year turnout
About three-quarters of horse-owners are lucky enough to have some form of winter turnout, but to ensure the pastures last until the spring it is advisable to rotate the grazing or designate a field for the winter months. Ideally, use the paddock with the best drainage, which is unlikely to flood and where possible has more than one access point to prevent the same areas becoming badly poached.
Let there be light
Head torches were a useful invention but having adequate light around a yard and ideally near paddocks will help avoid accidents as well as making all necessary tasks considerably easier. Lighting is also a good security feature particularly when motion sensors are installed.
Check supplies to field troughs and wash-down areas for leaks: while water will filter away during the warmer months it can become a frozen ice rink once temperatures drop. It is also worth making sure pipes are lagged to stop them freezing and potentially bursting. Placing a football in your water troughs can help prevent freezing.
Drying wet rugs
If at all possible create a designated area with hanging for drying out wet rugs and other pieces of kit. Not everywhere benefits from a heater but having somewhere under cover is a good start.
If you’re lucky enough to have proper training facilities, be it an outdoor manège or an indoor school, its usage is likely to be much greater during the winter months. Check it’s fit for purpose: is there sufficient surface to cope with the extra use and who will take on the responsibility for keeping it raked and clean? If there are a number of people all wanting to use it before and after work consider setting up a rota to avoid latecomers becoming frustrated.
Outdoor arena, The Manor, Hatcliffe, Grimbsy – Guide price £1,500,000
Outdoor arena, Littleton Manor, Reigate, Surrey – Guide price £5,250,000
All-weather sand school, Newbarn Farm, Rusper, Horsham, West Sussex – Guide price £2,600,000