Tuesday 25th of February 2020

How to winter-proof your yard

Winter is drawing in. Before long we will be smashing the ice in the field troughs and skating unintentionally around the yard, but don’t let yourself be caught out! Abigail Dowdy shows us a few things you can do to ensure that this winter is your easiest one yet. Even allowing time for that extra cup of tea before work…

Try getting up fifteen minutes earlier…
Doesn’t it make so much sense to wake up that little bit earlier so you don’t have to rush around? Especially when you have darkness and bad weather to deal with. As much as your body clock will complain, nobody wants to be skidding on ice before 6am in the morning. Leaving that little bit earlier means there would be no rushing about and less chance of an accident. You might even arrive home with time to spare so you could squeeze in another cup of coffee, or actually sit down to eat your toast.

Invest in some good salt
As soon as the temperature starts dropping we need to prepare our yards for the worst case scenario. Whether you are own a private yard or keep your horse at a livery stable, buy some salt to sprinkle on the yard.

You could even group together with the other horse owners to save on costs. Sprinkle generously over the car parking area, the concrete yard and any paths you have to walk on. There is less of a chance they will freeze meaning less chance of spraining an ankle or bruising your bum on a freezing cold morning.

Click here for Online Rock Salt

Pipes are key
Ensure your pipes are well insulated this winter, as nobody wants a burst water pipe leaking into stables.

Foam lagging can be found at most DIY shops, or even try wrapping the pipes in old duvets/ blankets. Another tip, wrap the actual tap in a towel to insulate against ice. Because if the tap head snaps off then you’ll have an ice rink!

More on frost proof lagging here

Know your stopcock
If the weather forecast is particularly harsh, switch the water off at the main stopcock and open up the tap(s)- leave them open!

Water expands when it freezes and will come out of the open tap as an icicle rather than burst the pipe (hopefully). Meaning you avoid a massive inconvenience and a massive repair bill. On these days, bring a container of lukewarm water with you to the yard to top up your water buckets and troughs.

Test your lights regularly
You don’t want to be fumbling around in the dark at 5:30am, especially not in the stable with your horse. Put your safety first and always check the lights, and keep a good supply of torches and camping lanterns around the yard. A head torch is also a worthwhile investment, even if you do end up looking like a Dalek and Millets has a good range from £3.50 to £63.

Stock up on hay
Nobody wants to be caught out when there’s snow set to last for a week, and you’ve one bale of hay to last your horse.

During the winter, farmers have to keep their own sheep and cattle fed so might be running low on the hay you buy.

They will also be super busy so might not be able to run you over 20 bales as easily as in the summer. To avoid this, try to stock up on hay and straw as early as you can.

Check field boundaries
Okay this needs to be done ASAP to make sure your horse is where he’s supposed to be, especially after the autumnal hedge-cutters have been.

If there isn’t much grass, your four-legged friends might try eating the hedge this winter, making them sparse and thin in some places. Keep some electric fencing posts and tape handy in case they become too thin and you need to corner parts of the field off.

Rideaway Equestrian has a comprehensive range of fencing and accessories.

Be prepared

Check your supplies of WD40 and de-icer are in a handy location and full before the real cold sets in. Dealing with any frozen locks and hinges is worse at minus seven degrees, with a horse who has never experienced snow, jumping around behind you.

Halfords is a good place to stock up but many supermarkets also have a car section.

Water troughs

To decrease the chances of your field troughs freezing, put a football in the water. Its constant floating means the water will struggle to freeze— although do check the supply every day.

Muddy legs
Avoid regularly washing your horses legs this winter as the damp conditions in their feathers increase the risk of mud fever. Something else you don’t want to deal with when it is pitch black. Try using ‘Mud-away’ spray or even baby oil, this makes the hair around their feet super shiny so that the mud cannot stick to it and is easily brushed off.

Layer up
For both you and your horse. Layers have been proven to keep you warmer than one huge coat, so put on lots of socks, jumpers and gloves to keep your body toasty. Also keep a fleece handy to slip on underneath your horse’s rug.

It’s a good idea to keep a full change of clothes at the yard or in your car in case you get caught in a downpour or slip in the mud. 



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